Humpty’s Family Restaurants

Canada’s Favourite Family Restaurant

Don and Jan Koenig started Humpty’s Family Restaurant in 1977. The couple, who already owned three small soup and sandwich shops as well as a thriving catering company, wanted to fill a need for the underserved all-day breakfast market in Calgary, Alta. After conducting a year and a half of market research, Humpty’s Egg Place was opened in a small 50-seat establishment, to the great enthusiasm of the community. “We found a lot lacking in the breakfast business,” says Don Koenig. “In other words it wasn’t very creative, strictly your basic pancakes, bacon, eggs, that sort of thing. It didn’t really have a lot of variety to breakfast. So we decided we wanted to make it more interesting and offer a variety of different products that you didn’t see on any of the other menus.”

What the Koenigs didn’t realize at the time was that these guiding principles of ardent market research, an interesting and value-driven menu, and a focus on small communities would be the template for the restaurant chain’s 35 years of success.

“We had no intention of going any further than where we were,” recalls Koenig. “But we did open up in 1980 a second location because we saw there was an opportunity there. We still weren’t making a lot of money at this business, but we were enjoying ourselves.”

However, in 1980 something happened. Humpty’s started to gain a following, and customers were looking for more of what the Koenigs were serving. “All of a sudden we started to get inquiries from people from across the country, even into the U.S., inquiring about franchise information. We didn’t have a clue about the franchising market, but all of a sudden there were requests because customers happened to drop into one of two locations, and they found the menu peaked their interest.”

The Koenigs took two years to educate themselves on franchise laws and regulations so that by 1982, they were then in position where they could franchise. All they needed next was a track record, a franchisee who others could turn to as an example of Humpty’s being a valuable business partner. “In the meantime, we had added a couple more corporate locations,” says Koenig. “In 1986, four years after we actually were able to franchise, we had an account manager from a financial institution become one of our franchisees in Red Deer, Alta. Right from the start, our franchisee was successful and therefore essentially became a third party advocate for us, within two months we had awarded three more franchises because of her.

“That was sort of the stepping-stone to get the system off the ground with respect to franchising. Of course, the rest is history.”

Humpty’s Family Restaurants haven’t changed a great deal from its humble beginnings, though the menu has grown to offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while remaining dedicated to an outstanding breakfast menu. The company officially changed its name in 1988 to Humpty’s Family Restaurants to reflect this. “We started to add locations through the coming years. By 1990, we were up to about 23 locations, and we currently have 49 locations in Western Canada, with locations from Winnipeg to Fort St. John, B.C.”

Humpty’s Family Restaurants are one of the few franchises in the mid-scale family restaurant system that will go into markets that are under 5,000 people. “I think that’s been a selling point for us, and we do very well in small town markets. And that’s why our interest is still in Eastern Canada, whether it’s Ontario or the Atlantic provinces,” says Koenig. Ontario, with its large population base and easy accessibility to many potential locations in a confined area is ideal for the Humpty’s system.
Koenig says Humpty’s has thrived in rural communities, and says it is where he finds the most loyal employees and customers.

“We’ve tried to keep our prices the most competitive in the industry, and tried to maintain standardized product lines, which means that a lot of our menu revolves around comfort food. And with the competitive pricing we also have to be generous with our portions — that is what keeps people coming back.”

When asked his favourite item on the menu, Koenig points to the extensive R&D done throughout the year, and constantly adding new and exciting items to the menu, but, then, motions towards the Humpty’s Family Restaurant’s Pan Scrambler as a fan favourite. “The Pan Scrambler represents about 17 per cent of our sales. It’s an amazing item that we developed in 1994. Other restaurants have tried to duplicate it, but ours is unique, as nobody has been able to duplicate our special cheese sauce. Other than that, we’ve got 160 items on our menu, so I can’t really pick one.”

Humpty’s serves more than just food for its communities. Every franchisee makes sure to reach out into the communities in which it operates. “For example, we’ve had a couple of communities in the last two years where their arenas have burned down. When you’ve got communities of 5,000 people, that’s a big deal,” says Koenig. Humpty’s will hold fundraising events, and will contribute sales to pressing needs in the community. “This gives us an opportunity to be leaders with respect to local promotions, and that builds community spirit — it’s as much as we can do, and we find it’s very important.”

Giving back to the community on a national scale, it should be noted that Humpty’s Family Restaurants has raised over $300,000 over the past 10 years for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Canada.

As Humpty’s Family Restaurant goes forward, Koenig and his wife hope to always maintain the familial atmosphere of the company. “Because it’s all about family: from our customers to our franchisees to our staff, many who have been around more than 20 years. That’s the legacy we want to carry on.” 

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