When halal meets the fast food franchise
Chadi Sreis and his B12 Burger franchise are making an impact in the Montreal food industry
Danial Farshchi and his friends enter a small burger shop in Laval. Inside they are adorned with a room with a few tables and a counter to order food. From the back, they can see freshly cooked burger patties being flipped in the kitchen. When asked what to order, the group scans the available menu – the selection contains a wide range of halal angus burgers, subway sandwiches, fried chicken and hot dogs. The young man decides to try the special B12 burger trio served with chips and fries. When he receives his order, he opens the box and finds himself faced with a juicy halal burger. The enormous patty, practically the size of his own head, is covered in a huge amount of cheese sauce and stuffed with onion rings, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes.
B12 Burger was once a small family store in Laval. It is one of the few local fast food restaurants to offer halal burgers to Muslim Quebecers like Danial Farshchi.
“There aren’t many trusted fast food chains that are 100% halal. A lot of places will say they’re legit, but there’s no proof, there’s nothing,” he said.
One of the main competitors of the B12 franchise is Bergham, which serves halal subway sandwiches. Customers like Danial Farshchi think their food is good, but the quality of service doesn’t reach the same level as B12.
In 2018, the company caught the eye of entrepreneur Chadi Sreis. He is one of the owners of the Lebanese fast food franchise Boustan. Sreis is a respected businessman with a busy schedule – our brief conversation took place on the phone while he was in his car. He was happy to discuss B12 and its origins while bouncing in and out of other work situations that arose during our phone conversation.
“I tried the burgers there and really liked it,” he said. “Initially, we [Sreis and his business partners] We were looking for all kinds of brands and we really liked this one. We believed in it and took it to the next level. Three restaurants are now open in Laval, Kirkland and Acadie Boulevard. “After acquiring the first store, we had to turn to banks to lend us money to start our own burger restaurants.”
The growing franchise continues to succeed despite the pandemic.
“Our revenue increased because the big malls were closing, so all of these little quick-service restaurants did pretty well during the pandemic,” he said. “The rent is lower, the space is lower, and the bills are generally lower.”
B12 achieved an annual volume of more than $1 million in 2020 according to Sreis. The Kirkland-based store continues to have around 75-150 customers a day, with the average customer spending around $18-20 per order. “During the pandemic, the sit down [area] was closed, so our menu was strictly available for people who wanted pick up and take out, or third party delivery.” Company spending has increased with delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash charging more than 30% on orders. Mr. Sreis claimed that the volume of sales during the pandemic has offset the additional expenses of third-party partners without accumulating debt. “It wasn’t really that bad. Don’t forget that we didn’t really need people to serve in the restaurant, and stuff like that. All you needed was people to cook.
Going forward, Chadi Sreis has big plans for the B12 franchise. “Right now, our main focus is to grow the business. Montreal is still a virgin market for us, and we only have three stores. The goal is to have 20 to 25 more branches on the island of Montreal within two to three years.
“There is high demand for the product as it is part of a niche market,” he added.
There are some things Danial thinks the franchise could improve on. The pitches are small and do not allow for comfortable dining experiences. “When I go there with my friends… I can’t tell you how many times we sat on the sidewalk outside the parking lot just because there was no room in the seats outside. inside!” he said. Another issue he has with the company is food packaging. Often when he orders from them through Uber Eats, the food is delivered soggy and cold. He also wants the burger to be better served while keeping its gigantic size. “For God’s sake, why can’t they cut the burger in half?” When I pick it up it’s so messy and I have to make sure the burger doesn’t fall off the buns.
Graphics courtesy of James Fay