By Nicole Di Tomasso
In January 2021, Boustan, a Montreal-based fast-food chain, expanded to Toronto’s east end, making Scarborough its first stop to generate new growth outside of Quebec.
“Toronto is proof that we can take the brand outside of Quebec. We want to prove to franchisees that we can survive in a diverse environment,” says Joseph Audi, director of Marketing at Boustan. “Our Toronto store is located in a multicultural area, so we’re up against some tough local competition and we have been successfully proving ourselves since we opened.”
Boustan opened its first restaurant in 1986. In 2017, Emad Saad bought out the chain, with only five operational locations at the time. Fast forward to 2022, Saad has grown the franchise from five to 40 locations. Prior to buying the Boustan franchise, Saad was a franchisee of Subway and operated multiple stores. He also dabbled in the breakfast category.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for about 20 years as both a franchisee and a franchisor, and the franchisee experience has proven to be a true asset today as I run the network along with the team. I like development, innovation and simplifying processes,” says Saad. “We also have a great team. Every day brings new growth and success. Our team has a great relationship with our franchisees and we support a fun, dynamic environment.”
“Emad truly has a passion for food and the food industry, a passion for customer service and a passion for finding the right solutions,” says Audi.
Boustan offers a range of Mediterranean cuisine, from its signature chicken shawarma and garlic potatoes to fried eggplant and tabouleh. Over the next 12 months, Boustan’s menu will be revamped to appeal to health-conscious consumers. The brand recently launched its vegan kebab with shiitake mushrooms to provide a plant-based option. In addition, Boustan is looking to introduce salads and power bowls this summer.
“We want to include healthier options while still maintaining that Mediterranean flair,” says Audi. We want our customers to feel guilt-free when they come into one of our stores.”
“We also reduced the use of oil at our stores,” says Saad. “Instead, we use high-tech equipment to steam potatoes, vegetables and other items to reduce calories.”
Outside of the restaurant, Boustan’s team is involved in its local community. “Giving back to the community is something that we standby as a brand,” says Saad. “We’ve participated in a number of initiatives, from money donations to Red Cross and Breast Cancer Research Foundation to food donations to hospitals and families in need within the Montreal area.”
“As we expand to new markets, we look forward to establishing new relationships and giving back to those communities [as well],” says Audi.
Currently, Boustan is building out a second Toronto location in York Mills, which is slated to open in April. Furthermore, the brand recently signed franchise agreements in Vancouver and Moncton, N.B., as well as New Jersey, marking its first U.S. location. Boustan is also finalizing locations in Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton, Ont.
“In the next five years, our goal is to become a national brand, but we’re not stopping there,” says Saad. “Eventually, we’d like Boustan to become the number-1 shawarma brand in North America.”