There once was a time when Asian food was considered beyond the Canadian palate, with the potent flavours and spices not for the faint of heart or weak of taste buds. Now, however, it seems that every recipe book contains some homegrown spin on butter chicken.
A lot of the local recognition of Asian cuisine is thanks to fusion franchises serving the best of both worlds to adventurous customers. While some brands specialize in milk tea, a beverage primed to take over anyone’s iced coffee fix, others have made a name by combining classic Canadian staples with a little bit of added spice. While one bite of samosa poutine transports you to a busy street in Delhi, sips of tapioca pearls recall the ambiance of a Vietnamese night market. Between chai teas and chutneys, it’s safe to say Canadians have developed a taste for Asian cuisine, and franchisors are taking note.
Here, Franchise Canada highlights five brands that are providing flavourful options to diners and strong opportunities for franchisees, while staying true to their roots. Offering bubble tea, bánh mì, and everything in between, these franchises are elevating once-obscure Asian food to core Canadian delicacies.
Ami Tea Canada
Ami Tea comes from humble beginnings. The operation began as a family-owned storefront in Calgary, Alberta’s Chinatown in 2018, selling Taiwanese milk tea and Vietnamese bánh mì. Thomas Thái Nguyen, who co-founded the company with his brother, had the idea for Ami Tea after trying to satisfy his family’s longing for authentic Vietnamese food. Having been in Canada for three years at that point, he combined the existing Taiwanese bubble tea shop model with an expanded full option for pho or bánh mì.
Since then, Ami Tea has opened two more locations in Calgary, along with outposts in Saint John, New Brunswick and Hay River, Northwest Territories. Since introducing a series of bold flavours to Calgary’s foodies, Ami Tea has continued to emphasize its mission to bring unique Eastern aromas to new friends in new places.
Chatime is a major player in the Canadian bubble tea space, and for good reason. Chatime offers a range of milk tea and smoothie options with a revolving door of specialty and seasonal topping choices, which means every Chatime beverage is a unique experience. The trademark milk tea and tapioca pearls exploded with popularity during the pandemic and the company saw strong delivery and digital sales, says Thomas Wong, Chatime’s president.
Now the brand has more than 75 locations in Canada, with no signs of slowing down, making it a strong opportunity for prospective franchisees. The popularity of its offerings has led to high-profile collaborations with brands like Kellogg’s and Red Bull, giving franchisees access to partnerships that turn heads. Chatime also offers franchisees a wide support network for marketing, operations, branding, and real estate. They also include an ongoing coaching regimen to ensure franchise success.
Fuwa Fuwa Japanese Pancakes
In Japan, pancakes bring happiness and Fuwa Fuwa’s fluffy, soufflé pancakes will certainly put a smile on your face during breakfast, dinner, or dessert. They come served with Canadian maple syrup, topped with fresh berries, or on the side of some smooth ice cream. The pancakes are freshly made to order, for a light treat that can be enjoyed at any time of day. The brand also offers sides from their café and bakery including pudding, cupcakes, crepes, and macarons.
Fuwa Fuwa began as a one-stop shop in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood and has since expanded to Mississauga, Ontario and Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. In addition, the brand is poised to go international, with locations opening in Manchester, U.K. and Atlanta, Georgia. For prospective franchisees looking to scoop up an opportunity, Fuwa Fuwa provides manuals covering all the operating, marketing, and management processes so you can hit the ground running.
Chaska Indian Street Food Obsession
The word Chaska literally means “obsession,” drawn from the founder’s obsession with the Indian street food of his youth. Naveen Seth recalled his family’s road trips, feasting on the sights, smells, and sounds of the dhabas (truck stops) and open-air markets of India. The Chaska concept was born out of these experiences. The franchise opened its doors in 2016 in Mississauga, Ontario and has grown to seven locations across Ontario, with plans to open three more by the end of the year.
Chaska offers classic Indian street food with authentic flavours and some unique menu items such as the Samosa Poutine or Brownie Samosa to keep things fresh and exciting. For new Chaska opportunities, the brand provides a turnkey system (including design, permits, construction, equipment) to its franchisees and handles the lease negotiations. Ongoing operations and marketing support is provided after the location opens.
Twisted Indian Wraps
Twisted Indian Wraps provides a modern take on Indian cuisine in a wholesome style. The franchise prides itself on being suitable for a range of dietary lifestyles, offering vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, as well as Halal options. The food is cooked slow, but served fast in rice bowls, salads, and fusion Indian street food. All their menu items can be made mild, medium, or spicy.
The first location opened in Barrie, Ontario in 2015. Currently they have 12 locations operating in Ontario and Alberta. They recently signed an 18-store deal in British Columbia to initiate an aggressive growth plan in that market. Twisted Indian Wraps offers support in site selection, lease negotiation, design, and training for owners, managers, and back-of-house staff.