CELEBRATING SUCCESS: When anniversaries become milestones!

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CELEBRATING SUCCESS When anniversaries become milestones!

Publisher’s Note


ne could argue that, in today’s economy, celebrating any anniversary is a milestone. I guess when you hit 25-, 30- or 40-year anniversaries, and throw in a 117-year-old landmark, the argument becomes a statement of stability and proof that it can be done!

This issue of PROFILE Magazine lets us in on four of our industry’s brightest and well-respected leaders as they celebrate decades of continued success from concept to worldwide notoriety. After spending time with each of our features and sharing in their stories, you gain a sense of pride, confidence and desire to succeed. New York Fries, Mandarin Restaurant, Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken & Taters, and the Drake Hotel—although vastly different companies—still share in the same commitment to quality and integrity and they wouldn’t have it any other way. For a second consecutive year, PROFILE Magazine brings you the recipients of the OHI’s TOP 30 Under 30 Awards. This impressive lineup of talented and devoted young professionals proves that the industry can look forward to a promising future. Not to be overlooked, the special anniversary spread on H.J. Heinz Company of Canada celebrates 100 years of amazing growth in Canada. With Leamington being named “Tomato Capital of Canada,” among many other notable distinctions, Heinz shares their story of success as we “anticipate” another century. Also of interest, the CTHRC brings us a great article on training during these economic times from a Human Resources perspective. In closing I want to extend a special thank you to Jay,Tina, Nigel and Bill for their patience and enthusiasm at the PROFILE Magazine photo shoot.The several hours of “Smile, turn right, now left, stand up straight, hold that pose” and the ability to laugh throughout is expressed not only in the quality of the pictures but in the quality of the individuals. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to all! Best Regards,

Juan Malvestitti

NY FRIES Reinventin g


the French






L KE HOTE THE DRA l o o C f th o The Rebir




32 OWNER Juan Malvestitti juan@modernempire.ca


NY OMPA A C Z N I E NAD H.J. H OF CA vour F f la tury o A Cen

inin for g suc ces s! PAR T Train ING SHO T ing f or Su S cces s


SUBSCRIPTIONS Canada: One year $27.00 Elsewhere: $39.00 Single copy sales: Canada $9.00 Elsewhere: $12.00

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EDITORIAL David Gargaro


CONTROLLER Florencia Rojas

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Jay Gould Founder



New York Fries

Reinventing the French Fry


rench fries must suffer from dual personality disorder. Everybody enjoys eating them, but they are often labelled as “unhealthy” or “bad for you.” Most quick service restaurants serve French fries, but they often treat them as a side or throw-in with the main dish. French fries are the most ordered food item outside of the home, and yet little attention is paid to product quality. (Can you say “frozen French fries” three times fast?) And then along came Jay Gould and New York Fries, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Gould changed the public’s perception of French fries by turning them into a premium fast food item. He did it by focusing on a singular item, and made it better (and fresher) than the average offering. He managed to succeed when critics scoffed at the idea of selling the same item already found in every mall’s food court. He did more than defy the trends—he set the trends and turned the critics into believers. Jay’s vision and entrepreneurial nature have enabled him to establish New York Fries as one of the most successful businesses in the Canadian fast food industry. Warren Price, Executive Vice President of New York Fries, has been with the company since 1987 when it was still small and the success of the business was not yet assured. It was Jay’s conviction that convinced him that there was something special there. Warren said, “We’ve always known that the core product is French fries and that it had to be better than everyone else’s. That’s been something that Jay has absolutely convinced all of us. If it could cost us a bit more money to make a better French fry because we could buy better potatoes or buy better oil, then we have to make that choice.”

Before the fries Jay was 21 years old when he first began setting trends in the foodservice industry. In 1977, he and his brother Hal launched Cultures Fresh Food Restaurants (aka Cultures) in London, Ontario. It was clearly a novel concept, as it focused on healthy lunch alternatives—such as salads, soups, frozen yogurt and fruits—long before health and fitness were mainstream issues.

Again, Jay had to face the critics, naysayers and doubting landlords who asked, “You just sell French fries? How does that make sense?” Fortunately, his previous experience in running the successful Cultures chain managed to convince the landlords that he had a viable business, which would do well in high traffic food courts. He also had his perseverance and belief in the simplicity of the New York Fries concept—customers will pay for a premium product.

“It was an oddball concept at the time. There were a number of people who thought we were either ahead of our time or out of our minds… maybe both,” said Jay. “We were trying to build a menu around what was a new product at the time called soft frozen yogurt, which was just starting to get traction in places like New York. We had to convince a dairy here to make it for us. That was the pioneering side of it, because we started to sell things that were not typically part of the fast food business. Besides the fact that they had no significant retail or foodservice experience, the Goulds had to deal with many other challenges. They included negotiating lease space with sceptical landlords, projecting the cost of goods (which varied according to the availability of fresh ingredients), and finding suitable containers for packaging. Jay explained, “Just as an example, there were all manner of paper containers, plastic containers, or sandwich containers for burgers, hot dogs, fries… but there was nothing around to measure visually a salad portion. It could be small or large, and the variance could be huge if you didn’t have any way of trying to measure that. Even trying to put it on a scale didn’t work because if you had a couple of cherry tomatoes in there it was going to weigh the thing down. So we had to develop all of that stuff.” Despite these obstacles, their vision paid off. Customers became enamoured with the Cultures concept of healthy lunches. The Goulds later moved their operation to Toronto, growing the Cultures chain to 57 stores, and eventually sold the company in 1987.

Enter the fry Jay grew up in Brantford, where he claims that they had two of the best-known chip trucks in Canada. On his trips back and forth from Toronto to London, he would often stop in Market Square and pick up these fries. Was this the foundation of an idea? Said Jay, “Having spent now half a dozen years in the food business, it didn’t actually strike me as an odd idea that French fries as a concept would work on its own. French fries are by far the most purchased food item outside the house in North America.” New York would prove to be the inspiration for Gould’s next business venture. In 1983, Hal told his brother Jay about New York Fries, a small French fry stand located on the third floor of Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. The store was doing such great business, and the quality of the French fries impressed him so much, that Jay approached the owner about the business and eventually bought the Canadian rights. In 1984, he opened his first New York Fries location in Scarborough Town Centre.

8 Profile

“While it might not seem as odd now, 25 years ago most people thought that a store in a food court that cost $150,000 in the mid 80s selling just fries and pop when everybody beside us sold fries and pop looked like a pretty stupid idea,” said Jay. “To this day, there are people who probably wonder why we are still in business, perhaps for different reasons. I would compare it at the time to something like a Baskin Robbins or some other sort of specialty spot that could exist on its own if it were better than the average offer.” Over the next two years, Jay resisted the pressure to franchise and financed the stores to ensure that the operation was ready to proceed. To ensure that potential franchisees would not question the targeted concept, he demonstrated that the business would be profitable when done properly—with focus and without distraction. By 1987, New York Fries had grown to 25 stores, and Jay purchased the American company (which had gone out of business), as well as the worldwide rights. When he started franchising, the first 100 stores sold without placing an advertisement. There are now more than 190 New York Fries locations in five countries, with sales in excess of $60 million.

Making better fries One of the keys to selling a premium product is to ensure that it is the best in its category. And if you’re going to sell one premium product, then it has to be much better than what the competition is selling. Given that everyone sold French fries, Jay knew that New York Fries’ success depended upon having a sustainable point of difference. That difference involved creating and serving a premium quality French fry. The basic concept involves selecting premium potatoes, cutting them (with the skin on) fresh daily in each store, and cooking to order using a unique three-stage process in high quality oil. Declared Jay, “It’s fresh, and as good as can be. Our ingredients are oil and potatoes. They’re not processed in Des Moines. In addition to tasting better than the average guy, it’s always been a better product.” Of course, it all begins with the potato—specifically, Russet Burbank potatoes, as they have low sugar content. “Potatoes with high sugar content, when fried, turn dark. Jay wants light coloured potatoes, so that’s why we use Russet potatoes,” explained Dave Carrick of Mackay & Hughes (New York Fries’ supplier of raw potatoes). “We source the best potatoes from coast to coast, and test them when they’re being packed and at the distribution centre to make sure they fit within a specific range in temperature and sugar reading.” The freshness of the French fries has become the company’s calling card and point of differentiation from its competitors. Much of the promotion—from storefront branding to advertising campaigns—has focused on this fact, and with good reason “In very few cases do our competitors’ fries arrive at the store in the form of potatoes,” said Andy Macaulay, President of zig (New York Fries’ advertising firm). “In most cases, they’re frozen, sometimes they’re battered. Ours actually arrive at the store as real potatoes that are then hand cut and cooked on the spot…”

Giving back to the community An active philanthropist, Jay promotes and practices being community focused and environmentally responsible. In 2000, he and his wife started the New York Fries Kids Fund through the Toronto Community Foundation. New York Fries donates to the fund annually, and contributes to a number of children’s charities each year. Warren Price, Executive VP comments, “The New York Fries Kids Fund existed at least a year before any of the rest of us knew that donations were being made because it’s done without the purpose of aggrandizement. It’s done just because they felt that’s the right way to do things.” One charity in particular that New York Fries franchisees keenly support is the National Kids Cancer Ride which takes place in June, benefiting children living with cancer. As Jay explained, “While there are a million rides and walks for different types of cancer, there are very few that are targeted for oncology units for kids. We’ve adopted that from the beginning. We see ourselves as a fun product and perhaps directed at the younger generation. If that’s not good enough, I feel, as does everyone here, that kids are deserving of our support.” Annually, the company gives more than $100,000 to several different food, child and cancer-related charities and fundraisers. All corporate stores have also adopted a child through World Vision.

Words of wisdom Profile:

What do you believe is key to being a leader in the quick service industry?

Jay: I think that food is the star. The customer is a lot smarter than they might have been 20 years ago. There are way too many places out there that you can interchange logos with and not necessarily know whose was whose. It’s just food as filler. I think that the emerging players in the business are selling real food. There aren’t enough players who pay attention to the fact that what we sell a customer, they put in their mouth. The strong will survive mostly on the merits of their product. Profile: To what do you attribute your success? Jay: I think that I have been good at getting good people around me and recognizing what I’m not good at… For every weakness I have, there’s someone out there that likes the part that I don’t. I think that I’ve been good at identifying that, getting the right person to do it, and letting them do their job.

Profile: What has been the company’s greatest challenge? Warren: Fast food has been broadly tainted with the perception that there must be something wrong with it. We’ve had to

make sure, without overstating the case, that there is real food value. Food, used as directed, is pretty good for you… The French fry has become the poster child for not eating well. Our biggest challenge is letting people know that it’s OK to eat French fries, but you shouldn’t be doing it all the time.


What has been the most important lesson you’ve


Jay: Your integrity. You have to do what you say you will, and people have to believe it… your staff or suppliers or customers. You have to not just say you are, but be it. Profile: What is your best advice for someone starting in this business? Jay: I think that you have to listen to your banker, your lawyer, your accountant, because they are there to give you advice. But in most cases, there is little for them to gain by telling you to go ahead and pursue your dream. Don’t let the idea get watered down so much that you take bits from all of it. Stick to your guns. If it was good, then it was good because it was a good idea. While the advice is important, if you water it down too much, you come out with something nobody wants.

Jay was not satisfied with serving better tasting fries. He determined that they could also be healthier. In 2004, New York Fries was the first company in Canada to switch to trans fat free oil. This occurred before customers truly understood the health concerns surrounding hydrogenation. Even though the oil cost significantly more, they determined it was the healthier choice for their customers. Later that same year, New York Fries also reduced its portion sizes and prices. The goal was to reduce the sizes of offerings that most customers would purchase. It first involved renaming the cups—kids’ size became small, and small became regular. “About 60% of our purchases moved into these two smaller cups,” stated Warren. “The nomenclature made it easier for anyone to come along and buy a smaller size.” What resulted was an increase in visits and purchases by new customers. Added Jay, “We reduced our portion sizes a couple of times… on the basis of if we don’t overstuff our customers and maybe leave them wanting a little, they might come back more often to order a smaller portion. We’ve dropped our prices and our portion sizes, all of which flies in the face of conventional wisdom.”

Growing the fry business As part of Jay’s growth strategy (and indicative of his loyalty), he has maintained longterm business relationships with established suppliers. These partners—including Maple Leaf Foods and Pepsi—have returned Jay’s loyalty by accommodating New York Fries’ specific needs.

“Jay has made the relationship with Maple Leaf open and collaborative over the years by allowing us as a vendor to have a clear vision to his business objectives,” stated Tim Eaton, National Account Manager, Maple Leaf Foodservices. “This has allowed us to be the best business partner we could possibly be.” “New York Fries has a unique concept, products, and marketing,” added Lee Hargreaves, National Account Sales Manager, Pepsi Company Food Service Canada. “We believe in this case Pepsi’s flexibility and willingness to try and match our customer’s entrepreneurial style has helped grow and maintain our relationship. A typical New York Fries outlet does not have the space that most other QSRs have to offer. We have customized equipment and other merchandising offerings so that both parties win.” Real estate (specifically, where a store is located) is one of the focal points of Jay’s business plan. He believed that positive growth depended upon finding the right location. “Real estate is obviously critical, even in a shopping centre,” explained Jay. “You have to be visible, and you have to be in the right spot. You could be around the corner and doing $100,000 less. I don’t typically go looking for the cheapest space, I go looking for the best space and try to make as good a deal on it as I can.” With New York Fries’ focus on visibility in mall food courts, much effort has been spent on ensuring that they attract attention. Most in-store marketing is geared toward making it attractive, inviting, and consistent in message. It also emphasizes the quality of the product. Said Andy, “Given that New York Fries oper-

ates for the most part in food courts, we wanted to make the product a hero, to make it look terrific and really make the New York Fries counter stand out… There’s all that traffic in the mall food court. We want to capture the attention of those people first.” Jay also values the people responsible for the company’s growth. He has surrounded himself with people he trusts. That trust is mutual, as many have been with the company for more than 12 years. Stated Warren, “Jay has a clear vision of what he thinks the business should be doing and how it should be run... He’s quite willing to hear what the rest of us around the table think and have to say. That goes all the way down to the store level, and he’s quite happy to hear anyone’s ideas.” When reviewing franchisee candidates, Jay would look at factors such as strength of character and an understanding of the brand. The average franchisee operates three stores, and most of them have been with the company from the start. It is their trust in Jay’s business strategy that has helped to grow the New York Fries brand. “I got franchisees to reduce their portion sizes and pay an extra 30 percent for the sunflower oil when we switched to the trans-fat-free oil,” stated Jay. “They do that because they actually have some faith in the way we treat them. We live the life in the store ourselves. What we do in the field to them affects them as well.”

Branching out into burgers Jay determined that the opportunities to expand New York Fries were becoming limited. There are only so many good locations to open a store, and it did not seem to work as a street-level operation. He also saw that the market was maturing and becoming increasingly selective. In July 2005, he developed South St. Burger Co. as a “best-in-category” concept in the crowded burger segment. It has since expanded to ten locations. Stated Jay, “We have a very capable group of people in this office, and more than one of them have suggested that we get into the premium burger business. We decided to do some research on it. It took us about a year and half. We checked out a number of burger places, and then tried to develop a menu that was simple because we were used to that and was based on the same philosophy as New York Fries. The goal was to be the best in category. We went to find the best hamburger, the best bun, the best milkshake. We make our own onion rings, and serve our fresh cut New York Fries, obviously!.” P

10 Profile

Congr atulations On your

25th Anniversary We are proud to be your partner

Š PepsiCo Canada ULC, 2009.

D9450 NYF Profile Ad_final.indd 1

8/19/09 5:22:15 PM


On Your


AnniversarY Proud Supporter of New York Fries 12004AO_a

Tina Chiu




Mandarin Restaurant

The Tradition Continues


hinese food has been a staple of the Canadian diet for decades. It’s as popular as any other type of cuisine. Count the number of Chinese restaurants in the Yellow pages. Do an online search of “Chinese restaurants” in your city. Getting noticed by customers in a sea of restaurants that offer the same type of food can be difficult. Growing that restaurant into a successful franchise chain is even more difficult. That is one reason why Mandarin Restaurant’s success is so incredible. It is celebrating its 30th year in business. The chain is well known throughout southern Ontario, where all of its 21 restaurants are located. The Mandarin name is synonymous with Chinese food within the marketplace. What is perhaps more impressive is that the restaurant chain has grown its business and reputation on the basis of quality food in a buffet-style restaurant.

Before the buffet

Before they came to Ontario, Mandarin Restaurant’s four founding partners—James Chiu, George and Diana Chiu, and K.C. Chang— lived and worked in the Montreal area. James ran his own small Chinese restaurant. When Tina Chiu—James’ daughter and the company’s Chief Operating Officer—was born, her family (with some prodding from her mother Sheila) decided to move to Toronto. They thought that Ontario would provide more potential for business opportunities, and better educational options for Tina. When the founding partners moved to the Toronto area in 1979, they looked for a location to open a new Chinese restaurant. They eventually purchased a small Chinese restaurant in the Queen Street East area of Brampton. That restaurant was called the Mandarin. George and K.C. worked in the kitchen, while Diana took care of the front of the house. At the time, there was no buffet option. They focused on serving good quality food and providing a high level of customer service. “We wanted to satisfy everyone, and make sure that everyone left with a smile,” said James Chiu, President. The Mandarin turned out to be a good investment, as the restaurant became quite popular. It became so busy that they purchased other units in the plaza to expand the dining area. The restaurant had to be upsized three times just to keep up with the demand. In 1986, they moved to a buffet format to serve customers more quickly while allowing them to try everything on the menu. The Mandarin Experience was born.

One of the more unique aspects of the franchisee program is the fitness element. During the training program, prospective franchisees will work in the restaurant, take in-class courses, and participate in the fitness program, which involves going to a local gym three times a week. Participants must meet certain physical standards and pass time-trial tests to complete the program. “Working in a restaurant, you are always on your feet,” said Tina. “You have to have a certain amount of energy. We decided a few years back that this kind of training would be beneficial to them and to the running of the company. They have to be able to run a certain number of kilometres at a certain pace within a certain amount of time as part of the training.”

The family is the foundation Growth through franchising With the Mandarin Restaurant continuing to do well, the founding partners decided to open a second location. They invited several employees from the original restaurant to come on board as franchisees (managing partners). These employees were chosen for more than their interest in opening a new restaurant and running their own business. They were brought into the Mandarin family because they were loyal, exhibited a hard work ethic, and demonstrated belief in teamwork. In 1988, under the direction of the new managing partners, the second Mandarin Restaurant opened in Mississauga. This model of growth through franchising has worked well for Mandarin Restaurant. All franchises are owned and operated by former employees who had a desire to operate their own restaurant. “Each franchise is operated by five managing partners, with two in the kitchen and three in the front,” said James. “They are restaurant people instead of just business people. They make the extra effort to make the customers happy.” Growth has been gradual, which is part of the corporate philosophy to maintain quality. Franchises have usually been opened at a rate of one or two locations per year (in 2008, they added three new locations). Since Mandarin has specific location requirements, finding an appropriate site takes time. “Finding the right location can be a challenge,” said Bob Wheeler of Wheeler & Associates Consulting Inc., who is responsible for (among other duties) scouting new locations and developing site plans. “We look for sites that are at least 2.5 acres and have enough parking for 175 spaces. We also need the right demographics and population density. Some areas are also protected under existing franchise agreements. Rent is also an issue, as we have high food costs and relatively low margins.” Mandarin Restaurant spends quite a bit of time training franchisees. There is a definite process in developing people to become managing partners. In terms of the franchise system, it is quite unique. All managing partners have worked in the restaurants in various positions—from wait staff to cooks. They must show an interest in becoming a managing partner, and require the backing of existing partners to take it to the next level. Explained Tina, “For example, you could have worked in the Scarborough restaurant, and indicated to the managing partners at that restaurant that one day you would like to own a Mandarin. If the managing partners at that location recommend you, then you’ll come to the corporate store in Brampton and work in a variety of positions in the front of the house or back of the house. You will also enter classroom training. The program is extensive in the sense of the length of time. It takes at least two years before they can become franchisees.”

14 Profile

Even after 30 years, the founders are involved in all major decisions affecting Mandarin Restaurant. They remain responsible for determining the company’s growth, and providing direction for franchisees. George is in charge of new location development. K.C. manages the kitchen side of the Brampton head office location. Diana is involved with project management, as well as the banquet hall. James is responsible for franchising. Ironically, Tina did not intend to get into the family business. She took advantage of the province’s educational opportunities and studied English Literature at Western University. Although she worked at the restaurant over the course of several summers, she planned on becoming a teacher. In 2000, Tina received a surprise phone call from her uncle George, who asked her to join the company. She agreed, although she figured it would be a temporary thing while she studied for her MBA part-time. “I didn’t have a title when I joined,” stated Tina. “I did a little bit of everything. At the time, our office was much smaller than it is now. We had less than ten people working there, and I was coming in as a junior person, and did whatever I could to help out with the company. I remember that my first major project was costing everything on our takeout menu.” While the principals make most of the corporate decisions, they are supported by directors who review, recommend, and implement policies according to their area of expertise. Each department—administration & finance, marketing & customer service, procurement and site operations—is run by a director, who are supported by their own staff. Although the company employs more than 1500 people across its 21 restaurants, there are about 30 people working in head office. Just as franchisees have come from within the organization, other members of the management team have grown with the company. Ellen IP began as an Administrative Assistant with Mandarin Restaurant in 1990. She progressed through the organization, and is now the Director of Administration and Finance. Peter Cheng, Director of Procurement, has been with the company for 15 years and worked his way up. The corporate atmosphere is quite familial, and much of the growth stays within the family. Mandarin Restaurant’s business relationships are also built on trust and understanding, and as such tend to stand the test of time. Topper Linen first began supplying the restaurant chain with hot towels 25 years ago, and has expanded to providing table linens, kitchen products, and antifatigue mats. “Mandarin is a very good business partner, as they are dedicated to their suppliers, and they understand how to do business,” said Tim Topornicki, President, Topper Linen. “They don’t like to make changes, so when they find a company that can meet their demands, they like to stay with them. We’ve built a business relationship over 25 years, which is rare, and that relationship has turned into a friendship.”

A culture of generosity Mandarin Restaurant supports the five main Ontario colleges (Humber, Seneca, Niagara, Ryerson, and Guelph) with hospitality and culinary program scholarships. The company also supports employees and their children through a scholarship fund. They provide high school and post-secondary scholarships through an application program, which culminates in a gala where winners receive $500 and $1000 scholarships. Mandarin Restaurant has also set up its own charitable foundation, which donates about $300,000 per year to various charities, including the MS Society, Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the Hospital for Sick Kids. They have also been involved with an organization called Smile China, which sends surgeons to rural areas of China to repair cleft lips.

Words of wisdom Profile: What do you believe is key to being a leader

Profile: What has been the most important lesson

in the restaurant industry?

you’ve learned?

Tina: It’s about attention to quality, in terms of food,

Tina: When you’re young, sometimes you think you can change the world overnight. Over time, you come to understand the intricacies behind the business and the people. I’ve also learned the importance of laughter.

service, and the whole customer experience.

Profile: What would you change if you were starting

from scratch?

Tina: I would aim for a smaller size restaurant. It would open us up to more locations and would require less investment on the part of the franchisees. Profile: date?


What has been the greatest challenge to

We have so many owners now (with more than 100), they all have different opinions about how the restaurants could be run. Our customers expect certain standards and consistencies; it is always a bit of a challenge to get everyone to reach a consensus.

Profile: What is the best advice you have for someone starting in this business?


Be prepared to work very hard. This industry is very challenging. Our type of restaurant in particular needs volume. It comes down to the whole experience. You have to make sure that every element of the customer’s experience is above and beyond their expectations.

Mixing the traditional with the modern

Chinese heritage and history are major components of how the company runs its restaurants and does business. Mandarin Restaurant is owned and operated by Chinese immigrants. Their families and friends are involved in the business. There is a great deal of respect paid to what the founders have achieved over the past 30 years. Traditional décor is integral in the design and layout of the restaurants. Most of the locations follow this format. From the beginning, there was a corporate philosophy of strength through cooperation from every member of the team, which has remained to this day. Although they believe in maintaining the company’s history, there is always room for change. Most occur at the menu level, as they will add new items to adapt to changes in customers’ tastes. There is also a move to update the restaurants. Most Mandarin Restaurants are built and designed to look the same. The newest location, which will be opening in Oakville this year, will have a more modern look and feel.

Buffets are about food

Providing customers with better quality food involves sourcing and procuring higher quality food items. Mandarin Restaurant’s ability to purchase different food items directly from the source (or place of origin) and cutting out the middleman enables them to access items that are fresher, higher quality, and less expensive. This gives them an advantage over competitors who cannot offer the same types of product offerings. Mandarin Restaurant went to a buffet style so that they could serve more people more efficiently. The buffet also enables the restaurant to cater to a wide variety of tastes. Every location offers a different selection of foods so that it can appeal to customers in the area, although all locations offer popular staples. The buffet will also vary throughout the week, and will be changed for different seasons and festivals (e.g., dumplings during the Chinese New Year festival, harvest-style foods during the Moon festival). The restaurant also offers a la carte and takeout service.

Technology is also being used to incorporate more modern methods of running the restaurant. In most restaurants, all food orders were brought directly to the kitchen. About two years ago, beginning with the Brampton location, they implemented a touch screen technology, where orders are placed directly from the buffet area. This has enabled them to track food usage and inventory more accurately. It has also made the process more efficient, as employees are only entering the kitchen to pick up food when it is ready.

Most of the cuisine falls under the category of Chinese Canadian (e.g., chicken balls, black pepper steak). They also offer foods that are very North American in style and flavour (e.g., roast beef, Boston clam chowder). Over the past few years, there has been more focus on traditional Chinese fare (e.g., seafood bird’s nest during the Moon Festival), as well as Japanese cuisine (including sushi). As part of Mandarin’s mandate to appeal to all tastes, they also offer a salad bar and a wide selection of desserts.

Even the method of procuring different food items has changed, due to the company’s increased buying power and improvement in technology. Explained Peter, “When I first started with the company, we were still manually sending orders out to suppliers and we just bought direct from the wholesaler. Then I decided to set up a computer system and buy from the importer instead. After a couple more years, we decided to buy direct from the place of origin, such as shrimp from Thailand direct.”

Mandarin Restaurant, much like any other restaurant chain, promotes itself through traditional formats and media. They also rely on their Chinese heritage to turn promotional opportunities into a reason to go out for dinner. Every year, the company promotes the restaurant and its menu with traditional Chinese festivals. The two key events are the Moon Festival in the Fall and the Chinese New Year (also known as the Dumpling Festival). If you have not heard or read about “Kung Hei Fat Choy,” then you’ve probably never heard of Mandarin Restaurant.

Promotion through celebration

“Given the ubiquity of the brand, the scope of their target, and their unique category, our media selection seeks to maximize the reach of current customers before expanding communications to new customers,” said John Marraffino of VMC Media. Just this year, Mandarin Restaurant celebrated Canada Day with a free buffet. They held the same promotion in 1996 and 2004. All Canadians were invited to dine for free at their restaurants as long as they showed proof of citizenship, such as a Canadian passport or birth certificate. It was part of the company’s celebration of its 30th anniversary. They saw it as a good opportunity to thank Canadians for their patronage and to celebrate Canada Day with the rest of the country. “The whole philosophy behind it is that all of the managing partners and the founders are immigrants to the country,” said Tina. “They are all very thankful that they were able to come to this country and build their families and careers in Canada. They are grateful to this country and wanted to show their appreciation.”

Training the future

Mandarin Restaurant is also involved with Humber College’s culinary training program. Over the past few years, several of the company’s managing partners have worked together to teach an Asian cuisine course. This has allowed them to develop new recipes for the restaurants and train chefs in the Mandarin style. They are also taking in students to intern in different areas of the restaurant. “Mandarin has agreed to provide students with a range of restaurant management and operations training,” stated Alister Mathiesen, Dean, School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism at Humber College. “Some of those students have now been hired full-time by Mandarin as a result of their internship. Mandarin has worked very closely with us in providing that training. Their ability to provide a broad range of training for students as part of their curriculum is a key benefit.” In 2008, they decided to grow the partnership by sponsoring a Mandarin culinary lab in Humber’s Canadian Centre of Culinary Arts and Science. They are currently developing an educational component for their franchisees and employees, which will be taught through the college. The program, which will launch in this fall, will involve professional development for their managing partners. Added Tina, “For me, it’s key to improving and moving forward. It’s about upgrading ourselves and learning about what’s new and what’s out there.” P

16 Profile

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Top 30 Under 30 The Top 30 under 30 Awards recognizes the hospitality industry’s top young performers. This recognition goes a long way to help inspire a future generation of hospitality leaders. Lauren Arsenault Cheese Maker, Monforte Dairy Company Ltd. Victor Barry Sous Chef, Splendido Restaurant Amira Becarevic Sous Chef, Reds, SIR Corp Alaina Boyer Learning Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto Ordean Clarke Guest Services Manager, The Westin Harbour Castle Toronto Daniel De Matteis Chef, Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar Claudia Dimanno Field Service Manager, Boston Pizza International Matthew James Duffy Chef Tournant-Rundles; Assistant Baking Instructor-Stratford Chef School Adam Fikis Assistant Professor, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Guelph Emily Gray Assistant Housekeeping Manager, The Westin Harbour Castle Toronto Tonya Headley Assistant Manager, Food & Beverage-Quick Service Eric Healy Sales Manager, Park Hyatt Toronto Amanda Holmes Manager, Campus Recruitment & Graduate Relations, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Ashley Howat Service Manager, Canyon Creek Sherway Gardens, SIR Corp David Hutchinson Chef de Cuisine, Wildcraft, The Charcoal Group of Restaurants Nicole Kamali General Manager, Toronto Board of Trade, Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants Sobia Khan Professor/Nutrition, George Brown College Sadia Maisuria Restaurant General Manager, Priszm Inc. Juan Malvestitti Publisher, Modern Empire Inc.-PROFILE MAGAZINE Leanne Muir Sous Chef, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel Susie Naaman Continuous Improvement Team Leader, The TDL Group Corp. Graham Pelley Bistro Chef, The Badminton & Racquet Club of Toronto William Predhomme Sommelier, Canoe Restaurant and Bar, Oliver Bonacini Restaurants Afrim Pristine General Manager, The Cheese Boutique Ryan Rudnickas Head Chef, The Healthy Butcher Adrian Rusyn Executive Sous Chef, The Waterside Inn Hotel, Breakwater Restaurant Erin Salmon Territory Manager, Cave Spring Cellars Miriam Streiman Community Event Co-ordinator, Slow Foods; Food Stylist, The Food Network Ana Yuristy Hotel Manager, Drake Hotel Marco Zandona Sous Chef, Via Allegro Top 30 Under 30 Selections Committee: J. Charles Grieco, Ontario Hostelry Institute; Bruce McAdams, University of Guelph; Jasmine Baker, Drake Hotel; Peter Bodnar Rod, 13th Street Winery; Gary Hallam, Conestoga College; Norman Wolfson, Lecours, Wolfson; David Martin, Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management; Rosanna Caira, Foodservice and Hospitality Magazine. The OHI wishes to acknowledge:

Sponsored By for their generous assistance and support in helping to make the Top 30 under 30 awards possible.

Bill Simpson GM



The Drake Hotel

The Rebirth of Cool


ost buildings have a specific purpose and a finite lifespan. They fulfill that purpose for many years, occasionally being updated to maintain the status quo. It may go through several overhauls to enable it to continue fulfilling its purpose. Eventually, it can become too expensive or impractical to continue maintenance. The building may then become abandoned, repurposed or demolished. The Drake Hotel has defied the fate of most buildings. It was originally opened in 1890 under the name D.A. Small’s Hotel. The area was a major Canadian Pacific Railway hub, linking downtown Toronto with lakeside summer homes of the city’s western beaches. At the time, it was one of the wealthier neighbourhoods in the city. Over the next 50 years, the hotel went through several ownership and name changes (Hotel Cecil, Stardust). In 1949, Michael Lundy purchased the property and renamed it the Drake Hotel. It had now begun its second life. The hotel was expanded and renovated. This included the addition of a grand staircase in the lobby, as well as a lounge and restaurant. Over the next 50 years, the hotel (and surrounding neighbourhood) fell on hard times and went through a period of decline. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the Drake Hotel served as a punk bar, a rave den, and a flophouse. In 2001, Jeff Stober purchased the Drake Hotel. He spent more than two years renovating the building, which was then reopened on February 14, 2004 under its current form. Now in its third life, the Drake Hotel is celebrating its fifth anniversary. It has also revitalized the surrounding West Queen West neighbourhood. The Drake is more than a hotel—it is a cultural experience.

Before the rebirth

Jeff started CNC Global (now known as Sapphire Canada), an IT staffing and consulting firm, upon completing university. In 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, he sold his majority share in the company and decided to travel the world, which rekindled his long-time interest in the hospitality industry. He became intrigued by the boutique hotel movement, which was being led by hotelier entrepreneurs such as André Belazs and Ian Schrager. These visionaries wanted to create something that addressed the sensibility of hospitality that could not be matched by the large hotel chains. During Jeff’s travels, he saw boutique hotels popping up on the lower east side of Manhattan, and hot spots in Miami and Los Angeles. This led to his desire to open a boutique hotel somewhere in Toronto. He found the Drake Hotel, and the surrounding West Queen West neigh-

bourhood, met the criteria of the type of building and location he was seeking. Here was an existing hotel with great architectural bones in an area where rents were relatively cheap with an existing cultural base.

had to be cut into to add structural enhancements. They also brought in a project management group to add expertise for completion of the hotel.

Jeff purchased the hotel, and then looked for someone with hotel experience. Bill Simpson, General Manager, joined the Drake Hotel about 18 months before it reopened. He had an extensive background in running and consulting on the operation of large restaurants. He helped Jeff with design, kitchen and bar layout, staffing, and operations. They both understood that there would be challenges in revamping a hotel that was more than 110 years old at the time, as well as building a business in that area. Jeff shared his vision of what he wanted the Drake to become, and Bill bought into it.

Every large reconstruction project has its issues, including community acceptance. When large-scale renovations take place in a residential neighbourhood, there is bound to be NIMBY resistance—traffic, dust, noise, etc. That resistance can be heightened when the renovation involves a historical landmark. But the Drake crew managed to placate the neighbours and achieve their goals.

“Jeff’s vision was to create what we’ve coined as a cultural community centre,” said Bill. “Right off the hop, we were trying to create something that Toronto really hadn’t seen before.”

The boutique hotel

Explained Bill, “We worked with the community groups. I was on the board of some of the resident neighbourhood associations. We do our part to give back to the community.” The term “boutique hotel” describes a hotel environment that is intimate, luxurious, and/or unique. These types of establishments differentiate themselves from major chains and motels by providing personalized accommodation and services. Boutique hotels tend to be smaller and have fewer rooms than major chain hotels. The focus is often on atmosphere, as the goal is to provide hotel guests with a more intimate experience. The Drake Hotel easily fits within the definition, and Jeff’s vision, of a boutique hotel. It has only 19 guest rooms, which are categorized according to size and amenities. Many features are common to deluxe hotel rooms (e.g., complimentary Internet, glass shower stalls), while others are particular to the boutique hotel experience (e.g., exposed brick walls, aromatherapy sprays). Part of the hotel’s charm includes no elevator (or wheelchair) access to the second and third floors. The Drake Hotel offers more than a place to sleep. Patrons can have breakfast in the café, try sushi for lunch, enjoy fine dining in the evening, and drink cocktails in the lounge or on the rooftop patio. They can hold business meetings or social gatherings in Room 222. They can take in live music in the Underground or enjoy art exhibitions. There is always something going on at the Drake.

The challenge of redesign

Jeff brought in 3rd Uncle Design to help him rebuild and redesign the Drake Hotel. The goal was to maintain the building’s history and its relationship with the neighbourhood while creating an experience that combined hospitality, culture, and community. “It began with an idea of a facility where you could view art, listen to music, enjoy drinks, and so on,” said John Tong, 3rd Uncle Design. “We were asked to imagine a boutique hotel that did not exist. It was to be a departure from common modern hotels, which are often disjointed from the street culture. We wanted to come up with a sensibility that speaks to the neighbourhood.” Many of the building’s key architectural features were maintained, such as the brick exterior, terrazzo floors, and grand staircase. The rest of the building was gutted and refurbished, bringing the building into the 21st century. Individual rooms were also designed and furnished with special furniture pieces. “We wanted something that could grow and change, and not be frozen,” added John. “We identified certain characteristics and retained them for inspiration. We also left room for design elements to be changed, so that it could become something more in the future.” With any building of this age, there are always architectural challenges. The Drake Hotel needed quite a bit of work to make it both attractive and functional. Maintaining the façade and its heritage was a priority. The brick exterior had to be shored up. Newly finished hotel rooms

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“More goes on in a week here than goes on in a month in a typical establishment,” stated Bill. “We have the resources and staff to support it. It’s a huge responsibility.” Boutique hotels are known for offerings that cannot be found anywhere else. This summer the Drake Hotel launched Camp Drake, which provides a number of initiatives that reflect typical summer camp activities. Hotel visitors will be able to enjoy picnics, barbecues, bike rides, outdoor movies, group sing-alongs, and more. The hotel also has a general store offering traditional campground souvenirs; a wooden bear carving created by a local artist adds to the camping motif. Bill and Jeff both travel around North America, visiting boutique and chain hotels, to see what is going on the industry. From their point of view, the Drake Hotel is unique. Explained Bill, “I say to my staff that there’s no one doing what we’re doing, even in the boutique hotel movement… You can’t manufacture hospitality and be genuine. And that’s what we do as well or better than anyone else in the industry.”

The focus on food

The Drake Hotel pays close attention to the food it serves. The cuisine begins with Toronto-born Executive Chef Anthony Rose, who trained under some of the world’s best chefs (including Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Franz) in New York and San Francisco. He is known for creating menus that are flavourful and eclectic. Chef de Cuisine Darren Glew is also integral to the development of cuisine that heightens the local experience.

Community impact and growth The surrounding neighbourhood has gone through a transition since the Drake Hotel reopened. People have been drawn to the hotel, and the arrival of new people means more interest in the surrounding area. A number of condo developments have broken ground in the West Queen West neighbourhood. In nearby Ossington, 19 restaurants have opened in the last year and a half, thanks in part to the hotel’s proximity. Some 8000 bar and restaurant seats have been added within a two kilometre radius since 2004. The Drake Hotel remains at the centre of the development and continues to hold its own. “People ask us how we can still be so busy when restaurants are opening every couple of weeks all around us,” said Bill. “I explain that we offer something that others don’t. Everyone wants to be a little like the Drake but no one in their right mind can recreate this. You wouldn’t be able to without the resources and vision that Jeff has, without the team I’ve put together, and without the constant pushing to make it a leader in the purveyance of culture and hospitality.” The Drake Hotel also owns four neighbouring buildings. There has been some discussion and research into expanding the hotel (50 more hotel rooms?) and the brand. They’re talking with constituents and staff to see how they felt if the Drake Hotel was larger. At the moment, they’re renting space out to two art galleries and have opened a General Store. They’ve also talked about opening a neighbourhood bakery. There is room for growth, but time will tell.

Words of wisdom Profile: What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned from your experience with the Drake Hotel?

been as successful as I did. You can still control structure but we could have put them in place a little earlier.

Bill: If you’re going to participate fully in life, you must engage Profile: What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who the great people around you. You get a lot further in life by engaging fully in dialogue with people in collaborative practices. You can really soar as an organization and hit the high notes.

Profile: What would you change if you were starting from scratch today?

Bill: I would have had some of the systems in place a little earlier than we did. I would have structured it a little faster and a little smarter. If I had done that, maybe I would not have

wanted to do something similar?

Bill: You have to be 110% committed to the really high pursuit of hitting on the touchpoints. You have to work really hard and surround yourself with interdisciplinary people. If you want to hit all the high notes of culture, art, hospitality, food and beverage, and hotel operations, you better surround yourself with the best in the business. Not just at the operations level, but with people who will be able to give of themselves at a social level… You have to work at it every minute of every day.

Stated Bill, “Food has been one of the most important aspects of what we did. We say to our kitchen team, ‘Your expression of art is in the form of culinary execution that you carry out every day. So do it well, make it look good, and make it taste wonderful’.”

“Our bartenders develop our cocktail program,” said Bill. “We’ve brought owners of bars up from the West Village in New York to work with our staff to help them develop cocktail recipes. We empower our staff to engage in a higher level of food and beverage.”

In typical Drake Hotel style, much of the edible fare is developed in-house. They make pastries from scratch and source local ingredients. They employ two sushi chefs, which is a rarity in the hotel industry. They smoke their own pork, bacon, and barbecue platters, and make charcuterie. The hotel also maintains an herb garden.

Involvement in culture and the arts

The Drake Hotel’s approach to dining enables it to appeal to a wide variety of patrons—more than 5000 people a week. The Dining Room, which has been recently renovated, provides a fine dining experience. The Raw Bar serves sushi, oysters, sashimi, and house-cured charcuterie. The Corner Café is more casual, offering home-baked goods and other menu items during the day while turning into a more intimate bistro in the evening. Added Bill, “Two people can have a couple of sushi rolls and a glass of wine for $35 to $40. You can spend $150 in the dining room or you can go to the café and have a scone and a coffee for $6. People come from all over the world, and people come from the suburbs, to see what the excitement is about.” The cocktail culture also defines the Drake Hotel. The lounge—the room and the concept—has always been ingrained in the hotel’s character. People can enjoy beverages in the hotel or the Sky Yard, an all-season rooftop patio. The newly added Taco + Tequila Shack offers a more Mexican flavour throughout the summer. But just as the chefs contribute to the dining experience, the bartenders do more than serve cold glasses of beer.

In December 2003, the neighbourhood was officially named the West Queen West Art and Design District. The area is well known for its art galleries, and is a destination for music, performance, fashion, and visual arts. The area hosts to a number of major cultural events, such as the Toronto International Film Festival, the Toronto International Art Fair, Nuit Blanche, and Luminato. Jeff’s vision includes making the Drake Hotel an integral part of the cultural community. The hotel runs an artist-in-residence program, and has brought in artists from all over the world. The artists create pieces of art that go on exhibit, while performance artists do stage productions. They have a permanent art collection, and do art installations every few months. A full-time art curator manages all facets of the Drake Hotel’s involvement. “We’ve become a cultural partner with many of the top cultural institutions in the city,” stated Bill. Music is central to the Drake Hotel’s involvement in the arts. During the 1970s and 1980s, it was part of the punk rock scene. Today, it plays host to live music acts almost every day of the year. The Underground (the hotel’s entertainment venue) has served as a venue to a wide range of indie and mainstream musicians—from Carole Pope and Broken Social Scene to Beck and The Killers. They also run a program called Opera 101 with the Canadian Opera Company.

Spreading the word

One of the more remarkable aspects of the Drake Hotel’s popularity is how events are advertised by word of mouth. People in the area know what is going on at the hotel, and they tell their friends. It may sound like the work of a slick advertising agency, but it’s not. It’s quite authentic, and that may also be due to the fact that they manage all aspects of the hotel’s promotion in house. Jasmine Baker, the Drake Hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing, works with a team that includes catering, event planning, marketing, public relations (a separate firm called Rock-It Promotions), graphic design, web development, visual arts curator, and music programming. They do “four walls marketing” by designing their own posters, updating their web site, and doing digital advertising within the building. Following the boutique model, marketing and promotion results are tracked at an individual level. Explained Jasmine, “We’re trying to be very connected to our guests at all times. That’s how we measure our success—through firsthand interaction with our guests. We follow up to see how they felt about the experience. In hospitality, it’s all about the guests.” The Drake Hotel has a biweekly newsletter (The Ake) to keep readers informed of upcoming events. They are one of the top-ranked Twitter users in the hotel industry, and also have a Facebook group. They’ve been written about in a wide number of publications, from The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life to Travel + Leisure and The Sunday Times. Said Jasmine, “Although we target some publications with press releases, the press has been very kind to us. We are so lucky to have been accepted and celebrated by the media. It started well before we opened our doors, and thankfully the media has continued to be supportive of us.” The Drake Hotel’s mandate to create a cultural community centre has grown and evolved over five years. They continue to work with cultural organizations by maintaining existing relationships (the Toronto International Film Festival) and developing new ones (the Canadian Opera Company). This type of promotion is more about building upon the cultural foundation than simply marketing the brand. Added Jasmine, “A sincere investment in the arts has allowed us to be more of what we love to do, and that is celebrating arts of all different kinds within these walls. That is what continues to make us interesting, relevant and attractive to our guests.” P

24 Profile

Martti Granholm martti.granholm@tbaytel.net

Nigel Beattie President & COO



Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken & Taters

A Canadian Success Story


here are many common elements among companies within the fast food industry, and one of those is chicken. On one side, there are large chains that have based their entire menu (and business) on chicken. On the other side, there are fast food giants that have made chicken a core part of their menu. In between the giants are scores of quick service restaurants that want a piece of the action. Trying to compete within the fast food industry by focusing on chicken can be a difficult proposition. Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken & Taters has defied the odds by celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. What makes this accomplishment even more surprising is the fact that it is 100% Canadian owned. Even with competition from the fast food giants that dominate the category, the company has made a name for itself with its chicken. It has grown to 75 locations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Halifax, Ontario, and Alberta, and employs about 800 people in its various restaurants.

From humble origins In 1969, Pat Tarrant and Cyril Fleming answered an advertisement for franchises in the Montreal Gazette, which was placed by Golden Skillet Corp., a fried chicken franchise based in Richmond, Virginia. At the time, the American company was owned by Clifton W. Guthrie, who developed the cooking system and breading spice mix for the chicken. Pat and Cyril opened their first location in the Avalon Mall in St. John’s, Newfoundland. However, they discovered that the name “Golden Skillet Chicken” was already taken, and could not be used within the mall environment (for various legal reasons). So, the two partners decided to name the company after Mr. Guthrie’s wife: Mary Brown. Hence, the name of the new restaurant became Mary Brown’s Virginia Fried Chicken. As the company grew throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, Pat and Cyril determined that this company was going to be a success. Thus, they made a joint venture with Golden Skillet Corporation and created Mary Brown’s Canada, which allowed them to open a number of franchises across Canada. In 1972, they opened the first Mary Brown’s in the Arena Plaza in Mississauga, Ontario. In 1976, the owners incorporated Can-Skillet Systems, and bought the Canadian interests in the company. In 1977, they bought out the American interests in Mary Brown’s.

Nigel Beattie, President and COO, has been with the company for almost 30 years. He emigrated from Ireland in 1980, and applied for a job with a Mary Brown’s franchise in Pickering, Ontario. After serving in management for about 14 months, he moved to head office to run operations in Ontario. Since then, Nigel has filled a number of roles within the organization—regional operations, national operations, franchise development, real estate development, and vice president.

Growth through franchising

In 1987, he purchased a minority ownership in Mary Brown’s, which he eventually sold to the current owner, Greg Roberts, in 2007. Today, Nigel is involved in the company’s daily operations. He explained, “My function is to run the company on a day-to-day basis. All the aspects of the company—advertising, accounting, operations, real estate development—come under me. Greg’s focus is on the growth strategy of the company, such as getting financing in place for future growth or acquisitions.”

Finding suitable (and potentially popular) locations is always a challenge. The company often looks for suitable residential and commercial sites to take advantage of serving different types of customers. Standalone locations with drive-through potential are preferred but often difficult to access.

The menu: Combining simplicity and quality Mary Brown’s menu has always been relatively simple. It began with the staples served at Golden Skillet—chicken, fries, and salad. There have been some additions over the years, such as chicken fingers, wraps, and sandwiches, but the chicken’s original recipe has stayed the same. The taters have added a new dimension to the restaurant’s offerings. Said Nigel, “Taters were added in 1980. It was developed at the Pickering store after one of our operations guy saw it at an NRA show in Chicago and thought that we could add it to our menu. It has been a big success ever since.” The taters were such a success (they outsell French fries across the country) that they decided to rebrand and rename the company. In 2000, the company was renamed Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken & Taters. It is the quality of the chicken that has been the company’s greatest calling card. Mary Brown’s purchases Canada Grade A whole chickens, which are then cut, breaded, and cooked in store. Potatoes are also purchased fresh, and then hand cut, breaded, and cooked in store. The company also builds its own cookers, which are unique to Mary Brown’s. Their customized, low-pressure cookers use temperature (instead of high pressure) to cook the chickens, and are modelled on the skillet style of cooking chicken. Added Nigel, “That makes our whole procedure and system unique. It gives us a crisp product on the outside, moist on the inside: The marination process, the cooking process and the oils we use, collectively give us what I believe is a better quality product.” There have been some changes to Mary Brown’s cooking process. They originally cooked the chicken in peanut oil, but saw the need to change due to the increase in peanut-related allergies. After testing a number of different oils, the company switched to high-stability canola oil in 1997. Since the switch to the higher quality oil, their chicken has been trans-fat free. With customers looking for healthier options, Mary Brown’s has added items to the menu to address those demands. They’ve added chicken wraps and salads. Ingredient declarations have been of greater interest to customers, as they have taken a greater interest in knowing nutritional information and being aware of possible food allergens.

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Mary Brown’s is focused on growing the company through franchising. In 2007, the company grew by 5-6%, increasing to 8% in 2008. It is expected to grow by up to 12% in 2009. The Franchise Development team, headed by Sean Donohue, is responsible for locating, evaluating, and interviewing potential franchisees, handling legal documentation, and negotiating locations for stores.

“Every location presents its own challenges,” said Martti Granholm of Granholm Construction, Mary Brown’s general contractor. “Every city has different rules and regulations for dealing with permits. Landlords want you to get their work done first. Getting things to fit into restrictive spaces is a challenge. But they know the business, and they understand how everything fits within the space they have to work with.” As part of its growth strategy, Mary Brown’s pursues opportunities to purchase smaller chains. It is also opening corporately owned stores in desirable locations where franchisees are not currently available. While a great location can help, it is only one factor that contributes to a store’s potential success in the marketplace. Added Sean, “Every single store has its idiosyncrasies. Whether it’s the demographics of the area or the traffic patterns, you never seem to know. We’ll think that we have a great site, and it opens up softly. And then we have other stores that are marginal… borderline whether we’ll do the deal or not, and they turn into phenomenal stores. It’s the uncertainty of the business.”

Franchisees are family Franchisees are treated as members of the corporate family, and serve as the face of the company in their respective communities. As a franchisee-driven organization, there is a belief that having people on the ground with an investment in their business is the best model for growing the business. Explained Nigel, “People become recognized within their community as being Mary Brown’s. We feel that is very good for two reasons. Number one, the local people have someone that they can talk to that is the face of Mary Brown’s within that community. Number two, obviously since they have an investment in the business, they’re going to do more things about the customer service, cleanliness… all those things you need to grow your business… instead of being a large corporation with managers that, in our opinion, don’t care as much.” Mary Brown’s understands that it cannot match the advertising spending of its competitors, nor can it get involved in a price war. So, it focuses on product quality and service. Having franchisees operating a store allows Mary Brown’s to offer a higher level of service. It comes down to working with people who care about the success of their business, and their communities, at a personal level. Said Nigel, “People skills are the number one thing we need from our franchisees. It’s about handling customers and providing customer

Helping the children Mary Brown’s has supported a number of different charities over the years. However, when deciding upon a new charity, they asked themselves: If Mary Brown were alive today, what charity would she want to support? They knew that it would involve children, so the answer came to them rather quickly—the Children’s Wish Foundation. What sealed the deal was that, unlike other local or regional charities, they would be able to help children all across Canada. Mary Brown’s has supported the Children’s Wish Foundation for almost 20 years. The company has organized a number of fundraising activities, such as bake sales and car washes, to help raise funds for Children’s Wish Foundation. They also received direct support from customers, staff, and franchisees. On top of monetary contributions, the company donated concert tickets to the children, and provided food and prizes for parties and various events. “Mary Brown’s is extremely pleased to be associated with the Children’s Wish Foundation and we are proud to say we have supported this wonderful organization for almost 20 years,” stated Denis Kavanagh, Senior Business Development Consultant, Eastern Region. “It gives each and every one of us at Mary Brown’s great joy to be giving back to the community in such a way that has positive impact on our children.”

Words of wisdom Profile: What has been your greatest challenge? Nigel: Getting the brand out there and getting people


What can other restaurants learn from the Mary Brown’s model?

to try the product. When people try our product, the response is very positive.

Nigel: Focus on the quality of the product. Be a believer in your product. Live your product day and night.


Profile: What advice would you give to an entrepre-

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned?

neur wanting to start a similar business?

Nigel: The customer has changed over the years. Customers demand more, and they expect more value for their money. They expect better service, and we try to get the service right.

Nigel: Do your due diligence. Check your demographics. Make sure that you have a system you believe in, and that can be taught to other people. It should also be consistent across the system.

Mark: Everybody in this office gives 110%. With every- Mark:

body giving the effort that they do, franchisees respect it and admire it. The franchisees treat us with respect as well. That does not exist in every organization. It’s nice to be in a position where you are respected for the work that you do.

This is not an easy business. It is a timeconsuming business. Be prepared to work hard and long. If this is something that you decide to do, you need to keep controls in place—food, labour, paper costs. The things you probably don’t want to do are the things you need to do to succeed in this business.

service. It’s also staffing. You’re talking about working with a diverse group of people.” Added Sean, “We’re finding that the best candidates, and our best franchisees, are people that have good people skills, and have managed people before.”

will come equipped with the POS system. It provides head office with remote access to sales figures, track promotions, manage inventory, and more. The POS system offers a number of key benefits to Mary Brown’s and its franchisees.

As Mary Brown’s depends upon franchisees to succeed, the company spends a lot of time supporting and helping them to succeed. Different departments focus on different aspects of franchisees’ business growth. The company employs business development consultants who visit the franchisees at their stores and consult with them on operations, training, staffing, and other issues

“It’s a fully integrated system,” said Mark Tilley, National Operations Manager. “I have remote access to all the restaurants that are on it. It’s a live database. I can go into any store in the system at any given time, and I can look at their sales up to five minutes prior to. I can look at the product mix, I can look at the customer count, and I can look at trending. This enables us to pinpoint things that we see on a daily basis. It also provides us with the information as to where we need to drive that particular franchisee’s business, whether it’s lunch hour, whether it’s dinner time, whether it’s during different day parts.”

Added Nigel, “The one thing that we’ve tried to do with the franchisees is create a Mary Brown’s family. We’re all in this together as we work together as a team that will survive and thrive. I get phone calls daily direct from franchisees. I don’t pass them off onto somebody else unless I don’t have the answers. It’s an open communication system. We have regular meetings with them throughout the year.”

Management and efficiency While franchisees are seen as one of the key strengths of the Mary Brown’s organization, they are provided with a significant amount of support from the Operations department. Operations is responsible for ensuring the quality and freshness of the product as it comes in the door, the integrity of the product, procedures are followed so that nothing breaks down, and the quality of the product that goes out the door. There is a great deal of interaction between Operations and franchisees. Each store receives four mini-evaluations per year, which examines the store’s effectiveness from both the perspectives of both customers and operations. Management also spends two days in each restaurant per year. They participate in local store marketing, helping franchisees to execute their advertising goals and boost sales. Implementing methods to improve efficiency is another aspect of the Operations department’s mandate. This includes installing a POS (point of sale) system, which was implemented about a year ago. The system is currently in place in 11 stores, with 7 more locations scheduled. Every new Mary Brown’s stores (and all stores going through renovations)

30 Profile

The advent of new technologies has enabled businesses to be more efficient with keeping track of costs, and implement changes more rapidly with the ability to acquire up-to-date information. The POS system allows head office and the franchisee to do complete inventory, labour costing, customer reports, and more. The POS system gives franchisees a tighter grasp on their business, as it provides an executive summary once a week. It also provides a snapshot of the costs associated with the business. “One of the parts of the POS system is that it enables us to gauge various aspects of the business on a rapid basis rather than waiting for information to be sent in by franchisees,” said Mark. “For instance, if we run a promotion next week, Family Feast, we can track Family Feast for the first two weeks, to see the success of it, to see which one of the four Family Feasts is selling the most. That gives up an opportunity to tweak our promotions for three, six, nine months down the road.”

Marketing the brand When an organization has locations across the country, marketing can become quite the challenge. When the level of your customers’ knowledge about your chain varies with geography, the challenge becomes that much more complex. Promoting Mary Brown’s in Newfoundland is quite different from promoting it in Ontario. Advertising and marketing are handled at the corporate level and at the franchisee level, and involve different media depending on where they are in the country

(e.g., billboards, television ads, radio spots, street signs, entertainment booklets, parades, local festivals, sponsorships). “All of our markets are different,” said Angela Windsor, Advertising Coordinator. “In Newfoundland, we’re so well known that you could go up to anyone on the street and they would know what you are talking about. There it’s about community building… In Ontario it’s about building awareness, and in the West. There are fewer stores here, so it’s about getting people to try us.” Advertising at the franchise level is a key component of the Mary Brown’s marketing strategy. Franchisees are expected to spend 1% of their revenue on promotional efforts. What they choose to do is up to them, but it is often focused on establishing a community presence. Since the company cannot advertise on the same scale as the larger chains, it takes a grass-roots approach to marketing. For example, when one of Mary Brown’s newest locations (Albion and Finch [northwest area of Toronto]) was not meeting its sales goals, management decided to do something about it themselves. “We started brainstorming and we thought that the reason why we’re not getting sales is because people don’t know who we are,” explained Angela. “There’s not another location in that area, so there is not a lot of brand awareness. We need people to try the product and they’ll keep coming back. So me, Mark Tilley (National Operations Manager), Nigel (President), Sean (Franchise Development Manager), and two Operations people went and gave out $5 gift certificates to anyone and everyone we saw.” At the store level, Mary Brown’s has worked to ensure that the furnishings and fixtures match the company’s penchant for quality. Many of the older stores are being refitted to match the look of the newer locations. This includes redesigning the chairs, which are laser cut with Mary Brown’s logo on the back rest. The result is visually appealing. “It was a collaborative effort,” said Eugene Honcharuk of Contract Supply, the company that designed the chairs. “We worked with them as partners to come up with new seating that fits with the company’s overall style.” P

Contract Supply Corp.

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H.J. Heinz Company of Canada Ltd.

A Century of Flavour


“Canada is an integral part of the Heinz story and we are proud to be celebrating 100 years of manufacturing in this country,” said Peter Luik, Heinz Canada President and CEO.

A quick trip through history

Heinz Canada is celebrating the historical milestone and its achievements in a number of ways. They’ve commissioned a recipe for the Great Canadian Heinz Ketchup Cake, which actually includes half a cup of ketchup. They’re hosting barbecues across the country, holding a Fan of the Century contest, and promoting a number of family-friendly events. Leamington town council is also getting involved in the action by developing a Heinz history garden at a prominent intersection near the Heinz plant.

verybody knows about Heinz products. They have integrated themselves into every corner of the dining spectrum. They can be found in kitchen cupboards, on grocery store shelves, and on restaurant dining room tables across the country. From the classic bottle of ketchup to gourmet steak sauces to healthy meal options and everything in between, H.J. Heinz Company of Canada has been adding flavour to Canadian meals for 100 years. It is one of the most recognized brands in the marketplace.

Heinz Canada is a true Canadian success story, but that story begins in the United States. In 1869, Henry John Heinz began a food manufacturing business in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. After forty years of successful growth, the company set out to establish a Canadian-based operation. In 1909, Heinz established a manufacturing facility in Leamington, Ontario. The community of 2500 residents offered a number of benefits, including fertile agricultural land for growing Heinz tomatoes. Today, Leamington is known as the Tomato Capital of Canada. It boasts the second largest Heinz manufacturing plant in the world, and employs 800 people. It also produces more types of Heinz products than any other plant. Local growers supply all of the tomatoes (using special Heinz seeds) that are used in Heinz Tomato Ketchup and other related products. The Leamington plant sells 75% of its products in Canada. It has become part of making the company a truly Canadian success story.

Celebrating its accomplishments

Heinz Canada’s history is also playing a large part in its promotions. “As we were looking through our 100th anniversary and assembling facts, we realized that we have a really rich history,” said Joan Patterson, Communications and Corporate Affairs Leader. “When people move on or retire over the years, you lose some of that heritage. We’ve decided that now is the time to document that history and we’ve commissioned someone to write the history of Heinz Canada.”

The keys to success Being in business for 100 years is no small feat. Being dominant in a specific category within a specific industry is a significant accomplishment. However, becoming a widely recognized brand in multiple industries—from retail to foodservice—with multiple products is reserved for the elite few. So how has Heinz Canada managed to become part of that upper echelon?

1. Dominate It begins with establishing a dominant position within a key category. Heinz Canada is the market leader in ketchup. It is the standard against which competitors’ products are measured. It has developed an iconic brand that is known and requested in retail outlets and foodservice establishments. And like other iconic brands, it is part of the culture, with instantly recognizable television commercials, radio jingles, branded clothing, and so on.


Congratulations H.J. Heinz Company of Canada Ltd. on 100 years in Canada. We’re proud to be a part of this great accomplishment. For almost 40 years we have partnered with you to produce marketing and sales support print material – from single posters to national product launch campaigns we’ve been there – ensuring that your vision is reflected in the printed piece. We're proud to count Heinz as a partner and we look forward to continued success together.


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“They have a very recognizable presence, and very good marketing,” said Dave Bratton, President, Generation 3 Exhibits. “They also have an excellent product that people want.” Of course, there is not much secret to this aspect of the company’s success. Heinz ketchup has been around for more than 100 years. They’ve built a loyal following for the product over time by developing and improving upon a superior product, comprehensively marketing the product through various channels, and paying attention to customers’ needs and current trends. An important element of this strategy is consistency of message, which is often overlooked because some companies put out different messages when selling a product across various markets.

When adding new products and product lines, it is important to pay as much attention to their success as you did to the core products. Heinz Canada took this approach with their beans product line. They developed a complete marketing strategy that highlighted key product benefits, quoted consumer statistics, and shared interesting recipes. “We did research on what made their beans better,” said Andrea Orozco, KIK Communications. “We put together a marketing plan that highlighted beans as the perfect food, which it is in terms of nutrition, ease of use, versatility and cost. We reintroduced the brand in a new way to operators and got them to use the products in different ways. Expansion also involves acquiring existing products. Heinz Canada has successfully integrated its acquisitions—from A1 Sauce to Renée’s Gourmet Salad Dressings—into its existing line of products. “Heinz has been very successful at including those brands in their corporate structure, while still preserving those unique brands’ identities, as well as their unique looks and taste,” said Phillip. “We respect that they are separate brands, and they should be managed as separate brand identities.”

3. Innovate Since Heinz Canada is a separate entity, the company bases its marketing initiatives on consumer insights. This includes doing research on the marketplace, following current trends, and working closely with partners to fill their particular needs. The company also makes sure that there is consistency between its retail and consumer products.

“Our Heinz ketchup is the same across the board, whether it is marketed to a restaurant or a grocery store,” said Phillip Pavlov, Marketing Manager Foodservices Division. “We work closely with the retail division to ensure that we maintain one brand and one voice.”

2. Expand The next step on the success ladder involves leveraging the strength of the brand by adding more product offerings. This includes complementary items, such as tomato-based products, condiments, salad dressings, and sauces. This is then followed by going into other product categories, such as pasta, infant foods, and frozen meals.

The Heinz look is an integral aspect of the company’s marketing strategy. They pay close attention to packaging with respect to visual appeal, product delivery, and cost efficiency. The company constantly seeks out innovations to improve in this area. Heinz invented the upside-down ketchup bottle, and were the first to package baby food in plastic containers in Canada. “Heinz has kept up with packaging innovations, and has led the way in several categories,” said Danijela Sajber of Schawk!. “For example, for some products, they replaced boxes with resealable pouches, which have a more modern look. They are very much in tune with what is going on in the marketplace.” P






Training for success! By The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council Le Select, a chic French bistro in Toronto, Ontario, has been a fine-dining institution in city for over 30 years. Owner Frederic Geisweiller has seen recessions, downturns, tech bubbles and all the boom times between. And in those 30 years, he’s stuck to some key principles: consistency is key and don’t underestimate the value of your human resources. The hospitality industry is a tough business even when times are good: a subtle shift in culinary trends can put a restaurant out of business or a rainy summer can put a warm-weather business in the red. This year, many in the hospitality industry -- high-end restaurants especially -- have found themselves particularly hard-hit by the recent downturn. It’s tense times for many, but for some, downturns represent not only opportunities to improve their businesses, but a proof-positive test that they’ve gotten things right. Le Select, for instance, has survived several downturns in its 32-year history and, even in 2009’s tough economic climate, business has stayed steady. It’s not as much a question of altering your human resources strategy in the face of recession, Geisweiller says, but ensuring that the fundamentals are sound before it even starts. “I don’t think we do anything different when things get slower; we do them all the time,” he says. “And the most important thing in a labour-intensive business, like the restaurant or hospitality business, is to recognize that human resources are your prime asset. And as a prime asset, you’ve got to do everything you can do take care of that and make it grow.” Geisweiller’s primary human resources strategy is cultivating the loyalty of his staff. High employee turnover may be considered a fact of life in the hospitality business, but it doesn’t have to be, he says. Le Select has employees that have been there for as long as the bistro has been in business. And during downturns, a loyal staff is a valuable asset, because

when they feel safe in their jobs, and appreciated for the work they do, they do a better job. And that atmosphere permeates the whole business. It is not something that happens naturally, he admits. It’s something you have to earn. “Loyalty is something you have to work hard on. It’s not just because you’re a nice employer that people will express it -- it’s because there is some reward. And it’s quite important to know the rewards that people want to obtain.” For some the reward is a stable, flexible job that allows them the opportunity to pursue their true passion, whether that’s acting, writing or spending time with family. For others, it’s the ability to move up the ladder. For others still, it’s the recognition of a job well done. Training, and building a relationship with your employees, are two important ways to help define those goals and help people reach them. Training can have a particularly important impact in recessionary times, Geisweiller says. For example, this winter, Le Select’s wine list sales have dropped 50 per cent, while sales of house wine have doubled. So people are still ordering wine, but are spending less. This can be awkward for some customers, who may be embarrassed they can no longer afford the higher-priced wines. “You need to recognize that early and then guide your customer to where they feel the most comfortable,” he explains. “So that part of our training program as well: right selling. Know your product and move laterally, rather than up.” Chef David Ferguson, owner of Jolifou restaurant in Montreal, echoes much of the advice offered by Geisweiller. He and his wife and business partner Elaine work hard to earn the loyalty of their staff through flexible schedules and a high quality of training, which has paid off in lower turnover and better customer service. In the face of the looming recession last fall, however, Ferguson decided that the right move would be to

market more, not less, and hired a marketing and administrative specialist to work in the restaurant part-time. It’s an extra cost, he says, but one that has proven well worth it. “In the last year, we’ve actually spent more in our human resources department in order to smooth out all of the bugs, return phone calls more quickly, to do miniature data releases to our existing clients, and be able to work on big projects more easily,” he explains. The investment has made a big difference in his business, Ferguson says. The extra assistance has allowed him to get more out of the other investments he’s made, like the cooking classes he’s started and the new space for business clientele. Through feedback cards, they developed a 500-strong client email database and now market the classes, menu changes, and events through it. And, importantly for the corporate and conference business he’s developing, there is someone to coordinate the logistics of hosting that type of clientele. “People who are in business want quick turnaround times,” he says. “They don’t want to wait for a long time for a call back. And when Elaine and I first opened the business, it was just the two of us running it and everyone was expected to answer the phone. But if someone calls and wants to book 40 people ... you need someone who’s always on that.” Although this is the first recession Ferguson has experienced since he opened Jolifou in 2004, business has been steady so far, thanks in many ways to the investments he’s made in his business to not only diversify it, but to capitalize on that diversification by investing in specialized help. The sudden availability of labour is one of the bright spots in this recession, says Hugh Johnston, a consultant who specializes in strategy and business planning for restaurants and service businesses. In contrast to the labour shortage that has dogged the hospitality and tourism business for the past few years, there is now a comparatively abundant supply of good people out

there. It’s an excellent time to asses your own business and see where the strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to your human resources, he says. “This is a good opportunity for people to look at the people in their stores and say ‘You know what? Who really doesn’t have ‘the gene’?’ It might be time to give them a chance to do something they like better than the hospitality business. Look at the people who just aren’t there, who aren’t cutting it, and who you really only kept around because you were dying for bodies.” The “gene” Johnston refers to is the natural ability to excel in the restaurant, tourism and hospitality business, a trait that can be tough to find. But this is the good news about recession - those people are not only suddenly more available, but your own good people aren’t as inclined to be casting about for new opportunities either. “There are more good people out there to hire and, even better, more reasons for your great people to stay,” he says. “So the key thing is to do your best to lock in all of your great people now, so when things pick up, they are outrageously loyal to you.” Loyalty. In a customer-service oriented businesses, is there anything more valuable than a competent, happy and hard-working staff? If you have one, it’s worth working hard to keep. And if you don’t, this recession could be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to build one. Building loyalty among staff and having a clear vision about your HR strategy will become even more important as we emerge from the recession. Current research posits that once this recession ends, the underlying demographics that caused the severe labour shortages over the past number of years will re-emerge in the tourism sector. The planning and strategies employers undertake now could very well ensure their long term success. P The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council is Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program.

AD INDEX 31 Contract Supply CTHRC IFC Generation 3 Exhibits 35 Heinz Canada OBC KIK Communications 31 11 Maple Leaf Foodservice 25 Martti Granholm Construction Pepsico Foodservice 11 Schawk! 35 Teletec Systems IBC Topper Linen 17 Twin Pro Graphics 33 VMC Media 17

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With 40 years of experience serving hundreds of restaurants in Ontario, Teletec knows how to evaluate your business needs and meet your budget. Call Teletec today for a POS System that will boost your bottom line. Integrate our TSI DVR Camera System with RM allowing you to monitor your business remotely via PC or Cell phone.

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Lower per mL cost versus 375 mL size.


More sustainable with less packaging and more product.


Less storage, less handling, improved dispensing and evacuation.*


New attractive design, Stay-Clean cap feature, “Easy Squeeze” Forever Full® bottle with a non-removable SafetyCap.™ 75 mL gglass and Forever Full® bo bottles *Versus 375

For more information visit www.foodservice.heinz.ca or call your Heinz sales representative. 1 866 205-5733

1 866 574-3469

1 866 565-5700

1 866 570-6550

Western Canada



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