By Craig Patterson
Toronto-based healthy eating concept iQ continues to grow its operations, with more locations in the works as it ramps up an expansion which could see it become a national brand. The company will unveil its largest location yet at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre towards the end of the summer, and founder/CEO Alan Bekerman says that more iQ locations are in the works.
Mr. Bekerman founded iQ in 2011 and since then, the company has opened seven locations in seven years. Its first location opened in 2011 at the TD Centre in Toronto’s Financial District in about 460 square feet, and it was a hit from the very beginning. A second location opened nearby at Brookfield Place in 2012 and in 2014, iQ unveiled a considerably larger location at the base of the 18 York office tower in Toronto’s burgeoning SouthCore, south of Union Station.
In 2016, iQ partnered with Toronto-based Greenhouse Juice to open a joint location at First Canadian Place in Toronto’s Financial District — by that time, it was clear that workers in Canada’s business centre had embraced iQ’s healthy food options as well as Greenhouse Juice’s offerings (that company is also expanding). In 2016, as well, iQ opened a 300-square-foot concession at the Equinox fitness centre at Yorkville Village in Toronto, marking iQ’s first foray outside of the tight geographic clustering of its first four locations. In 2017, iQ opened a larger-than-usual location at 613 King Street West, in an historic area which is rapidly transforming to become one of the most interesting and densely populated areas of the city.
Towards the end of the summer, iQ will unveil its flagship location at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, marking the brand’s first location outside of Toronto’s downtown core. The Yorkdale location will span almost 2,300 square feet in a strategic corner location across from the mall’s stunning RH (aka Restoration Hardware) and Sporting Life stores. Mr. Bekerman explained that a flagship is ideally a ‘best location’ for a brand and while this might be true for the Yorkdale location when it opens, he says that the goal is for every new location to be better than the last as each is a learning experience.
iQ’s retail spaces vastly range in size, and Mr. Bekerman explained that each of these have been used to test the concept prior to an even greater rollout. While the smaller locations have been wildly successful, future locations will ideally be in the 2,500 square foot range, he said.
Larger iQ locations allow for more of an “experience” he explained, by offering seating, a place for customers to line up, and the ability to play music in order to create a curated environment. Shopping centres have been transforming over the past several years, and now landlords are seeking to add food and beverage offerings through their mall properties in order to create foot traffic to other retail categories, not to mention give shoppers a place to relax and refuel.
Mr. Bekerman also expressed gratitude to iQ's broker Vanessa Oliver of Regent Street Retail and Restaurant Real Estate Solutions, who is working with iQ's expansion under mandate and has negotiated multiple lease deals on behalf of the retailer.
King Street West Location:
iQ's popularity is, in many respects, a product of the company’s simplicity. Mr. Bekerman explained that he founded the company out of frustration with the lack of health food options in downtown Toronto — he himself worked in Toronto’s Financial District when he decided to launch a concept that would utilize the highest quality ingredients such as whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats, offering healthy food that is also served quickly and conveniently. The company’s website notes that its menu shifts with the seasons, and that it devotes itself “to scratch cooking + embracing the type of food that we feel good about eating everyday”. Nutritional content is the focus with dishes that are “clean, colourful and light”. iQ partners with local farmers and suppliers where it can, and it also proudly serves Pilot Coffee at its locations.
Two more Toronto iQ locations are in the works, and their exact locations will be announced shortly. One will be in midtown Toronto, Mr. Bekerman said, while the other will be up in North York.
Looking to the future, Mr. Bekerman said that he’s working with broker Vanessa Oliver of Regent Street to eventually expand the concept outward beyond the Greater Toronto Area. While nothing is confirmed as of yet, locations could some day open in other Canadian provinces and maybe even beyond as iQ continues to perfect its concept.