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  #861  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2021, 3:12 PM
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  #862  
Old Posted Apr 19, 2021, 11:46 AM
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Latest pandemic restaurant trend brings multiple food brands under one roof
These new kitchens and eateries are seizing a moment that has been gruelling for other restaurants, but is seemingly in their favour.

Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen
Publishing date: Apr 19, 2021 • 2 hours ago • 5 minute read




In May last year, after the novel coronavirus began reshaping how Ottawa’s restaurants would operate, Nara Sok was convinced that running commercial kitchens with no dining rooms attached to them was the new way to go.

This spring, his fledgling business Casper Kitchen has given him lots of reasons to think he was right: more than 210,000, if you assign a reason to every dollar of revenue the York Street enterprise has earned over the last three months.

“It’s crazy … We’ve been surprising ourselves,” Sok says, sharing an impressive report on his food sales via the third-party delivery service Uber Eats.

His business partner, David Wen, adds more concretely: “Every quarter we’re doubling our business. If we continue this trajectory, within our first year, we might become a million-dollar company.”

That’s not be bad at all for a business selling to-go Vietnamese food, Korean fried chicken and Southern barbecue fare. For that matter, many an Ottawa restaurant whose sales have withered during the COVID-19 era might be envious.

Of course, Wen’s proposition is a big one given the incessant uncertainties businesses face during the pandemic. But currently, with locked-down food lovers waiting for dining rooms and patios to open, never mind vaccinations, the optimism at Casper Kitchen is hard to counter.

It’s also shared by other Ottawa businesses that host multiple food brands under their roofs. While business models may differ somewhat, these new kitchens and eateries are seizing a moment that has been gruelling for other restaurants, but is seemingly in their favour.

Casper Kitchen’s name riffs on “ghost kitchen,” the industry term for a stand-alone kitchen focused on takeout and delivery rather than dine-in business. Casper’s Viet Fresh brand took its first order in early December. Since then, the brands Banh Mi Bros, which makes Vietnamese sandwiches, Old’s BBQ and Fried Chicken for the Seoul have opened.

Wen and Sok say Casper Kitchen owes its success to savvy digital marketing, premium ingredients and packaging and an tireless focus on customer satisfaction. The future could see more brands added to the Casper Kitchen roster, plus an in-house delivery service and an app, they add.

“It’s undecided if we will ever have our own dine-in (service). We don’t need it right now,” says Sok, who also owns Tomo, the pan-Asian restaurant and lounge on Clarence Street.

Wen, whose background is in technology, thinks of Casper Kitchen as more than a money-maker gratifying hungry customers. He calls it an incubator, developing brands that could proliferate elsewhere downtown, be spun off as dine-in restaurants in Ottawa’s suburbs or even be sold to a franchising company wanting to take a brand nation-wide.

“Every brand has its own identity and growth trajectory,” Wen says. “We have unlimited potential. We’re only limited by our creativity.”

In recent months, the Mad Radish restaurant chain has expanded its offerings, following a rationale similar to that of Casper Kitchen. The flagship Mad Radish in downtown Ottawa focused on salads when it opened in July 2017. But a push began last summer to sell Mexican food under the Luisa’s Burritos & Bowls brand and thin-crust pizzas under the Revival Pizza brand from Mad Radish locations.

“The pandemic forced us to think much more critically about our business,” Mad Radish founder David Segal says. “It made a lot of sense to extend into new product categories.

“We’re combining the best elements of a ghost kitchen with the best elements of a restaurant,” Segal continues. “The food’s got to be made to order, it’s got to be fresh, but it’s got to be built to travel.”

Mad Radish’s Albert Street location, once the chain’s top performer, suffered as Ottawa’s pandemic-stricken downtown emptied, Segal says. But the multi-brand Barrhaven store, which opened in March, is doing well despite the current lockdown.

In Barrhaven, customers can select from all three brands in one order, sharing a Revival pizza and a Mad Radish salad, with a Luisa’s burrito on the side, Segal says. “They like the variety.”

In keeping with Segal’s suburban strategy, a multi-brand Mad Radish is to open in Kanata next year, and an Orléans store is envisioned. They will still have 20 to 30 seats — “But you don’t need 40 to 50,” Segal says — for dine-in customers. “We believe future of restaurants is multi-channel,” Segal says.

This month’s opening of Chop Shop in Hintonburg sees an Ottawa-centred example of the thinking that made Mad Radish diversify.

Launched in the space that was the recently shuttered Bar Laurel, Chop Shop will offer the “greatest hits” from the downtown eateries El Camino, Shelby Burger and the yet-to-open pizzeria Giulia, general manager Jana Renaud says.

The restaurants under Chop Shop’s banner are commonly owned, and the owners saw an opportunity to expand into a new neighbourhood when Bar Laurel closed, Renaud says.

“It’s a new concept for us to be cooking burgers and tacos at the same time, and eventually pizza,” she says. The kitchen Chop Shop inherited had to be reconfigured to suit the new business’s needs, she adds.

Currently serving tacos only, Chop Shop will welcome dine-in customers when pandemic restrictions relax. Once it’s fully operational, it be a sort of “micro food hall,” Renaud says.

In the City Centre building, the ghost kitchen called the Kitchen was a pandemic pivot by the company Lunch, partner Jordan Lazarovitz says.

After more than a decade of selling grab-and-go lunches from its stores and vending machines, Lunch was “left with zero business” after downtown was deserted, Lazarovitz says. Lunch’s City Centre commissary pivoted last fall to become a ghost kitchen, renting space to food businesses. The Kitchen rents by the week and tenants have come and gone.

These days, the 3,000-square-foot space’s tenants include Chef Jae-Anthony Popup, which serves Caribbean food, Peruvian kitchen Raphael Express and Filipino food business Lola’s Kitchen. Lazarovitz also has Side Piece and Wing Ding, his own chicken-based brands.

Given the blow the pandemic dealt Lunch, it makes sense that Lazarovitz does not brim with the optimism that buoys Casper Kitchen and Mad Radish.

Yes, more people order in now. But for how long? We’ll see if it has legs or not,” Lazarovitz says of his ghost kitchen.

phum@postmedia.com

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/lates...under-one-roof
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  #863  
Old Posted May 10, 2021, 11:45 AM
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Some Ottawa restaurateurs have pivoted to more pandemic-resistant businesses
"You couldn’t survive without some kind of pivot."

Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen
Publishing date: May 10, 2021 • 1 hour ago • 4 minute read


Last year, when the pandemic brought its hammer down on veteran Ottawa restaurateur Richard Valente’s businesses, he realized he had to switch to Plan C — as in cannabis — as quickly as he could.

The owner of the Fratelli restaurants in Kanata and Westboro and Roberto Pizza in Little Italy knew he would one day open a marijuana shop. The ambition just didn’t seem as urgent until the novel coronavirus turned everything upside down.

“We weren’t planning to open (the cannabis store). We were just going to sit on the licence,” Valente says. “We weren’t thinking about it (opening) until the pandemic hit.”

While lockdown after lockdown robbed him of customers for his food, Valente stepped up his plans to become a pot entrepreneur. Now he has three recently opened BlueBird Cannabis locations in Ottawa’s suburbs. There are two in Kanata plus a third in Manotick, and a fourth is to open next month in Almonte.

“I’ve definitely diversified, thank God,” Valente says.

Since the spring of 2020, everyone in Valente’s line of work has had to pivot, and occasionally repeatedly so, to make their restaurants more viable during the pandemic. Expanding takeout service was a must for most restaurants. Many eateries from Corner Peach in Chinatown to Oz Kafe in the ByWard Market to Das Lokal in Lowertown to Zolas in Bells Corners saw value in offering customers pantry items and non-perishables — not to mention wine, beer and cocktails after the Ontario government last year allowed restaurants to sell bottles to go, provided that food was sold with them.

But Valente is among the much smaller group of Ottawa-based food entrepreneurs who have larger lateral moves, betting that more pandemic-proof businesses will be winners even as the impact of the novel coronavirus hopefully recedes.

“The good thing about the cannabis stores: COVID doesn’t seem to stop people from coming,” Valente says.

Pat Nicastro, owner of La Bottega Fine Food Shop, has also put his money into a new, hopefully pandemic-proof venture after COVID-19 prompted the closure of the 24-seat restaurant at the back of his popular Italian grocery store in the ByWard Market.

The restaurant has never re-opened during the pandemic, and the store’s catering business has been “pretty much demolished,” Nicastro says. Food from the store’s kitchen accounted for more than 20 per cent of its revenue, he adds.

Meanwhile, the emptying of Ottawa’s downtown core cost La Bottega customers. But the grocery business soldiered on and began offering deliveries through the fledgling Ottawa-based business Trexity.

That service “was a missing key in our business to make it work,” Nicastro says. The grocery store does “tons of deliveries every day through Trexity.” Not only that, Nicastro was so impressed by the service that he became an early seed investor.

“That’s how much we believed in them,” Nicastro says. “We saw where our business was heading.

“We just had to adapt. Online was always there, but we had to take it extremely seriously.”

Meanwhile, Nicastro adjusted Lollo, his salad-centred eatery beside La Bottega, to sell more wine. The casual restaurant had always been licensed since it opened three years ago. Now he operates ByWard Wine Market from inside Lollo, offering almost 200 wines, plus snacks that make the bottle purchases legal.

“That basically saved Lollo,” Nicastro says. “You couldn’t survive without some kind of pivot.”

For Valente, an immediate crisis when the pandemic began was the disappearance of customers from Honey Coffee Bar, the business his wife and nephew’s wife owned in Kanata’s Signature Centre on Terry Fox Drive.

“The coffee business took an absolute beating. It literally came to a dead halt,” Valente says. “You got to go into panic mode and pivot.”

Nor is he upbeat these days about the restaurant business. “The food business, it seems like it’s getting worse and worse by the day. I can’t figure it out,” says Valente, the son of restaurant-owning Italian immigrants who himself has run a small empire of Italian restaurants in Ottawa since the early 1990s, most notably the Fratelli restaurants with his late brother, Robert.

Valente was able to move the coffee business last fall to a location in Stittsville that was cheaper by more than half. Now it makes a better go of things, in part because it shares space with Holey Confections, a gourmet doughnut business.

Valente applied for his cannabis permit about six months before the pandemic began, but had to be patient for the paperwork to come through. After paying five months of rent at the former coffee shop’s empty location in Kanata, Valente was able to transform it into his first BlueBird Cannabis store.

Compared to the coffee bar, the pot shop is “a more high-volume business. It’s an extremely busy store,” Valente says. Pursuing a suburban strategy, he has opened two more BlueBird locations, preferring to build his own brand rather than open a pot-shop franchise.

One of the new BlueBirds is on March Road in Kanata in a building where Farinella, the Little Italy pizzeria, just opened its second location.

Valente says he has seen an immediate synergy between the pot shop and the pizza place upstairs. “Pizza and cannabis, it’s kind of a good marriage,” he says.

“When I reflect on it, how much we dipped into our savings, it’s actually crazy,” Valente says of what it took to start his chain of cannabis stores. “But I’m so happy I did. Now I’ve got a thriving business.”

phum@postmedia.com

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/some-...-food-business
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  #864  
Old Posted Jun 2, 2021, 10:26 AM
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6:54 PM · Jun 1, 2021·Twitter Web App
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  #865  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 11:38 AM
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After years of controversy, NCC pushes ahead on plans for Patterson Creek Park bistro
Pending equipment and material deliveries and accessibility improvements, a spokesperson for the Crown corporation says, the bistro will open in July.


Taylor Blewett, Ottawa Citizen
Publishing date: Jun 17, 2021 • 9 hours ago • 4 minute read



The National Capital Commission is pushing forward with its plan to open a bistro at Patterson Creek Park, a project that got off to a rocky start two summers ago and remains deeply unpopular with residents living around the Glebe greenspace.

A spokesperson for the Crown corporation said Thursday they were waiting for some equipment and material deliveries and accessibility improvements to the site before announcing when in July the bistro would open.

Housed in the Patterson Creek Park Pavilion, with a patio seating area outside, the bistro site will cover 1,000 square feet and have a 40-person capacity, according to the latest proposal for 2021.

That’s considerably different from the NCC’s initial plan, which neighbours caught on to in 2019 after someone posted a notice of liquor licence application and heavy construction equipment arrived onsite.

An open house to discuss the bistro — then planned to operate out of two metal shipping containers, with temporary outdoor washrooms, across 2,500 square feet — was held shortly after that.

It didn’t go well, according to a 2020 report by the NCC ombudsman, which concluded that “the NCC did not employ a well-planned and consistent public engagement approach, especially with regards to the Patterson Creek Park initiative.”

The bistro didn’t open in 2019 and was again postponed in 2020 because of the pandemic and to allow for more community engagement, the NCC said.

Documents show opposition by area residents to the issuing of a liquor licence for the bistro ultimately led to a settlement between the NCC and neighbours.

To secure the licence, the NCC agreed to conditions reflected in the current plan for the bistro, including the square footage and capacity limit, “candle-type” exterior lighting, no music and no shipping containers, closing hours no later than 9 p.m., consultation with a heritage expert and daily garbage removal.

Still, there are neighbours who are thoroughly displeased with the plan for a licensed bistro in the creekside park.

“When there is liquor served 12 hours a day and people are all clustered together in a patio situation, it changes the entire dynamics of the park,” said Alison Clayton, who lives one street over.

“Instead of it being quiet, there is now alcohol, smoking. It becomes a bar. And nobody in the area said, ‘Geez, what we’re missing here is a bar.'”

It’s one of many objections residents raised to the NCC plan. There’s already pressure on area street parking, one pointed out. Another noted the competition it would create for pandemic-battered local businesses. There are also concerns about wear and tear on the park, responsible use of taxpayer money and the commercialization of park space.

“If you bring children into the park, and there’s a snack bar, very visible right there with lovely signs and everything and images of ice cream, do you think that the focus is going to be the nature?” said Lois Hardy, who lives in an apartment just across the creek.

Zoning compliance is also a point of disagreement. The NCC said the bistro is compliant with city zoning bylaws, and city zoning unit program manager David Wise said they have no concerns.

Area residents say the bistro could only be considered in compliance if wasn’t a “restaurant” or a “bar” and didn’t have an “outdoor commercial patio” … And how can that be, given what’s planned?

“What this has shown us … is that this could happen at any park in the city, apparently,” Don Macdougall said.

This is not NIMBYism, neighbours maintain. The park already hosts plenty of people and activity, and they appreciate it. There’s just no need for a bistro, in close proximity to homes. Unlike Remic Rapids and Confederation Park, sites of other NCC bistros, Patterson Creek is in a residential enclave.

“We love it the way it is,” neighbour Allison Dingle said of the park.

But others have taken a shine to the idea. The NCC held a virtual meeting and online consultation in March on the latest bistro plan. In addition to concerns, they reported hearing support for the project, including a feeling it would “make the neighbourhood and city more livable and interesting to residents and visitors alike.”

The online consultation included a poll, asking participants if they had any concerns about the latest bistro proposals. Of the 168 respondents, 37 per cent said they did, while 63 per cent did not.

Sandy Hill resident Michel Robert says he visits the park daily and charges his electric scooter at a public outlet. He has spoken to a lot of people and “they’re glad about the tavern. To come have a drink and sit beside the water. They’d love to have a tavern. They’re not complaining.”

Hardy countered: “But someone who comes on an occasional basis compared to the people who are living here and who are going through on a daily basis, there’s a whole different level of weight to what people’s opinions are.”

https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local...ek-park-bistro
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  #866  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 11:42 AM
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"This is not NIMBYism, neighbours maintain."
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  #867  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 5:22 PM
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I live in the area and don't have a problem with this project per se. However, it is fair to ask why the NCC is insisting on this project at this time, given that a lot of local businesses have been hammered by the pandemic. While I would have happily grabbed a drink at this bistro two years ago, COVID-19 has changed things, and my priority now is to support my favourite restaurants and pubs that have already lost a lot of revenue.

Then there is the fact that the NCC has an anti-Midas touch, as everything they touch seems to go up in flames. (Remember the patio a few years back on Colonel By Drive that closed, adding yet another checkmark to the long list of NCC failed projects). Yes, I often roll my eyes at the NIMBY attitudes of many of my Glebe neighbours. However, I also have no faith in the NCC pulling off this project in a way that benefits the area.
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  #868  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 5:52 PM
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In the rest of the world it is just a given that there will be places to eat in parks.
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  #869  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 6:21 PM
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I live in the area and don't have a problem with this project per se. However, it is fair to ask why the NCC is insisting on this project at this time, given that a lot of local businesses have been hammered by the pandemic. While I would have happily grabbed a drink at this bistro two years ago, COVID-19 has changed things, and my priority now is to support my favourite restaurants and pubs that have already lost a lot of revenue.

Then there is the fact that the NCC has an anti-Midas touch, as everything they touch seems to go up in flames. (Remember the patio a few years back on Colonel By Drive that closed, adding yet another checkmark to the long list of NCC failed projects). Yes, I often roll my eyes at the NIMBY attitudes of many of my Glebe neighbours. However, I also have no faith in the NCC pulling off this project in a way that benefits the area.
The NCC couldn't organize a piss up in a brewery.
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  #870  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 7:02 PM
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I live in the area and don't have a problem with this project per se. However, it is fair to ask why the NCC is insisting on this project at this time, given that a lot of local businesses have been hammered by the pandemic. While I would have happily grabbed a drink at this bistro two years ago, COVID-19 has changed things, and my priority now is to support my favourite restaurants and pubs that have already lost a lot of revenue.

Then there is the fact that the NCC has an anti-Midas touch, as everything they touch seems to go up in flames. (Remember the patio a few years back on Colonel By Drive that closed, adding yet another checkmark to the long list of NCC failed projects). Yes, I often roll my eyes at the NIMBY attitudes of many of my Glebe neighbours. However, I also have no faith in the NCC pulling off this project in a way that benefits the area.
Have you ever been to either of the two other Bistros? They're pretty nice. I'm 100% for anything that brings more animation to our shorelines.

And each location is run by local folks, not some big conglomerate.
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  #871  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 8:07 PM
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You can't convince me that these bistros are taking any measurable amount of business away from local bars and restaurants. I think most people stumble upon them and stop for a snack and drink while doing other activities in the area rather than travel to them as a destination. I think they are fantastic and add a lot to each location.
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  #872  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 8:31 PM
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During this pandemic is the first time since I move to Ottawa in 2009 that I gave serious thought to moving back to Toronto and it's because of stuff like this. So closed off to change. How about they let the NCC fully implement their vision as a pilot project for a year or two before opposing it outright. No music? They should just put it at Commissioners Park if they don't want their neighbourhood to be lively.
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  #873  
Old Posted Jun 22, 2021, 12:32 AM
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There will be a better tomorrow and a new dawn with plethora of possibilities and it is perennial. The Coconut Lagoon family will be back soon! Visit us for more info:

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6:54 PM · Jun 1, 2021·Twitter Web App
https://twitter.com/coconutlagoon/st...61889501319170
The old restaurant has been demolished. Hopefully the new one doesn't take too long to go up.
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  #874  
Old Posted Jun 22, 2021, 12:58 AM
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During this pandemic is the first time since I move to Ottawa in 2009 that I gave serious thought to moving back to Toronto and it's because of stuff like this. So closed off to change. How about they let the NCC fully implement their vision as a pilot project for a year or two before opposing it outright. No music? They should just put it at Commissioners Park if they don't want their neighbourhood to be lively.
I am not opposed to change; heck, that is why I am a big fan of your work because you provide great insight on how to improve Ottawa. My problem is with the NCC. They have failed so many times I have no faith in them. Any private company who failed as much as the NCC would have gone bankrupt a long time ago.

That said, I am not opposed to a bistro in the park. While it is unlikely I will go this summer because I want to support other local businesses hit by the pandemic, if the NCC hasn't messed this up by next year I can see myself getting a drink here.
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  #875  
Old Posted Jun 25, 2021, 2:32 AM
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Filipino fried chicken chain Jollibee will open a location in Rideau Centre. No official announcement besides this job posting.
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Old Posted Jun 25, 2021, 2:37 AM
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The Bright Side of Business: Burgers n' Fries Forever cooking up new expansion plans

By: Nickie Shobeiry, OBJ
Published: Jun 23, 2021 5:45pm EDT


On Instagram, restaurant chain Burgers n' Fries Forever (BFF) has racked up almost 30,000 followers from food shots and funny videos of its founder and CEO, Jamil Bhuya.

But Bhuya isn’t just doing it for the ’gram. It’s part of a lifelong passion that started when Bhuya was a child who knew growing up that he wanted to open his own restaurant one day.

He says it was his mother who inspired his love of food from a young age.

“Being of Bangladeshi descent, she was always cooking up a storm – the place would smell wonderful,” he says. “Luckily, I also had a high metabolism, because I just love to eat anyways.”

Bhuya started his career in the federal government, going from one temporary contract to another. He was waiting for a permanent position, until a federal budget freeze stopped his public service career in its tracks.

“That was when I finally had enough and I decided to start Burgers n' Fries Forever,” Bhuya says. “It was a bit of a dream and a passion.”

In August 2012, Bhuya pitched BFF to his operating partner at the time, asking: why can’t fries share the spotlight with burgers?

“It was always a bit of a disappointment to have a really nice, juicy fresh burger with frozen fries – it just didn't make sense,” Bhuya explains. His solution? Hand-cut fries made with double-fried, PEI russet potatoes, coupled with a selection of homemade dips such as vegetarian gravy and chipotle mayo.

One year later, Bhuya opened the first BFF location in Centretown, securing the funding through his personal network.

“Going to a bank as a 22-year old kid with no practical business experience, no house – any entrepreneur that hears this will laugh,” Bhuya says. “You have to go private, you have to raise money through family and friends.”

Four years later, BFF opened a second location in the ByWard Market. In 2019, the restaurant expanded to Toronto.

“We're BFFs with everybody, especially in Canada, being the melting pot that it is,” Bhuya says. “(BFF is) a mix of that, and really bringing fries to the forefront.”

Paired with BFF’s fries are its “fusion” burgers, such as its Korean-fried chicken burgers, alongside a wide range of vegan and halal options.

BFF hires 10 to 20 employees in each restaurant, seeing 100 or more customers per day. “You're striving towards being a seven-figure-plus store, revenue-wise,” Bhuya explains.

That target, however, became particularly challenging when COVID-19 hit, shutting down all three locations for two months.

Luckily, BFF already had a takeout delivery business model, complementing its dine-in option. However, the pandemic accelerated a shift in consumer habits towards food delivery apps, making BFF increasingly reliant on companies such as Uber Eats and DoorDash.

“Without them, we would be in serious trouble,” Bhuya says. “But the fees that you pay – (when) a bulk of your business (goes to a) third party, you can't be profitable. It's very hard.”

As well as using government subsidies and scaling back on restaurant hours, Bhuya’s team leveraged delivery app algorithms to get in front of more customers. Amid the pandemic, BFF also switched up its Toronto location, moving the restaurant closer to the downtown core and capitalizing on the larger pool of potential customers.

Despite the challenges sustaining its bottom line, BFF turned its focus inward, supporting the wellbeing of its teams by advocating for mental health awareness, and encouraging staff to let managers know when they need “more than a couple days off,” Bhuya says.

“In the restaurant industry, we've put on this badass rock star persona: ‘I can work 80 hours straight, on my feet, with just a bottle of water.’” he says. “It's stupid. It really is. We're trying to humanize the industry with our staff and our managers.”

As more and more individuals are vaccinated – and eager to dine out safely again – BFF is poised to expand with a new Ottawa location that’s set to open next year as well as a food truck offering.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re giving our BFFs the experience that they've come to know and love, while still growing the business sustainably,” Bhuya says.

https://www.obj.ca/article/local/bri...-new-expansion
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