Company Profiles Emerging Systems September/October 2021

Emerging Brand: The Future of Food Franchising

Crest Kitchens positions itself well during the COVID-19 pandemic as a take-out and delivery only concept

By Stefanie Ucci

The world around us is changing every day, and there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic advanced society’s interaction with technology while decreasing face-to-face contact with others. For more than a year, individuals across the country and worldwide were confined to their homes and turned to food delivery services to keep themselves fed.

Among the many establishments that provide convenient meals to Canadians is Crest Kitchens, a take-out and delivery only franchise concept. It provides customers with variety, convenience, and value with its four menu options under one roof: The Fish & Chip Shoppe, Perogies and Poutine, Sandwich Chef, and Wing Shack.

“What we identified as a natural restaurant evolution, due to the increasing desire for delivery, became an instant necessity [during COVID-19] due to the demand from consumers across demographics who, if they weren’t already using delivery partners and ordering in, now found themselves having to adapt quickly,” says vice president Bill Argo.

He notes that the brand concept was already several years in the making before the pandemic arrived in March 2020, but it did push the multi-menu, delivery, and take-out only idea to the forefront.

“Crest Kitchens has carved out its own home-grown niche concept with four to six original brands, specifically developed—from scratch—to provide homemade, quality food items that appeal to a wide demographic. [The concept] provides choice in one beautifully designed location, solving the guest dilemma of how to satisfy various tastes and cravings,” explains Argo, who notes that the brand has little or no competitors with its unique franchise concept.

The four menu options under the Crest Kitchens umbrella—which will soon include two additional menu choices—allow customers to order dishes from different restaurant cuisines, which are then neatly packed up in environmentally friendly packaging and delivered to their door.

Wing Shack serves up meaty wings and chicken tenders tossed in a variety of sauces and available in different sized boxes. Perogies & Poutine serves these two comfort food favourites and adds flavour-packed toppings and sauces like barbecue grilled pork, butter chicken, nacho toppings, Korean barbecue, and more. Sandwich Chef uses quality ingredients and homemade sauces for unique sandwiches stacked with burger patties, vegetables, schnitzel, and chicken. The Fish & Chip Shoppe specializes in classic fish and chips with crispy battered fish fillets and sides of French fries and traditional coleslaw.

“By incorporating experienced virtual reality kitchens, we also have the benefit of knowing what products work best in the multi-menu aspect presented by Crest Kitchens, and changes can be made easily and effectively to any item,” says Argo. “It’s a ‘one stop’ multi option delivery and take-out concept that works perfectly with the needs of today’s dining customers.”

Argo adds that Crest Kitchens plans to have 15 locations open in the next 18 months, with the first three locations opening in the Greater Toronto Area throughout 2021. Ideally, he says there will be hundreds of locations open in Canada, with the aim of securing master franchise rights in provinces including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, the Maritimes, and Saskatchewan. In the future, the brand plans to franchise internationally, starting with the United States and then abroad in other countries.

As for the ideal franchisee with Crest Kitchens, it’s someone with a lot of “passion,” notes Argo, though the “perfect” franchisee doesn’t necessarily need restaurant or business experience. “[However,] they do need to be passionate about looking at each day as a chance to connect with people, adapt to changes, and seize the opportunity that will lead to successful results… Commitment is another quality, in terms of the desire to follow through in all respects: commitment to the proven operational systems, commitment to quality, commitment to the customer, and of course to the team.”

Initial and ongoing training from the brand includes “concise, straightforward, and easy to follow operational systems with a two-week, hands-on comprehensive training program,” says Argo. Franchisees are provided a hassle-free, turnkey operation with support from the franchisor team throughout the complete build out of the restaurant. The team also assists with the store opening inventory, helps with hiring and training of staff, provides a dedicated transition tutor that’s present for the first week of the restaurant’s operation and conducts ongoing visits and communications afterwards, and offers an inhouse marketing team to guide franchisees through the initial and ongoing marketing of their business.

“Support is continually offered through the World Manager™ online support system which holds all manuals, recipes, and videos that are required for the franchisee. Crest Kitchens also provides support in conjunction with Gordon Foods Services with the use of their kitchen training facility and dedicated representatives,” says Argo. “Because your success is our success enhanced, follow-up and ongoing communication is provided diligently. As franchisors, we aim to be as responsive to all requests and to direct enquires to the most immediate point of resolution.”

The Crest Kitchens state-of-the-art communications platform clearly lays out all initial and ongoing training, menu, procedural, and sanitation updates, and recipe videos for franchisees.

As for the benefits of franchising with Crest Kitchens, Argo says the biggest is that franchisees join a business that’s at the beginning of a new niche in the restaurant industry, but is also ahead of the competition. “While Crest Kitchens is a new and exciting venture, with the benefit of very little direct competition, the strength of our solid back-end experience puts franchisees at a greater advantage as they’re not experiencing the growing pains of a new and untested concept,” says Argo. 

The total targeted turnkey investment for Crest Kitchens is $305,000 with five per cent royalty fees and two per cent advertising fees. Average restaurants are 1,000 square feet and feature digital menu displays and screens, as well as self-serve order and pay kiosks to provide a contact free ordering experience.

Argo adds that being in a quick-service segment of the dining industry is often looked at by investors and banking institutions as a more favourable concept to invest in due to the post-COVID-19 appeal of contactless pickup and delivery options. Plus, joining the emerging brand early means that the price point of entry is attractive and affordable for new investors. The franchisor team has 28 years of experience with signing more than 50 leases, and upholds a strong legal team, making right now, as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, an ideal time to invest in an on-trend and competitive brand, he says.

“As an original, multi-menu, one stop QSR concept, we don’t really see any brands out there doing what we’ve done at Crest Kitchens,” says Argo. “We see this as the future of new restaurant development due to the consequences of COVID-19.”