As we spend longer hours at work, and more time outside the house at play, the need for healthy, fresh and delicious meals on the go options rises; no longer are Canadians willing to sacrifice nutrition for convenience.
John Essaris, President of La Prep restaurant chain, has positioned his company perfectly to respond to this growing customer trend. La Prep is a Montreal-based premium quick food restaurant chain that draws in the rushed lunch and business crowds looking for freshly-prepared sandwiches, salads, soups, baked good, breakfast foods, and delectable coffees. With over 50 locations in major urban centres across Canada (and an additional location in Miami), La Prep is one of Canada’s most exciting new quick service franchises.
Essaris’ vision was to create a company that would help customer desire to live well and eat well every day. At La Prep, the food is an experience, with the sights and smells of freshly made meals entice the customer and create a welcoming experience. “Ensuring you can eat well every day is our contribution to your wellbeing,” says Essaris.
“Our commitment to preparing fresh fare quality products daily from scratch in our kitchens while maintaining our premium coffee standards makes us unique within our segment.”
New name to reflect menu
If the name La Prep isn’t entirely familiar, try Café Supreme. Facing increasing obstacles in trademarking, Essaris renamed the company to La Prep to better articulate the basis of the restaurant, which is freshly prepared foods. Like Café Supreme, La Prep is pronounced easily in both French and English and very easily remembered.
“With minimal awareness, when we first introduced the Café Supreme brand in Western Canada it became apparent that the market didn’t relate to our standard product offerings as the name was very generic in content with a primary focus on coffee. Therefore the objective was to improve our market positioning by clearly identifying a brand that would provide us with a stronger point of differentiation,” says Essaris.
“As our primary performance results to date have been predominately related on providing freshly prepared food products daily, the new La Prep brand better represented what we stood for throughout the Canadian market.”
La Prep has managed to grow into one of the country’s fastest expanding franchises in an economic environment that has not been kind to the food industry, with global food prices rising, causing companies to make difficult decisions.
“As with all food service chains, the recent global food prices have had an impact on our costs, which we continue to monitor very closely through supplier negotiations and competitive analysis,” says La Prep Vice-President John Beauparlant.
“As a national chain, we remain dedicated to ensuring that we offer the highest quality products to our customers and will never sacrifice quality as this has been the primary backbone of our overall success. As we prepare the majority of our products from scratch in order to maintain our commitment to the consumer of ‘Daily Fresh’, we have been challenged by increased manufacturing costs and have recently been forced to introduce a minor price increase throughout the chain in an effort to maintain our store margins. We trust that the commodity pricing market will eventually settle down over the next few months in order to minimize any future impact on our industry.”
Bringing Canada to the world
While quickly becoming a Canadian lunch and breakfast institution, La Prep is working with its franchisee owners overseas to convert the existing Café Supreme locations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Cairo. In countries with large ex-pat populations, such as Dubai, where a high percentage of the population are foreigners, La Prep brings a unique Canadian experience. Essaris is currently in discussion with potential franchisee owners who also wish to continue La Prep’s expansion in the Middle East countries.
“We offer a business opportunity in countries that are looking for a unique North American concept that will achieve positive potential revenues,” says Essaris.
“Being a small company means we have the flexibility as owners to adapt to certain market conditions in local countries, being menu offering, beverage offering and adjust the menu and systems accordingly to kind of go-with-the-flow of what the country is accustomed to,” he adds. “I think we bring a lot of that to the table in allowing that flexibility. Not to say we don’t standardize our system but we can also be flexible in certain parts that allow us to grow that much quicker.”
Beauparlant and Essaris are confident in the La Prep concept, and customers are responding in droves. “In the initial stages of our development, several consumers commented on our ability to provide a consistent quality product with a focus on offering a larger variety then most of our competitors,” says Beauparlant.
“Our ability to evaluate consumer trends and maintain product appeal through our upscale store décor and image has since played an integral part of our success. The further development of the brand through our dedicated, highly skilled, professional team of franchisees has continued to enhance our ability to grow the concept throughout the Canadian market. The wellbeing of any successful business is based on the strength of its people and we are extremely pleased to have had a dedicated group in our home office and in the field that has maintained our core values throughout the years.
“As a sophisticated consumer, I’ve always had a significant interest in those food service establishments that maintained a high degree of standards in quality, service, and overall ambiance. As our family got more involved in the industry I began to acquire a stronger dedication and drive to the overall development of the business henceforth our future growth of La Prep,” says Essaris.