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100% Canadian FranchisesCompany ProfilesJuly/August 2023Previous Issues

Home-Grown and Locally Owned: Grill Hero, Fresh Burger, We Wash Windows

For every segment of the business landscape, there’s a franchise system, from burger restaurants to window washing services to barbecue cleaning. Often, Canadians don’t have to look abroad to find an excellent franchise system with investment potential. As it turns out, there are many opportunities for prospective franchisees right at home.

Grill Hero

It was Mike Sutton’s parents who gave him the idea for what would become Grill Hero. They wanted someone to come to their home and clean their barbecue. In the end, they found someone, but the service and the price were unsatisfactory, so in 2015, their son decided to start Canadian BBQ Boys, a barbecue cleaning service. The business took off, and now Sutton is in the process of rebranding Canadian BBQ Boys as Grill Hero.

Grill Hero, which cleans barbecues and ovens, started franchising this year with its first franchise in Peel Region, says Sutton from the head office in Oakville, Ontario. The franchise’s territory includes Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon. Next year he expects to have five more franchises. “Our main focus is Ontario,” says Sutton. He has territories in Ottawa, London, Barrie, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph in his sights. For Grill Hero, a franchise territory must have at least 50,000 households with an annual income of $100,000.

Sutton says the franchise fees are around $65,000. Franchisees will need to have (or lease) a service vehicle which is wrapped in Grill Hero signage. Of the $65,000 franchise cost, almost half covers advertising and working capital, and it also includes cleaning supplies. The overhead is low, and “it’s quick to start a Grill Hero business and the payback is pretty quick, too,” notes Sutton.

While Sutton recalls the pandemic as “a scary time,” he also notes that “We were very positively affected by the COVID pandemic. We never had to shut down because we were an essential service. And people were cooking at home a lot more.”

In Ontario, barbecue cleaning season begins in April and runs until the end of October. (Oven cleaning services are available year-round.) Of course, weather is a consideration, but Grill Hero has a novel solution for rain: pop-up tents to protect both barbecue and cleaner when the weather turns uncooperative. His cleaning staff from May to August are mostly students, providing franchisees with seasonal support during the busiest months. Franchisee training and onboarding lasts six to eight weeks, with five days of in-person instruction in Oakville, and the rest spent learning in the new territory and online.

As for the qualities he’s looking for, Sutton says he wants franchisees who see the opportunity his system offers, have leadership skills, and who are prepared to work hard. Unlike many systems that use an owner-operator model, Sutton says he prefers to say that his franchisees operate with an owner-manager model where owners focus on hiring and managing their teams, marketing their business, and growing their territories, rather than completing the jobs themselves.

Fresh Burger

Jacques Kavafian worked in the financial industry for 30 years, until his search for the perfect hamburger inspired him to switch lanes entirely. In 2013, he opened the first Fresh Burger location in Richmond Hill, Ontario, inspired by California’s iconic In-N-Out Burger chain.

Fresh Burger, like its inspiration, uses the highest-quality ingredients, such as fresh Angus beef and French fries made from Ontario Kennebec potatoes. And like In-N-Out Burger, the Canadian franchise has a limited menu: burgers, fries, and that Québécois favourite—poutine.

Kavafian began franchising in 2016 and now has eight locations in the Greater Toronto Area and counting. “We think we can open 30 locations in the GTA,” the founder and CEO says from the head office in Richmond Hill. Further expansion will focus on southern Ontario markets no more than an hour outside the GTA.

The first six Fresh Burger franchisees were customers, and Kavafian says many potential investors are newcomers to Canada. As for the qualities he’s looking for, he says some business exposure is helpful, but attitude is most important. And franchisees should be prepared to step into an owner-operator role.

The initial two-week training in a corporate location covers business basics, food preparation, and staffing. A Fresh Burger franchise costs $450,000, with the ideal dimension of 1,500 sq. feet. The restaurant locations are three to five kilometres apart so they don’t cannibalize each other’s business.

Fresh Burger’s target customers skew male. In fact, more than two thirds of its entire customer base is men aged 20 to 55. Kavafian says a typical meal costs $13.50, which is very similar to what larger chains charge.

The pandemic was a challenging time for Fresh Burger, says Kavafian. “It had a very, very negative impact for two months during lockdown, then business picked up.” Just 35 per cent of Fresh Burger’s revenue comes from dine-in, so delivery and takeout allowed the brand to ride out the worst of the crisis.

Kavafian says a Fresh Burger franchise’s benefits include ease of operation, the relatively low cost of entry, modest working hours, and, given that it’s a burgeoning franchise, territorial availability. And, of course, there are its fans, “We have an almost cult-like following,” he says.

We Wash Windows

We Wash Windows is a family affair. Randy Bryant started the business 22 years ago in Okotoks, Alberta, before selling to his son-in-law, now owner and CEO, Jason Primmer. We Wash Windows does exactly what its name says, says Primmer from the head office in Okotoks, near Calgary.

Primmer began to prepare a franchise model about five years ago. He now has three franchises; two in Calgary and one in Okotoks. As for expansion, “I think three or four a year at this point is the goal.” He’s in touch with interested parties in Edmonton and Lethbridge, Alberta, and it’s in that western province where he’ll look for growth over the next year.

As for potential franchisees, Primmer says he’s looking for high-energy types who don’t mind physical work. Business experience is not required, but franchisees do need an eagerness to learn. Training is based out of the franchisee’s territory and takes two weeks. Primmer says he prefers an owner-operator model. He also suggests that this franchise could even be a secondary business for some. The cost of a franchise is between $25,000 and $60,000, and franchisees will also need a van that will be wrapped in company marketing.

About 90 per cent of the system’s business is residential, says Primmer, and is divided into two broad groups: those who are younger and time-stretched, and those who are older and face mobility issues. Customers typically have their windows washed two or three times a year, Primmer explains. Of course, much is subject to the weather, but it’s a year-round business nevertheless, with trade picking up from mid-March and running into mid-December. We Wash Windows switches to snow removal after that.

Among the benefits of a franchise are a quick cash flow, the low cost of entry, and an enviable record of success. “We have grown every single year for 22 years,” says Primmer, pointing out in May that his system is booked until mid-July.

As for the COVID crisis, We Wash Windows didn’t really feel much of an impact. “We were allowed to work and clean windows inside and out for people stuck at home,” says Primmer.