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100% Canadian Franchises Company Profiles March/April 2022

Home Grown and Locally Owned: RAPiZZA, Kekuli Café, BinMasters

By David Chilton Saggers

New products and systems continue to populate the Canadian franchise landscape. Thanks to the entrepreneurial drive of their founders and talent for spotting a market niche, they demonstrate how lucrative the domestic sector can be.

BinMasters

The French have had some great ideas over the centuries. Now they’ve come up with another one: a unique portable waste compaction service. That is to say, a truck with a long arm mounted on the back that has a revolving steel drum attached to crush and compact waste placed in a dumpster by up to 60 per cent, all controlled by a joystick in the driver’s cab. It means far fewer trips to the dump, lower costs, and decreased vehicle emissions, says René Casas-Cordeiro, CEO.

BinMasters began in 2021 with its first franchise in Montreal—where the French company behind the technology has a subsidiary—and there’s a second in Delta, B.C., a third in the Eastern Townships in Quebec, and expressions of interest in Edmonton. Casas-Cordeiro says he’s looking at expansion opportunities in Montreal, Vancouver, and Ontario, “and the big city [of Toronto] for sure.”

BinMasters clients are typically manufacturers and warehouses, says Casas-Cordeiro, speaking from headquarters in Delta, a suburb of Vancouver. Regarding new franchisees, he adds, “It’s a huge market with room for franchisees in every province. The more the brand grows, the more well-known the service will be, and the easier it will be for franchisees to acquire clients, but the clients are inevitable.”

The cost of a truck is $275,000 and there’s also a $35,000 franchise fee. However, trucks can also be leased from BinMasters and some lessees (the person who holds the lease) can qualify for a zero-down payment. Training is conducted in Montreal and takes a week. A background in trucking isn’t necessary, but franchisees will need a Class 3 truck operating licence in Quebec and in other provinces they must be qualified to use trucks with air brakes. Also, every investor should have someone interested in sales, Casas-Cordeiro explains, since direct sales will be an important part of initial growth.

The pandemic hasn’t affected BinMasters much, he adds, and in the one year the system has been in operation, he’s put seven trucks on the road. “Garbage hasn’t changed.”

The benefits of a BinMasters investment are numerous and easy to see. For example, the cost of entry is lower than some systems, the ROI is a lot faster on average than for other systems, and the company maintains a high profile on social media, he explains. And there’s one more thing: “If you see a large roll off bin, you know that’s a future customer. We crush, you save. Period.”

Kekuli Café

Kekuli Café began 17 years ago at a concession stand at the Vista Ridge Car Wash in West Kelowna, B.C. Sharon Bond, Kekuli Café’s owner, founder, and CEO says that over three years at the car wash, they marketed, planned, and researched a business plan, with an eye to opening a brick-and-mortar location. The plan came to fruition and their restaurant doors were opened in 2009. “We treated it like a franchise from the first week of operations,” Bond says. And when a second location opened to sell its unique Indigenous food, it too was thought of as a franchise. “We wanted to test a franchise model system to make sure franchising would work.”

Since then, the system has grown. There are now three Kekuli Café stores in B.C. offering Indigenous foods such as venison (deer meat), wild salmon, and an Indigenous staple called bannock—a kind of flatbread. (Their tagline: “Don’t Panic … We Have Bannock!”) That second store is in Merritt and the third and newest is in Kamloops, which opened in February this year. Bond says from Kelowna that she’s had requests for investment information from Ontario and Quebec, but for the time being, she’s focusing their future growth in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Bond, who is Indigenous herself, says potential franchisees need a passion for running a business and must be hands-on, too. A background in business and some exposure to the restaurant industry will also help, she says, pointing out that she finds that married couples are among the most interested in investing. A franchise costs between $375,000 and $450,000, and location size varies, but their emerging system considers premises anywhere between 1,300 and 1,700 square feet. “We take over a store and renovate it,” is how Bond explains the real estate aspect of her business.

Training can take a total of four to eight weeks at the West Kelowna corporate store and then in the franchisee’s own store. Local customers of all ages provide a lot of her business, she says, but Kekuli Café also attracts tourists and travellers who want to experience and taste Indigenous food.

The pandemic, while challenging, also made her system more flexible, explains Bond, and it’s been able to adapt to changing conditions quickly. For example, provincial restrictions meant a temporary end to in-person dining, so Kekuli Café launched its own app for takeout and curbside delivery.

As for the benefits of investing with Kekuli Café, “Everyone here is acknowledged and treated like family,” says Bond, who notes relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians are resilient, and support from local communities and government is growing.    

RAPiZZA / Volt Ventures

Vernon D’Mello, CEO of Volt Ventures Inc., says if you throw a stone in any direction in Canada, the chances are you’ll hit a pizza place.

So how could he distinguish new brand RAPiZZA from the established competition? With toppings selected from the top 50 foods in the world and tested by professional chefs, success for RAPiZZA was likely from the start. The pizzas are ready in only three to four minutes, hence the name, which combines the words “rapid” and “pizza.”

The brand’s start was in 2020, when D’Mello began with one location in Mississauga, Ontario, where his headquarters is based. There are now two stores in Mississauga, two close by in Brampton, another not far away in Vaughan, and a sixth in Waterloo, Ontario. As for expansion, D’Mello is looking at London, Niagara Falls, and St. Catharines, and there have been expressions of considerable interest from Whitby, Oshawa, and Guelph, all in southern Ontario. “We would like a minimum of 25 locations by the end of the second quarter [of 2022],” says Vernon.     

RAPiZZA is owned by Volt Ventures Inc., which also began in 2020, and has other brands in its portfolio such as Shake Therapy, Kathi Rolls, and Dosa Eatery (dosa is a thin pancake or crepe originating from south India, made from a fermented batter predominantly consisting of lentils or rice). This creates some synergistic opportunities—for example, one store in Mississauga and another in Brampton are combo locations that offer RAPiZZA and Shake Therapy milkshakes. Two new stores with a combination of Dosa Eatery and Shake Therapy are under construction in Mississauga.

The cost of a RAPiZZA/Shake Therapy combo store is about $310,000 (construction and equipment), and training takes two weeks. In addition, an executive chef from Volt also works in-store with new franchisees for at least two weeks. A store’s sweet spot is 1,400 square feet and they all are storefront locations with the same look and feel, says Vernon. Dosa Eatery locations should be around 1,800 square feet, and a cook is provided for this fast casual brand.

Franchisees must have a passion for food, and business experience would be helpful. Vernon also wants those who are hands-on, will follow Volt’s executive chefs’ direction, and are willing to learn.

The pandemic meant the system had to close for certain periods, and it didn’t qualify for government grants, so growth was slower than Vernon would have liked. Now the challenge has become finding the right staff, but business is again robust.

As for the benefits of investing with a Volt Ventures brand, Vernon is resolutely upbeat, saying his system is new, very flexible, and provides strong organizational support. And he concludes, “The business model is definitely, definitely there.”

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