The co-founder of Extreme Brandz has an idea about what constitutes healthy food. To Alex Rechichi, the president and CEO of the Mississauga, Ont.-based Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, Purblendz and Via Cibo, the key is examining every ingredient and evaluating if it’s something our ancestors ate.
That food philosophy is the root of the Extreme Brandz experience and shows healthy food is moving to the forefront of foodservice, since the company’s customized pitas, burritos and smoothies (many minted with Health Check status), earned it combined sales last year of $111 million, based on 382 units.
With 330 franchised units, reaching from Vancouver to St. John’s, N.L., and more than 50 units in the U.S., the company in on a roll; just last year there were 30 unit openings, mainly in Western Canada and Ontario.
But, while unit growth is a focus, the brand is also revamping its look. The Extreme Pita Next Generation strategy features a revamped restaurant design with wood-panelled counters, digital signage and a new bright green logo that champions the brand’s food philosophy — contemporary healthy food. “It’s no longer lettuce, tomato and cucumber. There’s a lot more [ways we can] evolve that is above the industry [standard] and where our competitors are today,” Rechichi says. The brand also has a new menu, which features a chef-inspired Fiesta Mexicana pita with flame-grilled chicken, cilantro, mozzarella, cheddar, red onion, red pepper, tomato and romaine tossed with southwest spices, mole and sour cream ($6.99).
The parent company’s food program is evolving, too. In May, the team introduced its first incarnation of Via Cibo in Toronto. The fast-casual Italian street-food sandwich concept is based on traditional Italian piadina flatbread as well as pastas, salads and wood-fired pizzas. “We’re trying to deliver an authentic Italian experience at a very affordable price,” Rechichi says of the concept that is set to grow by two units this year, with locations planned for Alberta and Ontario.
Rechichi attributes the company’s success in the past year to his team’s relentless desire to improve. “We know change is a constant in our business. If you cling to the past, it’s a death sentence,” he says. For example, in the spring, Extreme announced a partnership with The Burger’s Priest, an independent, Toronto-based burger concept offering made-from-scratch beef patties. Forming a holding company with Priest’s owner, Shant Mardirosian, Rechichi’s goal is to open new units under the new partnership and grow the concept from just two units in Toronto to five units in the next 16 months.
And, as the Extreme team ventures into unknown territory with a burger concept, Rechichi admits the company’s success is part research and part gut-feeling. “Some-times, you have to show the consumer where they need to go. If we can bring the guest along for the journey, then it will continue to be the key determining factor to our success.”