By Martin Owusu
Last month, Toronto-based grab-and-go food concept Picnic opened its newest location at 120 Bloor Street East, to a crowd of new and familiar faces. Picnic’s third store is the latest iteration of the Picnic store concept and serves as the food retailers’ first street front location.
Picnic’s first prototype store opened in February 2014 in the underground concourse of the 60 Bloor Street West office tower, and its second opened a year-and-half later in Exchange Tower in the Financial District. This third location, however, marks the store’s first street front store, and provides some welcome exposure for the young brand. The new south facing location also aims to take advantage of Bloor Street’s day-time pedestrian foot traffic, generated by the neighbourhood’s high density residential, retail and office spaces.
“We needed to situate in a location that was highly demographic. Work, play, live spaces. For this space, being on the north side of Bloor where everyone exits the Hudson’s Bay Centre and walks east to their office, it was a natural progression to test a street front model,” said Jason Kaiman, President and CEO of Picnic.
The Picnic food concept fits neatly within the convenience health-food model, first popularized in Europe by grab-and-go concepts like Pret A Manger. Accordingly, the brand strives to meet the preferences of people seeking reasonably priced, healthy and freshly prepared food offerings, but who are also short on time.
From quinoa bowls to survival cookies, Picnic’s menu is meant to appeal to those riding the health food trend. Picnic smoothies, for example, typically include health trend ingredients like protein powder, almond milk and goji berries.
Indeed, nutrition is a critical component to the Picnic concept. Before opening his first Picnic store, Mr. Kaiman launched a chain of fitness clubs before eventually selling the business. When he opened Picnic in 2014, he brought with him an understanding of an active lifestyle demographic who are increasingly health conscious and whose lives are fast-paced.
Ideally, Picnic patrons spend about 3 minutes in the store, and while Picnic positions itself as a grab-and-go option, the store still strives to make a genuine connection. “We try to train our staff that people’s lives are very busy, but we want to give a 3-5-minute break during their day to get them away from their busy life,” said Kaiman.
The brightly-lit, almost 1,000 square foot space is furnished with bright wood panels and wooden benches. In total, 206 solid maple wood fixtures were used, all sourced from Montreal. And while this location is without Picnic’s signature 40-foot picnic table, the store’s airy and cheerful themes still shine through.
Picnic’s goal is to open 5 locations in the next year-and-a-half. To date there have been a number of requests for franchising, but for now, Mr. Kaiman is focused on consolidating and proving the Picnic brand through a corporate model.
Originally from British Columbia, Martin Owusu is currently studying towards a JD/MBA at Dalhousie University. He has a keen interest in the combined potential for sport and business to build community.