In 2004, restaurant entrepreneur Scott Morison opened the first Brown’s Socialhouse in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Drawing from his previous restaurant and food industry experience, Morison decided to create a brand different from that of the standard restaurant chain. Today, there are over 28 Browns locations across Western Canada, three in Washington State, USA (under trademark Scotty Browns), and one opening in Oakville, Ontario in 2014. These operate as franchises.
This tremendous expansion over the past ten years is one of the largest and quickest the Canadian Business Journal team has ever witnessed. In late April, we set to find out what made Browns Socialhouse so unique.
In a conversation with Browns Vice President Development and Chief Operating Officer Bruce Fox, we discovered the restaurant group’s growth stems from its focus on promoting great guest experiences. In an industry where each brand strives to become the “latest and greatest,” Browns aims to create a comfortable, neighborhood feel, that is more intimate and yet an energized experience. They call it ‘socializing’.
“People love coming to Browns. We put the guest first. Their enjoyment is the focus of the entire experience,” explains Fox.
In a well-known statement currently headlining the company website, founder Scott Morison describes Browns as “fun, full of energy, and designed to be as comfy as my living room, without the dog hair.”
The design of Browns Socialhouse facilities promotes socializing. An open bar area, long wooden, live-edge tables, and outward-facing booths offer guests the opportunity to connect with old friends and perhaps meet some new. This is a place where young and old can relax, socialize, and enjoy a beverage together.
Cooking up Something New
Great food is what makes or breaks a restaurant. In September, 2013, Jason Labahn joined the Browns Restaurant Group team as Executive Chef. Labahn has an extensive culinary background, and spent much of his time working in Las Vegas at some of the most prestigious hotels and resorts including Jose Andres Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Wolfgang Puck, BRAND American Steakhouse and the Bellagio Resort to name a few, before moving to Vancouver, BC. Locally, he is known for his appearances on Breakfast Television, praising reviews in The Vancouver Sun, BC Business, and Food Arts Magazine, and contributions to the EAT! Vancouver festival.
Within a few short months, Jason’s brought new ideas into the Browns menu. Working alongside Brown’s Chef of Culinary Development Elizabeth Rivesplata (recognized for her role in Season 2 of Top Chef Canada), he’s developed an innovative new desert idea, expected to enter the menu within the next few months. This culinary creation has not yet been shown to the public; but based on Brown’s current research; it’s something to look forward to.
A new, high-tech test kitchen (also known as ‘BCDC’ – Browns Culinary Development Centre) will begin operations in June and will be the chef’s new playground, available to them 24/7. Here, Labahn and Rivesplata will research and develop new culinary masterpieces for the Brown’s menu. Chefs from each franchise location will also be given the opportunity to train and master the Browns menu in this learning facility.
Meeting the Market
For Brown’s, the market response speaks for itself. In July 2013, Brown’s entered the Alberta restaurant market. The province’s first location in Red Deer was an instant success. Full dinner services and active nighttime bar prove the restaurant’s popularity with the locals. As noted in a May 2013 Red Deer Advocate article, Brown’s lack of a separate lounge appeals to the younger population of the city. Their second Alberta location opens up in Grande Prairie in May 2014.
The name Browns Socialhouse is synonymous with success. Guests Canada-wide praise its great food and lively atmosphere. Culinary review sites such as Urban Spoon and Yelp give many of Browns locations 4/5, 4.5/5, and 5/5 star ratings. Visitor comments praise the inviting atmosphere, great service, and delicious food.
This past April (2014), Browns received the Canadian Franchise Association’s Gold award in the “New/Emerging Franchises” category. Brown’s Gold award represents the highest standard presented at the annual Awards in Excellence in Franchising gala.
Future Plans for Browns Socialhouse
Don’t be surprised when a Browns Socialhouse opens in your neighborhood. This brand shows no signs of slowing their expansion. Browns already has the real estate and plans in place to construct over twenty new locations in Western Canada. By the end of 2014, over forty Browns Socialhouse locations will be operational in the region.
“We’ve been noticed, there’s absolutely no question,” says Fox.
Fox expects the Oakville, Ontario location to open to the public in October. Browns is currently in discussions to open another Ontario location (region not yet disclosed) in the near future. Entry into the Eastern Canadian market is also under consideration.
For U.S. guests, Scotty Browns will continue to grow. With three successful locations in Washington State, there’s no doubt Browns is making an impact. The company is currently in discussions to expand into two other, not yet disclosed states.
“What we really want to do now is connect with experienced industry people who want to get involved with an exciting brand,” explains Fox, “Browns is growing and we need the right operators to facilitate that.”
Whether you’re interested in capital prospects or the challenge of running a franchise, Brown’s Restaurant Group is a company to watch. This opportunity to own and run a successfully operated franchise brand should spark the interest of entrepreneurial restaurant manager’s nation-wide.
If you’re interested in being a part of this growing brand, you can contact Bruce Fox directly at [email protected]