Smoke’s Aims to Take Poutine Dominance Worldwide
Smoke’s Brands, most famous for its poutine-only restaurants, has opened 39 new locations and has dozens more in development about a year after the chain announced it would expand to more than 1,000 shops by 2020.
“I’ve been claiming global domination since I opened up that first one … and nobody believed me,” Ryan Smolkin, founder and chief executive of the company, said in a recent interview.
Smolkin says he’s hit every expansion target since the poutinerie’s launch in November 2008. The company currently has 76 restaurants in Canada and five in the United States, and is on track to grow to 1,300 shops in the U.S. and in western Europe, the Middle East, Australia and in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020.
One of the only ways to accomplish such a bold expansion is through master franchise or licence agreements, said Ann Stone, a lecturer at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business and former chief marketing officer at several U.S.-based franchised organizations.
Under such agreements, a master franchiser buys rights to develop a geographic area and can then sub-license Smoke’s locations to other franchisees. It’s a very popular model in the Middle East, said Stone.
Smoke’s, in fact, plans to ink those types of agreements for its 150-store overseas expansion, said Smolkin, with the Middle East or the U.K. likely to be first in line.
But master franchise agreements aren’t very popular in the United States, Stone says, where the bulk of the company’s growth is meant to happen.
Hundreds of stores in the U.S., therefore, will be “very challenging” for Smoke’s, Stone said.