November/December 2021Sponsored Content

Promoted Story: Growing Strong

At Boardwalk Fries Burgers Shakes, franchisees and customers alike keep coming back for more

By Joelle Kidd

Maryland-based entrepreneurs Dave and Fran DiFerdinando had fond memories of summertime trips to the state’s famous Ocean City Boardwalk. Against the backdrop of the sea-salt air, hot sand, and glistening ocean, visitors to the boardwalk could never resist a packet of lightly salted, warm-from-the-fryer French fries. Inspired by these childhood memories, the brothers opened a restaurant in 1981 to serve boardwalk fries to guests everywhere—today, Boardwalk Fries Burgers Shakes has more than 750 locations internationally.

In Canada, another pair of entrepreneurs are bringing those same delicious fries—along with fresh (never frozen) burgers, creamy shakes, and more—to eager diners. Sajid Khan and Boris Javorski are the passionate owners behind the brand in Canada and abroad, and their sights are set on expansion.

Khan joined Boardwalk in 2012, and then helped bring the brand to Canada in 2014 as a master franchisor for Alberta, with the first location in Calgary. Since then, the brand has grown to 11 locations in Alberta, and has begun branching out into Ontario and B.C. It’s also expanded internationally, with locations in Pakistan and Qatar, and plans to open in Ghana. The goal in Canada is to open 200 locations nationally within the next 10 years.

Javorski, who joined Boardwalk in 2019, says they’re on a good path to get there. “We both believe in the growth… I think we can do wonders in this country.”

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The two owners’ backgrounds complement each other well. Khan has more than 20 years’ franchising experience, including with another quick-service restaurant (QSR) brand, and Javorski has a background in hospitality, with a decade of experience working with hotels. They both say they were drawn to Boardwalk by the quality of the product and the system’s competitive pricing.

“The restaurants are beautiful looking, the product is great—everything is fresh, never frozen,” says Khan. “[Boardwalk sells] a premium product at a non-premium price. People love the product and the environment.”

Javorski agrees. “It’s a beautiful concept… If you look at North America, it’s a beef and potatoes country, so burgers and fries—it’s a product that goes!”

Those famous fries are also available with a variety of toppings or as a poutine. The menu includes burgers, veggie burgers, chicken, salads, and six flavours of milkshakes. Locations are designed to evoke the brand’s beachy history while still being contemporary and stylish. The design is modern, bright, and inviting.

The price is right not just for customers but for franchisees looking to buy into the system as well. “Entry level is very reasonable,” says Khan, noting that fees for building a new restaurant with Boardwalk’s competitors run from around $800,000 to $1 million. For Boardwalk, it’s less than $500,000 for a restaurant of around 1,500 square feet.

“We don’t believe in kickbacks, you know?” he says with a laugh. “We pass all the savings on to our franchisees.”

Khan says they’re building a great team across the country. Because franchisees are “the face of the brand,” they’re careful about who they bring on board. Khan says they look for franchisees with some amount of business background or restaurant experience. “These kinds of concepts need hands-on operation,” he adds, “so we’re looking for people who are committed full time.”

Javorski adds, “We help our franchisees from day one—from signing the franchise agreement, all the way to operating. We help with the build out of the store, the design, outsourcing, financing—all these things.”

Boardwalk offers three weeks of initial training to new franchisees, as well as ongoing support. “We provide really good training to our franchisees, and, unlike other brands, we don’t leave them alone. Once they open, we stick around with them. Somebody’s there until they’re fully ready to operate by themselves,” says Javorski. Since not everyone learns at the same pace, sometimes this means a week, or sometimes it means three.

Along with this extensive training, franchisees with Boardwalk also benefit from real estate and construction support, financing programs through major lenders, top tier suppliers and distributors, a customized point of sale (POS) system, and partnerships with award-winning marketing agencies.

“All of our franchisees are essentially our partners,” Javorski says. “You work with these people on a daily basis.” Javorski and Khan are both committed to helping franchisees find success. As Khan puts it: “We want to produce more entrepreneurs!”

They seem to be succeeding in this respect—many passionate Boardwalk franchisees now own more than one location. Franchisees in Alberta and Ontario are currently looking for second and third franchises, and even recommending the system to their friends and family members. “Our franchisees [appreciate] the help and support, that’s why they stick with us … We make sure we support our franchisees one on one. We’re always available. Whenever they need something, we’re there for them,” says Javorski.

A resilient system

Though much of Boardwalk’s growth has happened during the pandemic, the franchise has been able to adapt and cater its offerings to the current moment.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges, particularly in the area of real estate, the owners say, but while other brands downsized, Boardwalk kept all locations except for a few that were relocated. The brand focused on take out, delivery, and drive-thru ordering and is expanding its online offerings.

“We’re redoing our website now to be able to have online ordering and app ordering,” says Javorski, noting that Boardwalk plans to launch its own app soon. They’re also working on ways for customers to order through social media channels.

Along with these innovations, plans for the future include continuing to improve franchise support and sourcing. “Our goal is not just to grow the brand, it’s to improve the brand as well,” says Javorski.

The future looks bright for Boardwalk. “I think both Sajid and I have been very fortunate to be in this country. We’re both immigrants, and we’ve done really well for ourselves. Thanks to this country, we are where we are—both of us are very hard workers and risk takers,” says Javorski. “This is just the beginning, I believe. The sky’s the limit.”

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