Home-Grown and Locally-Owned: C-Lovers, CARSTAR, and Cora

100% Canadian franchise systems

Red 100% Canadian stamp on white background

Two of them began as one-store operations unknown outside their own neighbourhoods – until they began to grow and grow. The third has a huge presence in the domestic market but only those who’ve suffered a fender bender or worse will likely know and appreciate what it does. All three are proof of the dynamic Canadian franchise industry.

C-Lovers Fish and Chips

There can’t be many better recommendations for a fran­chise system than having former customers decide they want to be a part of it.

Brad Macleod was one of those customers and in 1996, he opened his first C-Lovers Fish & Chips store in Langley, British Columbia, and a second store, also that year, in North Vancouver.

Macleod, now Owner and President of C-Lovers, says there are 12 stores in his system – 11 of them in Brit­ish Columbia and one in Edmonton. A thirteenth store is due to open this year in Maple Ridge, also in British Columbia. “Our concentration right now is still B.C. and going into Alberta,” says Macleod, who’s looking to grow slowly and steadily. C-Lovers usually takes over a space rather than look for a new build, and most stores are typ­ically 2,000 to 2,100 square feet in neighbourhood strip malls. The cost of a franchise is between $550,000 and $650,000.

Training takes new franchisees six weeks in either Langley or Abbotsford, British Columbia. The number one quality Macleod looks for in a potential investor is an attribute that is in constant demand: “Are they a people person,” he says. Some background in the res­taurant business is also welcome, Macleod explains, but franchisees must have the energy and the personality to engage with their customers. Married couples are popu­lar investors in C-Lovers.

The system’s customers can be anyone looking for a high quality meal featuring “Ocean Wise” fish such as halibut, West Coast cod, haddock and salmon, and other seafood like prawns and oysters and homemade chowder as well as chicken. “We offer a quality product for a value price,” says Macleod, noting the very popu­lar “all you can eat” feature priced at $14.95. C-Lovers serves 75 per cent of its meals as dine-in and the other 25 per cent as takeout. The system’s target demo­graphic skews towards families and those aged 55 and older, and times its hours accordingly, opening at 11:00 a.m. and closing at 8 or 9 p.m. “We’re a lunch and dinner restaurant,” says Macleod.

As for the benefits of investing in C-Lovers, Macleod points out there are many. For one thing it’s a company that’s been around for more than 30 years, he says, and has an excellent track record. It’s a rewarding job, too, he continues, with decent hours, manageable sized restau­rants and a good return on investment.

CARSTAR Canada

Cars in Canada are a simple fact of life. Whether they run on gasoline, diesel fuel, or electricity, they are the way most people get around. Collisions involving cars are a simple fact of life here, too. And it’s this unfortunate state of affairs that has boosted the fortunes of CARSTAR to some 320 franchises coast-to-coast in Canada, concen­trating as it does on the insurance industry. CARSTAR got its start in Kansas in the United States in 1989.

Michael Macaluso, President of CARSTAR Canada says his firm began in 1994 and unlike most fran­chised companies his is a “conver­sion system”, meaning indepen­dently operated collision facilities come to CARSTAR and ask to join. Usually, they’re family-owned busi­nesses, says Macaluso from his head office in Hamilton, Ontario, and often there’s a husband and wife team involved. About 55 per cent of the system in Canada has multi-store owners, he explains. Macaluso says those who join his system need a strong track record as an independent business because CARSTAR performs a thorough review of its history, and there are “multi data points” to determine whether a territory is right for CARSTAR.

The cost of joining CARSTAR varies, says Macaluso, but with the right equipment on hand it’s typically less than $50,000. Initial training is in Hamilton, and there is continuing instruction at CARSTAR U. “The training piece is significant,” he notes. Macaluso also goes on to say that as well as a background in the collision busi­ness, potential franchisees need to be progressive think­ers, hard workers, have a strong attachment to continu­ous improvement, and have strong local connections.

As for expansion, Macaluso says, “We’re aggres­sively looking to grow across the country.” The focus, however, will be in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

There are multiple benefits to investing in CARSTAR, Macaluso continues. The company works with the insur­ance industry, for one thing, he says. For another there is the buying power of the system meaning franchisees get better deals then they otherwise would as independents. And there is the undoubted advantage of having a strong Canadian brand, he concludes.

Cora Breakfast and Lunch

The experts tell us breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Cora, the restaurant, and Cora Tsouflidou, its Founder and Owner, would certainly agree. The Quebec-born system specializes in breakfast and brunch and has grown from one restaurant in Montreal in 1987 to 130 of them in nine of Canada’s 10 provinces – Prince Edward Island being the exception – following the decision to begin franchising in 1993.

“Our emphasis is on food and quality,” says Marvin Shahin, Executive Director of Development for Cora, from headquarters in Montreal. “Cora is known for pre­senting an experience.”

Cora franchises are typically located in suburbs, he explains, in major power centres, and strip malls sur­rounded by populations of between 50,000 and 75,000 at a minimum. The cost of a franchise varies, but Sha­hin says the average investment runs from $550,000 to $1-million for stores typically 2,500 to 3,500 square feet. Training lasts two to three weeks at a training centre fol­lowed by another week of theoretical learning at Cora’s head office. In-store trainers are also on hand to help new franchisees be fully prepared and ready to operate when they open for business.

With breakfast likely to remain so important – Cora serves such fare as bacon and eggs, fruit smoothies and fruit crepes, French toast, pancakes, and more to its broad range of customers including lots of families — Shahin says the company will continue to look for growth. The focus will be mostly on Ontario and Western Canada. “There’s still a lot of runway available (in both places),” says Shahin, noting a Cora franchise does not come with territorial rights.

As for the qualities he looks for in potential investors, he says he likes to see those who have strong public management skills. And some hospitality and business experience is useful, he continues. There’s no typical Cora franchisee, but, given the family atmosphere, Sha­hin says they seem to draw in husband and wife teams aged 35 and older. “We look for solid partners in life or in business, people who complement each other’s skill sets,” he goes on to say.

There are many benefits to investing in Cora, says Shahin. The franchise offers a premium product at a value price, a proven concept, an established brand, food service that provides visual excitement and a rein­vention of how to serve breakfast. The 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. opening hours also allow a good work-life balance.

 


By David Chilton Saggers