I immigrated to Canada from Lebanon sixteen years ago in search of a better life and opportunities. On my journey I worked my butt off. I learned first hand that there are no shortcuts to success. Do yourself a favour and politely ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.
My first job was at Tim Hortons. I lasted five days before I quit, realizing that because the restaurant wasn't halal, it wasn't a place I wanted to work. But the experience fuelled me. I thought "if Mr. Horton could do it, then so could I". So I worked, learned, saved, planned, and one day took the risk of my life: buying a struggling Lebanese restaurant in Mississauga in 2007.
In the first year I transformed that risk into my opportunity, turning a profit and creating the flagship location for the future franchise business. Today, Paramount Fine Foods is the fastest growing Middle Eastern halal restaurant chain in North America with 20 corporate and franchise locations, including catering and takeout, a new spin-off sandwich and shawarma franchise called Fresh East, The Paramount Butcher Shop and food factory, and the Yalla Foodtruck.
We are especially excited to be the first halal restaurant to open at Terminals 1 & 3 at Pearson Airport, as well as at Niagara Fallsview Casino! And You could say I've now gone full circle as former Tim Hortons CEO Don Schroeder has just signed on to take the Paramount franchise to California.
Our success is humbling. It was a personal goal of mine to change attitudes about the shawarma and make Lebanese food more accessible to the masses. Shawarma was once just a traditional Middle Eastern street food, but is now a mainstream meal. Today we serve Canadians of all cultures.
I am often asked of the "secret to Paramount's success" and I usually say "hard work and quality control", and it never seems to be the answer people are looking for. So I thought about it, and here are the ingredients to my secret sauce to running and growing "my baby" into the successful franchise it is today.
1. Consistency. From signature recipes, plating technique to greeting,-where it matters the most– always ensure that it is to the highest quality standard, and can be repeated. Once you find the magic, replicate it in every interaction and location, and don't drop the ball!
2. Do the math. We can get overly enthusiastic when we see success. Sometimes we get lucky, so before jumping to expansion, it is pivotal to make sure the numbers make sense. To ensure that Franchisees will be successful, understand the numbers so that you can replicate the success.
3. The right people. Your team can make or break you, and that includes Franchisees and employees. Protect your Franchise and Investors by carefully selecting the right candidates rather than the aggressive growth route. Not everyone is fit to run a location or work in the food business, even though they want the opportunity or can afford it. Maintain a rigorous selection process and stick to it, to ensure all parties are protected.
4. Hire the Expert. You don't know everything, and there is no place for ego where you lack knowledge. It is important to surround yourself with people who bring the right talent to fill your weakness. Hiring my Franchise Mentor was one of the best decisions I ever made. His experience and skillset ensured pitfalls and mistakes were minimized.
5. Train the trainer. Not everyone shares the same enthusiasm and skillset to lead or train employees. And a training program is only effective if it is taught and administered correctly. Make sure Franchisees are up to par and have the skill set before they train their employees. Teach them how to drive before they get on the road. This is so important because you cannot be everywhere.
6. Last, but most important, everybody must win. Everybody wants to make money and it is important that Franchisees don't feel gouged. By making less as a franchisor in the short-term, you will make more in the long term. When a Franchisee is happy and making money, they will want to open additional locations, and uphold the highest quality standards, and that translates into a win-win-win – for the customer, franchisee and franchisor.
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