By David Chilton Saggers
There’s cause for optimism in the Canadian franchise industry. Entrepreneurs are doing things differently. Product innovation is everywhere. Systems are showing more and more flexibility, and cost-lowering technology is being employed as never before.
Kiran Kataria sees Butterchick developing the same way as one of the most successful corporations ever. “We want to be the McDonald’s of Indian food,” says the new system’s chief executive officer and co-founder.
The Kataria family is also the team behind KFI Inc., Canada’s number one producer of Indian cooking sauces and chutneys. Kataria says these gourmet KFI sauces are “at the heart of every delicious meal offered at all Butterchick franchises.” She adds that the KFI expertise in product development led to the creation of a vertical integration model: a streamlined process that eliminates the need for a chef while ensuring consistent, high-quality Indian cuisine at every location.
Butterchick began with a pop-up location on the Toronto Harbourfront in 2015, where Kataria says it perfected the model before opening the first location in North Toronto in 2018. Butterchick started franchising in January of this year, and has just signed a licensing agreement with North America’s largest “ghost kitchen” operator. Ghost kitchens are professional food preparation and cooking facilities that prepare meals for branded restaurants to be picked up for delivery/takeout or given at a drive-thru. As a result of this partnership, “Butterchick will quickly build brand awareness and scale up with franchises across Canada,” says Kataria.
Butterchick is looking for investors with strong management and leadership skills, whose values align with those of the company, and who are passionate about hospitality. “People should love what they’re doing,” Kataria says.
The cost of a franchise runs from $250,000 to $400,000, and premises of 1,000 to 1,200 square feet are considered optimal. The Butterchick preferred locations are street fronts in the suburbs and food court locations – after foot traffic rebuilds in malls. Training takes two weeks at the corporate store, plus Butterchick provides pre- and post-opening support in the chosen location.
During COVID-19, North Toronto’s Butterchick location has turned to pick-up and digital orders on delivery platforms like SkipTheDishes, DoorDash, and Uber Eats, and is experiencing strong year-over-year sales increases as a result. Post-pandemic, Kataria predicts rapid growth for her system because markets will be wide open again, and the brand is well positioned for success. Ethnic foods are on trend and the target customer is anyone who likes an authentic Indian meal, Kataria explains.
Butterchick offers many benefits, says Kataria. It’s an emerging brand, the Indian food market segment is underserviced, entry and operating costs are low, and vertical integration is already off and running, making Butterchick an exceptional opportunity for franchise investors.
Grinner’s Food Systems Limited
Beginning in 1977 with one location in Moncton, New Brunswick and growing to 94 locations today (54 standard stores and 40 ‘Xpress’ locations), Greco Pizza is the flagship brand of Grinner’s Food Systems.
Greg Smith, director of franchise business development for Grinner’s at head office in Truro, Nova Scotia, says the company bought 10 Greco stores in 1981. It then acquired Frank and Gino’s Grill and Pasta House, Capt. Submarine, and FROZU frozen yogurt between 1998 and 2015. Across all brands, there are now 109 Grinner’s franchises and one corporate location, says Smith.
All but five of the franchises are in Atlantic Canada, with Ontario home to five Greco Xpress outlets. Looking towards the future, Grinner’s is actively looking to expand outside of Atlantic Canada and has plans to add locations in Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Smith is currently recruiting multi-unit franchisees in Ontario and master franchise partners in Western Canada.
“Our growth and long-term success are no surprise,” says Smith. “We have a proven track record of selling high-quality food made with premium ingredients at a great value, and our wide range of products cater to a very diverse group of guests and has kept them coming back for 30 years.” He adds that Greco stayed relevant and helped make their products available during the pandemic by adding several discount promotions, as well as online ordering, contactless delivery, and COVID-19 security packaging.
The pandemic caused Grinner’s to reconsider its priorities, including expansion. “COVID-19 changed everything and really forced us to refocus,” says Smith. In response, Grinner’s focused their efforts on supporting their family of franchisees. “We offered financial relief, we were quick to develop COVID-19 safety policies and procedures, and we upgraded our online ordering and implemented safety protocols for our in-restaurant staff and drivers.”
Despite the company’s proactive approach, dealing with COVID-19 in four provinces had its challenges, says Smith. To meet these difficulties, Grinner’s set up a COVID-19 Response Team, dedicated to developing safety protocols and communicating with franchisees and guests. “We left nothing to speculation or chance. We needed to clearly communicate our action plans and monitor to make sure our new standards were being implemented,” notes Smith, adding that “despite the challenges, our franchises and guests were great; they really rallied and together supported each other.” Grinner’s brands sustained sales during the height of COVID-19 and continue to see strong numbers in the current wave (in spring 2021).
Smith says Grinner’s prides itself on being a family-run organization that treats its franchisees like family: “We succeed when our partners succeed!” When considering potential franchise partners, Grinner’s looks for hardworking people from all walks of life who want to work in their restaurant and really drive the business. Grinner’s is looking for individuals with a strong work ethic, management experience, business acumen, sense of community, and a willingness to work within the tried and tested policies.
Grinner’s provides five to six weeks of training, which includes management training, pre-opening training, and on-site support after opening. An express concept costs $65,000 and a standard concept costs from $185,000 to $255,000. The “sweet spot” for an express store is 600 square feet and a minimum of 1,500 square feet for a standard version, and Grinner’s is able to customize the store to fit the franchisee’s layout.
As for the benefits of investing with Grinner’s, Smith cites its proven track record, longevity, credibility, the in-person access and availability of its senior staff, its low investment cost, and its flexibility. “Come to us with what you have, and we’ll make it work,” he says.
Vanessa Lazaroff began the 100 per cent female owned and operated Mint Maids home cleaning franchise in 2016. Lazaroff says the franchise has since grown through the power of female leadership and partnerships. “My Mint Maids head office team/leadership team is completely female, and we built this system together,” she explains.
In addition to the female-focused business opportunity, Lazaroff says starting Mint Maids was also a chance to do other things differently. All cleaning products, for example, are plant based, and the company is 100 per cent paperless, with all scheduling done online. And it’s important to emphasize, says Lazaroff, that any staff a franchisee hires will become employees rather than independent contractors.
Mint Maids began franchising this year and sold its first franchise territories in the Waterdown/Burlington, Ontario area. The investor was a woman who was already working for Mint Maids. When it comes to further expansion, Lazaroff says the system has seen an influx of enquiries, including those as far away as British Columbia. “We’re looking Canada-wide, with Southern Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe as the main focus for now.”
As for the qualities she looks for in a potential investor, Lazaroff says she’s looking for someone who values a work-life balance, has leadership qualities, and has an entrepreneurial spirit, while a cleaning background isn’t necessary. The cost of a franchise is a minimum of $15,000 and includes a cleaning kit and ancillary fees. The franchisee will also need a reliable vehicle, but it doesn’t need to be wrapped in Mint Maids signage.
The system charges a minimum residential cleaning rate and there’s a minimum size requirement for houses and condos, with the average property at 1,500 to 2,500 square feet. Mint Maids also does a variety of one-time cleanings for real estate agents.
Due to COVID-19, Mint Maids offers its week-long training online, although Lazaroff says the system would have used electronic delivery regardless. Safety procedures around cleaning have also been improved substantially, driven in part by the company’s awareness of the need for safety among its commercial customers.
The benefits of a Mint Maids franchise are numerous, says Lazaroff. The company is 100 per cent female owned and operated and promotes business opportunities for women. It also focuses on sustainability, leverages technology to cut down on administrative and other costs, keeps its lines of communication open, and has a modest cost of entry.