Chadi Sreis and his B12 Burger franchise make an impact in the Montreal food industry
Danial Farshchi and his friends walk into a small burger shop in Laval. Inside, they are adorned with a room with a few tables and a counter for ordering food. From the back, they can see freshly made hamburger patties turned over in the kitchen. When asked what to order, the group perused the available menu – the selection contains a wide array of Halal Angus burgers, subway sandwiches, fried chicken, and hot dogs. The young man decides to try the special trio of B12 burgers served with fries and fries. When he receives his order, he opens the box and finds himself in front of a juicy halal burger. The huge patty, practically the size of its own head, is covered with a huge amount of cheese sauce and stuffed with onion rings, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes.
B12 Burger was once a little mom-and-pop boutique in Laval. It is one of the few local fast food restaurants to offer halal burgers to Muslim Quebecers like Danial Farshchi.
âThere aren’t many trusted fast food chains that are 100% Halal. A lot of places will say they are legitimate, but there is no proof, there is nothing, âhe said.
One of the main competitors of the B12 franchise is Bergham, serving halal sandwiches in the metro. Customers like Danial Farshchi think their food is good, but the quality of service is not on par with the 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 over the phone while in his car. He was delighted to discuss B12 and its origins while bouncing in and out of other work situations that arose during our conversation on the phone.
âI tried the burgers there and really liked it,â he said. âInitially, we [Sreis and his business partners] were looking at 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. âAfter acquiring the first store, we had to go to the banks to lend us the money needed to create our own burger restaurants.
The growing franchise remains a success despite the pandemic.
âOur income increased because the big malls were closing, so all of these little quick-service restaurants have done pretty well during the pandemic,â he said. âThe rent is lower, the space is lower and the bills are generally lower.
B12 achieved an annual volume of over $ 1 million in 2020 according to Sreis. The Kirkland-based store continues to have around 75-150 customers per day, with an average customer spending around $ 18-20 per order. âDuring the pandemic, the sit down [area] was closed, so our menu was strictly available for people who wanted to pick up and take out, or have third party deliveries. The company’s spending increased with delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash charging over 30% of orders. Mr Sreis claimed that the sales volume during the pandemic made up for the additional expenses of third-party partners without the accumulation of debt. âIt wasn’t really that bad. Remember, we didn’t really need people to serve in the restaurant, and stuff like that. All you need are people to cook.
Going forward, Chadi Sreis has big plans for the B12 franchise. âRight now, our main goal 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 locations on the island of Montreal within two to three years.
âThere is a strong demand for the product because it is part of a niche market,â he added.
There are some things Danial thinks the franchise could improve upon. The pitches are small and do not allow for comfortable dining experiences. “When I go there with my friendsâ¦ I can’t tell you how many times we have sat on the sidewalk outside the parking lot just because there is no room in the seats at the inside! ” he said. Another problem he has with the business is the packaging of food. Often times, when he orders from them through Uber Eats, the food is delivered soggy and cold. He also wishes the burger could be served better while still 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