Quick-service restaurant (QSR) The Chopped Leaf has seen an enormous amount of growth in the past half decade, with the brand recently celebrating the opening of its 100th store in Canada.
Brenda Chornohus owns two franchises in the Kamloops, B.C., area, and opened one of the very first Chopped Leaf locations in the country.
She recently spoke with Canadian Business Franchise about why she was drawn to the company, and the evolution of the brand and herself as a franchisee.
Canadian Business Franchise (CBF): Did you always envision yourself as an entrepreneur?
Brenda Chornohus (BC): My dream was to own a business one day. I always envisioned being my own boss, and here I am.
CBF: Why did you choose franchising?
BC: I chose a franchise because I have worked both sides of business—the franchise and a mom and pop type. After being a franchise business manager for 10 years, I knew I wanted the support a franchise has to offer, such as menu costing, advertising plans, training manual, etc. Being an independent owner is a lot more work.
CBF: How did you discover a franchising opportunity at The Chopped Leaf?
BC: The Chopped Leaf was very new to the QSR world. I saw an ad looking for a franchise owner. I looked up the brand, drove to Kelowna, tried the product, and fell in love with this new concept.
CBF: When did you buy your franchise?
BC: I bought my first location nine years ago.
CBF: What was involved in opening your franchise?
BC: My first location was a turnkey opportunity, so it was a very easy process. My second location was a build from the ground up. Finding the location was easy as The Chopped Leaf had a leasing agent on board who made that end of things run smooth. Again, buying into a franchise makes the process easier.
CBF: Describe your opening day.
BC: Opening day was a bit stressful. I had the date in mind and did not want to wait another minute. We were waiting for the last inspection to happen and, at 10 a.m., we ripped the paper off the windows and opened the doors. It was so exciting. It was a slow start as people did not know what The Chopped Leaf was all about. We had to educate our guests on the fresh, quick choices the restaurant offers.
CBF: Describe a typical day of running your franchise.
BC: There are no typical days running a restaurant. You start your day with counting the cash from sales the day before, making sure prep levels are up to par, always getting set up for the rush, ensuring staff know what needs to be done for the day, then wait for that first customer to walk in the door so you can greet them. You do everything from taking and making the order, prepping food, smiling, and thanking the customer for choosing The Chopped Leaf.
CBF: Do you feel your educational background helps in your day-to-day tasks and overall business decisions?
BC: I started working at a very young age in the back doing dishes, then moving into the kitchen, and eventually waitressing. Once I was old enough, I moved up to being a supervisor, started managing restaurants, and that is when I knew I wanted to be my own boss. So, it was actually working in the real world that brought me here today.
CBF: What have been the highlights and challenges of running your franchise?
BC: The highlight has always been watching the growth of sales. The first time I became number one in overall sales in the chain was a very proud moment. Challenges have always been staffing and keeping the staff motivated.
CBF: How has COVID impacted your franchise?
BC: Sales were down, but we figured out ways to make it work and keep the food going out the door. It was a little easy as we were already a QSR, so we had the tools to switch over to full takeout and delivery.
CBF: How do you make your franchise stand out amongst others in the market?
BC: I think we stand out because of our great quick service, the high standards, and the quality of the food we produce.
CBF: How has the business evolved since you started?
BC: I was the fifth location to open nine years ago. I opened my second location six years ago, and now there are more than 100 stores, so that says it all.
CBF: What are your future plans?
BC: My future plans are to have my general manager trained to become me so I can semi-retire in two years.