By Mario Toneguzzi
Paramount Fine Foods began as one Middle Eastern Restaurant in Mississauga, Ontario and is now the fastest growing Middle Eastern food chain in Canada - with continued growth set for the near future.
“We’ve actually grown very quickly. As a 10-year-old company we actually saw most of our growth in the last five years. We grew very rapidly and we are continuing along that growth path,” said Greg Smith, executive vice president of Paramount, which is based in Mississauga.
“But we’re trying to do it in a very systematic and strategic manner - one that sets up our existing locations for success and continues to support those restaurants as they get busier and as they have their own challenges. We want to make sure that we are continually supporting the existing locations while growing at a fair rate.”
The company started in 2007. It currently has 63 locations worldwide - 30 of them are in the Greater Toronto Area.
“We have locations in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, obviously Ontario, the United States, United Kingdom, Lebanon and Pakistan,” said Smith.
“We have over 100 locations in our pipeline right now. We’re going to add 16 locations this year - 11 of which will be in Canada. The rest will be overseas in Lebanon and Pakistan. Our plans are to continue to grow, predominantly in the province of Quebec. We’re going to add two locations. We actually just opened a location at the Montreal airport. We’re going to do two, possibly three in British Columbia. All three are in Vancouver . . . and we have one to two in Alberta planned already. We have up to six planned in the GTA. A couple in Ottawa are also planned.
“We continue to grow but we want to make sure that we’re growing at a pace that we can sustain. So we’ve actually scaled back some of our growth if you can imagine. So rather than adding 25 or 30 this year we’ll add 16 to 20 this year.”
Paramount operates three different business concepts. One is Paramount Butcher Shop primarily located in Lebanon and Pakistan with one in Toronto.
The restaurant concept, the Paramount Middle Eastern Kitchen, includes a traditional sit-down restaurant, predominantly free-standing and anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet. Two thirds of the locations are under that brand.
The third concept is the Paramount Lebanese Kitchen which is more of a quick service brand which is predominantly in business towers, universities, hospitals, and airports.
Smith said Paramount is in a really good position right now to address what’s happening in the food industry from a consumer perspective.
“Our business model is based on authentic Lebanese cuisine. We have two executive chefs that are in Ontario that are from the Middle East and we obviously have a number of chefs that are still in Lebanon working for us,” he said.
“Our menu is based on traditional authentic food from the Middle East. It’s all made fresh either on site. So all of our protein is grilled over a fire. All of our bread is grilled on a wood-burning or gas-burning stone oven. And all of our food is made fresh or comes directly from our master kitchen and is made on site fresh there . . . It’s a little bit different concept. The pre-made and ready-to-serve stuff is not what we really deal in. Our concept is really based on large platters, people sharing large meals with skewers of meat, skewers of falafel, fresh made salads. Basically breaking bread together in a group at large tables.”
Smith said the brand is resonating with people because good food is important for them but also people are interested in ethnic food, different food from what they grew up on.
“Whether you’re from the Middle East or whether you’re from a different background, today’s consumer is exposed to a lot more options. They’re less afraid of things they don’t know because of social media and all of our hand held devices and and things like that. We’re exposed to all sorts of cool things,” he said.
“So the consumer is more inclined to experiment. They’re more inclined to try new things. The consumer gets bored quickly with the same old, same old. What we offer is authentic food that’s fresh, it’s exotic. Different flavours, textures and tastes that they wouldn’t normally get or be exposed to unless they visit Middle Eastern type restaurants a lot.
“The other thing why it resonates with people is that our food is healthy. All of our food is locally sourced. All of our restaurants are 100 per cent halal. That’s really important to understand that we believe in the halal practice. There’s no alcohol served at any of our restaurants. All of our food is certified . . . People want to know that the food they’re eating was raised properly. They want to know that the food they’re eating doesn’t have additives or different things put in. So all of our food is grain fed and for the most part locally sourced here in Ontario and Canada. Those are all things that the consumer is looking for today.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: email@example.com.