Rotisserie Chicken Hotspot Flock Continues to Expand

By Megan Harman

Gourmet chicken and salad chain Flock Rotisserie + Greens is spreading its wings and embarking on expansion as demand for its high-end fast food offerings continues to soar.

Flock, which operates five restaurants in Toronto, is preparing to open its sixth location in the months to come at the Yonge Sheppard Centre in North York.  A seventh location is planned for Yonge and Eglinton next year, followed by one at Bayview and Eglinton in 2020 or 2021.

The chain specializes in healthy and fresh quick serve meals, including rotisserie chicken, pulled chicken sandwiches and soups, along with gourmet salads that boast high quality ingredients such as kale, pomegranate, roasted cauliflower, goji berries, mango, cashews and coconut.

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“There’s really nothing like it, in terms of very sophisticated, intricate salads,” says Mustafa Yusuf, president and co-founder of Flock. “They’re not your average salads.”

Although Flock has had success with a broad and diverse customer base, its core target market consists of millennials in the 25-35 age range – and particularly women, according to Yusuf. He says Canadian consumers have become increasingly health-conscious in recent years, and so healthy food options have growing appeal in the market.

“The average Canadian now is more educated about what they put in their body,” he says. “People are watching how many calories they eat, and they’re really keeping an eye on their diets.”

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Although there are a growing number of restaurant chains focused on providing a similar healthy-eating experience, Yusuf says he’s not concerned, since Flock established itself early in the game and continues to grow each year.

“We don’t worry about the competition,” he says. “We try to just focus on putting out a good product, and make sure we have more people coming through the door than the year before.”

In addition to its quick service locations, Flock operates one full-service restaurant at Harbord and Spadina, which features a full bar and a more extensive menu compared to the other locations. The new Bayview and Eglinton location will be the chain’s second full-service restaurant of that kind, however the brand’s main focus remains the quick-serve concept, according to Yusuf.

“Our bread and butter is the QSRs,” he says.

Yusuf notes that the cost of operating restaurants continues to increase, thanks to steadily rising rents and Ontario’s growing minimum wage. That presents a challenge as the chain expands.

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“We’re trying to be creative in terms of finding spaces that are still prime,” Yusuf says, “but not paying the crazy rents that landlords are asking these days.” The new Yonge and Eglinton location, for example, will be located on the second storey of the E Condo development on the northeast corner of the busy intersection. The second-level unit presents a less expensive alternative to ground-floor real estate.

Flock’s QSR locations are an average of 1,200-1,500 square feet in size, while its full-service restaurants are 3,000 square feet.

The restaurants are designed to showcase the food against a modern backdrop of earthy and neutral tones. “We present the food so you’re able to see it,” Yusuf says. “The salads are made in front of you, so you’re able to see all of the ingredients.”

Each location has slightly different design features to reflect the surrounding area and local demographics.

Once Flock has developed a more established presence in the Toronto market, the brand will look to expand to other cities such as Vancouver and Ottawa, and eventually the U.S. market, according to Yusuf.  Flock is working with Stan Vyriotes and David Wedemire of DWSV Remax Ultimate Realty Inc.  as it continues to seek out new locations.

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Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm (torontoretail.wordpress.com). Follow her on Twitter at @meganmharman.

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