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100% Canadian Franchises Company Profiles May/June 2022

Home-Grown and Locally Owned: Les Rotisseries Piri Piri, Fast Fired by Carbone, La Prep

By David Chilton Saggers

Good food and good value are ideas that have raised the profile and driven the success of many domestic food service franchise systems. Three new Canadian-born systems have taken the same approach, and although their menus and specialties differ, their unique offerings are certainly paying off.

Les Rotisseries Piri Piri

Chicken is one of the most popular proteins, and there are many ways to serve the versatile bird. At Les Rotisseries Piri Piri, the specialty is Portuguese-style rotisserie chicken, served with signature kicky piri piri pepper sauce, that’s becoming ever more in demand with diners.

Mahmoud Chahrour, partner and director of franchising for the Montreal-based system, says it began with one location in 2012 and now has six in the city. After franchising began in 2021, Chahrour says four franchises have been sold and one lease secured, and he projects three franchised locations will be open within the year.

Although Piri Piri is part of the bustling quick-service restaurant (QSR) segment, it faces very little competition, says Chahrour, and offers excellent value. A whole chicken meal for two adults and two children is priced around $28, just right for Piri Piri’s target customers. Along with the signature chicken, the restaurant offers choices like vegetarian and, soon, vegan meals.

Piri Piri’s expansion plans are ambitious. Chahrour explains that he wants franchises across the country, but for the time being his primary focus is on the Greater Montreal Area. “We want 25 stores by 2025,” he says. “We have everything to grow our system.” Potential franchisees who want to grow with the brand must have adequate financing, but there’s something else: “The most important thing is a restaurant background,” says Chahrour. “Investors must understand the restaurant business.” He estimates about 50 per cent of his potential investors are men, with the others being women and couples.

The “sweet spot” for a store in a mall is 500 to 700 square feet, and at street level it’s 1,500 to 2,200 square feet. A built from scratch location costs $550,000. Training takes two to three weeks at a corporate store.

The pandemic hit Piri Piri hard, but the system coped. “We were able to adjust really fast,” says Chahrour, noting that with dining-in prohibited in 2020, deliveries using Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, Door Dash, and others were crucial. Piri Piri also lets customers order online, and has a call centre and its own delivery drivers.

As for the benefits of investing, Chahrour says Piri Piri represents a good business opportunity, a mid-range investment, and a unique product. “We’re very much unique. There’s no concept like ours.”

Fast Fired by Carbone

Doug Warren isn’t shy about the impact of the Fast Fired brand. “I think we altered the [pizza] landscape,” he says. He attributes that game changing success to the outstanding taste of his system’s pizza with its five different types of dough, 50 topping options, plus the speed of its preparation. Fast Fired cooks its pies in three minutes flat in custom-made ovens that heat up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees Celsius).

Fast Fired began with one location in Winnipeg, where it still has its headquarters, although Warren, vice-president of franchise development for Carbone Restaurant Group, which owns the brand, is based in Toronto. Fast Fired began franchising two years ago and now has six franchises in Winnipeg and Regina. Warren wants to open 10 to 12 locations this year in Western Canada and in Ontario between Ottawa and London.

As for the qualities the brand looks for in a potential franchisee, Warren says it’s looking for owner-operators who, preferably, have owned a business before. Food experience isn’t necessary although it would be helpful, as would some financial acumen and a willingness to follow the brand’s successful formula. Training takes two weeks in Winnipeg or in the province where the franchise is located. The total investment required for a Fast Fired store is $400,000. Between 900 and 1,200 square feet for a restaurant is considered ideal, with street front and power centre strips being key locations, although Warren is considering non-traditional spots as well.

Fast Fired customers skew somewhat younger, but the demographics really cover anyone who likes pizza. Fast Fired offers a value-priced menu, and “Very good bang for your buck.”

The pandemic made Fast Fired think hard about the future, adds Warren, and the system easily held its own during the worse of the outbreak since its dine-in business isn’t extensive; it also took advantage of the marketing power of third party delivery services and its own digital app.

The benefits of a Fast Fired franchise are typical of a newcomer, says Warren. The system is young and entrepreneurial, investors can get in on the ground floor, it has a unique proposition, and there’s plenty of opportunity for area development.

La Prep

People get passionate about food. Naveen Seth did so—he left behind a successful career in IT and moved into the restaurant industry. He’s now the CEO of Seth Commercial Corporation, which owns bistro-style La Prep and other brands. Speaking from head office in Mississauga, Ontario, Seth says that joined La Prep in 1999 as a master franchisee for Southern Ontario, the same year it began franchising. He eventually bought the brand in 2017. There are now 35 La Prep franchises nationally, along with three corporate-owned locations in the Greater Toronto Area.

Seth’s expansion plans call for more than 100 locations nationwide in the next four or five years, and he also intends to expand his location strategy. At the moment, most La Prep franchises are in office towers, hospitals, and universities, but more street front stores are under consideration. A La Prep location is ideally sized from 1,500 to 1,700 square feet, and the cost of a turnkey restaurant runs from $400,000 to $600,000. Training takes four weeks at a corporate location and there’s a further two weeks of on-site instruction.

The majority of Seth’s franchisees are couples, aged from their twenties to about 50. The qualities he looks for among potential investors is that they share his passion for food, and a commitment to the brand. La Prep competes in the quick service market, targets all demographics, and does “extremely well” with its downtown locations at breakfast and lunch, says Seth. La Prep doesn’t serve dinner and locations are typically open Monday to Friday.

One of the key lessons Seth learned from the pandemic is that however successful La Prep has been, it’s not recession proof. The closure of downtown offices was a major challenge, of course, he says. Still, ever imaginative, he decided to combine a La Prep store with the delivery-only brand Kaia’s Bowls+Breads, and it increased revenue for that store by 16 per cent. Other hurdles the brand has faced were product shortages—coffee cup lids were scarce, for example—and temporarily, staffing challenges.

As for the benefits of a La Prep investment, Seth says, “It’s a concept that appeals to the majority. It’s upscale, its ROI is good, and since most stores are in office towers, it’s Monday to Friday 7 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.].”

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