A new compass for growth
Minnett’s own experience in Canada’s food-service franchising sector included stints as president of several Cara brands, including Kelsey’s from 2006 to 2009 and Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s from 2009 to 2013.
“I had a great time with Cara and learned a lot by working with many successful franchisees,” he says. “They were really a strong hospitality team.”
Now focusing on a single concept, rather than managing a portfolio, Minnett hired market research firm Sklar Wilton and Associates, design firm McKinley Burkart and marketing agency Ball Retail to help shape the further evolution of the Edo Japan brand in an increasingly crowded sector.
“There are nine million millennials who are driving the future of Canada’s quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry,” he says. “They serve as our compass, for our next wave of growth.”
So, after gathering professional insights over 15 months, including technological innovations and menu updates, Minnett’s team presented several new concepts to Edo Japan customers, then listened to their feedback.
This process led to the introduction of Edo Fresh Take, which Minnett describes as a lighter, brighter and more modern store design.
“The Teppanyaki grill is more visible,” he says. “New menu categories include a lineup of premium bowls. We’ve also added a ‘grab-and-go’ market wall, which adds both ambience to the overall design and another revenue-generating centre for the franchisee. It features our sushi, a variety of beverages and a new range of imported, packaged snacks.”
The next rollout
The first two Edo Fresh Take prototypes opened in Edmonton and Calgary in January and February, respectively. By way of example, the Calgary store is a renovation of an older Edo Japan location in the neighbourhood of Shawnessy.
“Starting this October, we plan to roll out the Edo Fresh Take design further, beginning with new store openings,” says Minnett. “We are in the final phase of cost-engineering these new-design buildouts.”
The franchise system has also reached Manitoba, with the first location in a six-store deal recently opening in Winnipeg.
“It’s in a mall, but our real growth will be with streetfront locations between 1,300 and 1,400 square feet,” Minnett explains, citing such advantages as lower rent per square foot. “We already have more of these than food court locations now.”
The first Vancouver Island streetfront store, for example, is planned to open in 2019. Another milestone targeted for the near future is Edo Japan’s first Ontario location, which Minnett expects will open in Mississauga by the end of January.
“We also have five corporate locations that will continue to serve as test labs for new ideas,” he says. “That’s where the franchisor team can live and breathe as restaurant owners, ensuring we understand our franchisees’ needs.”