High quality counts. Whether it’s food for humans, food for pets, or an invigorating spa treatment, an emphasis on excellence makes all the difference. And excellence is what these three all-Canadian systems strive for – for franchisees and customers alike.
Bill Pratt knows food, and so he should. The navy veteran cooked for members of British royalty while serving on the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1983. But after 27 years at sea, the former Chief Petty Officer (1st class) came ashore, and he never gave up his interest in food.
Pratt’s first food venture was Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers + Poutinerie, and his second was Habaneros Modern Taco Bar in 2012. Pratt says he intended to open a soup and Panini chain, but a non-compete clause in a lease meant he couldn’t, so he said, why not Mexican with a modern twist instead? And thus Habaneros, which prepares all of its food in-house, was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. There’s now a second location in Dartmouth, and two other Habaneros, as well in Bedford and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Pratt sold his first Habaneros franchise in 2017 in Oromocto, New Brunswick, and another, also last year, in Truro, Nova Scotia. A third Habaneros franchise was slated to open in January this year in Sydney, Nova Scotia. “We’ll grow the East Coast first,” is how Pratt, Dartmouth-based Founder and CEO, describes the expansion plans.
The cost of a franchise varies depending on whether a Habaneros restaurant is twinned with a Cheese Curds. A single Habaneros location costs about $350,000, and a Habaneros-Cheese Curds combo costs from $670,000 to $870,000. Training in Dartmouth takes a month, and Pratt says every aspect of the system is covered. “We will teach franchisees financials, and everything else.” Further, says Pratt, a team from head office will stay with a franchisee as long as their help is needed.
As for who’s investing with Habaneros, Pratt says there are a number who are starting second careers. They don’t need to have a food service background, he continues, but some exposure to business would help, and they must have good people skills and a customer service orientation. “They must go that extra mile,” says Pratt, whose customers cross all demographics.
The benefits of the Habaneros system are extensive, says Pratt. There’s high brand recognition for one thing, and for another, sound business practices and procedures have been established, allowing Habaneros to coach and mentor its franchisees.
Canadians love pets. And those 14 million cats and dogs – and every other household animal across the country – need to eat.
That’s where MultiMenu comes in. The Laval, Quebec-based system offers high-quality pet food delivered free to pet owners from a central warehouse. Direct selling is the wave of the future, says Gérald Tremblay, President of MultiMenu Canada. That means his company is poised to take advantage of the changing sales landscape with a direct-to-home system that eliminates costly bricks-and-mortar stores and extensive inventory stored in warehouses.
MultiMenu began 21 years ago, says Tremblay, who bought the company in 2009 after realizing what his part of the service sector was going to look like. He began franchising the same year he bought MultiMenu, and now there are 150 franchises in the system. Most of them are in Quebec, but there are others in New Brunswick and in southern and southwestern Ontario, where the company is expanding, and there are plans to move into Western Canada.
With the exception of six small mall locations, all are home-based, and a single franchise can cost as little as $3,000, although franchisees need a reliable vehicle, too. A master franchise that covers six or seven franchises costs from $20,000 to $25,000. Training on the nutritional aspects of the food MultiMenu sells takes one day, and every six months there’s further instruction when it comes to nutrition. Training in sales and the system’s customer relationship management software takes about another half-day.
MultiMenu’s target customer is a woman aged 25 to 45, says Tremblay. “The decision-maker in our industry is a woman. Women are selective about pet food.” And they keep coming back every five weeks to buy more food packaged in bags that have a patented opening to keep the product fresh, he continues.
Many MultiMenu franchisees are young-to-middle-aged couples, with the women taking care of sales and administration, and the men making deliveries. As for the qualities he’s looking for among potential investors, Tremblay says, “We’re looking for what we call ‘doers.’” Those “doers” will benefit from the low cost of entry, healthy margins, and a low overhead, he explains, and of course, the promise of repeat business thanks to those much-loved pets.
In 2011, Karen Dixon spotted a gap in her particular market: high-quality salon and spa treatments at an affordable price. So she started Vixen Nails•Salon•Spa with one location in Milton, Ontario, and soon added a second in Mississauga, also in Ontario. Since then, Vixen Spa has been so successful that two more are slated to open early this year in the Greater Toronto Area. All are corporate locations, but Dixon, the system’s Founder and CEO, who began franchising in 2017, says there are already five franchisees readying for business in the Ontario and British Columbia this year.
“We hit that sweet spot,” says Dixon about the Vixen Spa system, headquartered in Mississauga. They perform high-quality treatments and operate with high-quality sanitizing standards – cleanliness and clients’ health and safety should be no small consideration in the spa industry. Their wide range of services includes manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, massages, makeup, hair salon services, and laser hair removal.
Dixon, who’s an esthetician and human resources professional by training, says clients can avoid waiting for their appointments if they book ahead online or by using the Vixen Spa app on their mobile phones. Walk-ins, of course, are welcome, but they can know there won’t be any wait time if they book ahead. Women aged 21 to 65 are Vixen Spa’s target, although they also serve men, and lots of groups, such as wedding parties, princess parties, and corporate events.
The Vixen Spa expansion plans are in Ontario for the time being, although Dixon says they’ve had franchise interest from coast to coast, including British Columbia and Quebec. The cost of a franchise is from $250,000 to $350,000, and every spa has the same design features, the same signature colours of red and black, and runs from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. All are essentially turnkey operations.
Franchisees don’t need to have any experience in the spa sector, but “they definitely need to have a passion for the beauty business,” says Dixon. “And we want someone who thinks about customers first.”
Dixon says she’s met a lot of married couples inquiring about investing with the system, as well as women looking to become entrepreneurs or work more flexible hours. The training at Vixen Spa is hands-on. “We pretty much have an answer for everything, because we have the industry knowledge to continue to successfully operate our locations,” she says.
The benefits of investing with Vixen Spa include relatively low start-up costs, a system that has mastered a way to offer high-quality services at an affordable price, strong corporate support and access to industry experts and partners, and a business that Dixon says is recession-proof.
By David Chilton Saggers