100% Canadian Franchises
Trends come and go, but classics live on. These three Canadian franchises demonstrate why some long-standing systems are still prospering.
by David Chilton Saggers
Au Pain Doré
The Au Pain Doré bakery brand began in 1956 in Montreal and was acquired by Le Duff Group Canada in 2008. After the acquisition, Le Duff Group began to franchise the bakery, first in Montreal in 2017 and then in Toronto in 2022. In Montreal there are eight stores, seven of them corporate and one franchised. In Toronto there’s one corporate store and seven franchises.
Alexandra Grudkin, franchise development director for Le Duff Group, says the system wants to expand in Montreal and in its immediate suburbs, and in Toronto the focus is on the downtown core and the Greater Toronto Area. But Au Pain Doré is piquing interest in other cities as well. “We’ve had a lot of interest from B.C.,” says Grudkin from her office in Toronto.
Le Duff Group chose to go the multiple unit ownership route from the beginning. “That means people who are looking to invest but not necessarily be there [in the stores] day to day,” says Grudkin. When considering potential investors, she looks for people who are passionate about the brand and the concept, have leadership and marketing skills, and are open to franchisor feedback.
Grudkin says the sweet spot for a store is between 1,200 and 2,000 square feet, preferably with a patio, and found at street level or in high-end malls. A single turnkey franchise costs between $350,000 and $600,000, depending on the site. Training runs for five weeks at a corporate store and there’s one week’s in-store support after that. Grudkin says Au Pain Doré generally targets millennials with its pastries, quiches, sandwiches, and soups, although the brand attracts customers of all sorts.
As for the benefits of investing with Au Pain Doré, Grudkin says it’s an established Canadian brand with a proven business model, its fees are among the lowest in the category, and it has its own network that supplies its franchises with baked goods/bread products. Furthermore, Au Pain Doré stores escaped the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Grudkin, noting the brand opened up to delivery platforms such as Uber.
Bimbo Canada is Canada’s largest and oldest bakery, with operations across the country. It has more than 1,000 franchises and distributorships to its name. But they’re not franchises in the traditional sense; they’re delivery routes with most deliveries carried out by five-ton trucks to retailers, quick service restaurants, institutions such as hospitals, and independent restaurants. Each franchise has a mixture of retail and institutional customers on its delivery route.
Brian McReynolds, senior director of national network development at Bimbo Canada, says potential investors need an entrepreneurial spirit, grocery experience, direct store delivery exposure, strong sales skills, and an equally strong customer service background. Bimbo Canada franchisees come from all sectors of the economy, with most franchise sales being resales of existing franchises to new franchisees. The cost of a franchise varies from approximately $100,000 to several times that amount. Training and certification take three weeks, generally in the districts where investors will have their routes. Franchisees will also need to learn to drive at least a one-ton truck and have to frequently lift up to 30 pounds.
As for expansion, McReynolds says, “It’s demand based. We’re always looking for opportunities to grow.” Bimbo Canada has franchises in every province and in two of Canada’s three territories—Nunavut is the exception. The company was formerly Canada Bread, formed in 1911, and acquired by Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo in 2014.
The benefits of investing with Bimbo Canada are many, McReynolds says. There’s the sheer size of the company; it has more than 1,000 products across 18 brands such as Dempster’s®, Villaggio®, POM®, Bon Matin®, Ben’s®, Stonemill®, Takis®, Natural Bakery®, and Vachon® in its portfolio. Also, McReynolds continues, Bimbo Canada will consider investors who are interested in both single and multi-unit acquisitions, and the company has an inhouse financing program.
Rôtisseries Benny built a solid reputation over the last six decades, thanks to the quality of its chicken. Started by the Benny family in Montreal in 1960, Rôtisseries Benny has been owned by Foodtastic since 2016.
Alexandre Joly, brand leader for Rôtisseries Benny, says there are eleven stores in the areas surrounding Montreal at the moment, and looking ahead, Foodtastic wants to add 30 more, with some of the growth coming from converting Rôtisseries Au Coq locations to the Rôtisseries Benny brand. For the time being, however, the system’s expansion will be close to home, with the brand looking to open stores in Ontario and the Maritimes.
All stores have the same look and feel, with bright, eye-catching branding. All include a large exterior image of a stylized chicken. And the chicken imagery doesn’t stop there: with Rôtisseries Benny vehicles featuring a large chicken figure on their roof, they’re extremely visible in the neighborhoods surrounding each store as they make their deliveries each day.
The restaurants’ traditional target has been families and the brand’s name was also well known among its older customers in Montreal. “We were on speed dial!,” says Joly. These days, however, Rôtisseries Benny wants to skew towards a younger market segment with online and mobile ordering and interactive in-store zero-contact kiosks. One thing won’t change, though, and that’s the chicken. Joly says 50 per cent of sales are chicken-based, whether legs, breasts, wings, or sandwiches. Poutine makes up another 25 per cent and the rest comes from items like ribs and salads. An average cheque is around $22. About 65 per cent of sales come from delivery and about 35 per cent are from counter pickup. It was delivery that kept Rôtisseries Benny in the game during the pandemic, as people were concerned about going outside. As a result, not one store closed and many stores saw an increase in business, says Joly.
As for what he looks for in a potential investor, Joly says he wants owner-operators who are familiar with the concept, will invest in marketing, and have some experience. Stores are open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for lunch and dinner. None of them sell alcohol. Among the benefits of investing in Rôtisseries Benny are the brand’s high profile, ease of operation, and low staff requirements. Then there’s the chicken. It’s cooked for two hours in a proprietary rotisserie oven, says Joly. “And Quebeckers really like rotisserie chicken.”
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