Obsidian Group

Ontario management group finds its niche

Since opening its doors, Canadian-owned Crabby Joe’s Tap and Grill has delighted patrons with quality food and a fun, inviting environment. And don’t let the Crabby Joe’s demeanour fool you; he’s happy that you’re there, too.

Crabby Joe’s is one of Ontario’s most successful restaurant chains, growing to over 36 locations from Sarnia to Belleville, and expanding at a rate of seven restaurants every year. With every new opening, customers are becoming more enamoured with the unique and welcoming atmosphere of the casual dining restaurant, and the brand itself grows strong in terms of business value, purchasing power and brand awareness.

Crabby Joe’s success is the result of fitting into a niche that was underserved and standing out with exceptional value, atmosphere and taste. The restaurant chain also has the advantage of being managed by a formidable management team called Obsidian Group, a management company formed to develop, market, and manage hospitality and real estate interests.

When asked about the Obsidian Group’s vision for Crabby Joe’s, Gary Sherbanow, President, says that the team set out to create the go-to casual dining restaurant with a sports theme (because Ontario loves its sports). Crabby Joe’s menu appeals to a broad range of appetites, whether you are craving a classic burger and fries, pasta, steaks, ribs, seafood, wraps, soups, salads…hungry yet?

Crabby Joe’s also has one of the most attention-grabbing icons in the market today: the caricature of a grumpy old man serves as a welcome reprieve from unctuous marking strategies that have been flooding the market. After all, food and sports is supposed to be fun, and Crabby Joe’s fun starts right with the name and continues throughout the customer experience, where patrons are encouraged to enter contests, or laud servers with the “Crabbiest Boss of the Month” awards.

As a franchise, Obsidian Group is always on the lookout for master franchisee to help build the brand. Franchisees are given a turnkey operation—Obsidian does the work of finding the location, building the restaurant, providing in-house training and whatever support is needed to optimize the success of the restaurant. Despite very diverse backgrounds, Obsidian Group has amassed a team of franchisees who share a dedication to being hands-on, hard workers with a shared vision of success.

Coffee Culture

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was no denying a new behemoth had settled into the food and drink category. Coffee houses had become a huge force in the market with a very strong customer appeal; North Americans spend over $18 billion a year on coffee consumption. Many high-end gourmet coffee locations sprouted up in that time, and the Canadian market is famous of its quick and easy coffee chains.

This was seen as an opportunity by the Obsidian management that there was a required niche in the market between your regular coffee shop and the high end gourmet coffee purveyors. “We felt that a concept that gave the customers the choice between those two ends of the market would be the right thing to do,” says Sherbanow. “Then we decided that customers, instead of being hurried through their purchases, should be offered a café fee, a place to revive the art of conversation and then have a selection of sandwiches, salads and desserts to take advantage of.”

In five short years, Coffee Culture has grown to an impressive 45 locations, proof that their concept has been very well received. The brand has also expanded to nine other locations in New York state and Pennsylvania.

“As the name suggests, at Coffee Culture the coffee is great. We purchase high quality whole roasted coffee beans and grind them fresh for delicious coffee, espresso, latté and cappuccino,” says Sherbanow. With plasma TV and Internet connection, Coffee Culture is an ideal place to meet friends or to have some time to yourself. “We want customers to enjoy the environment,” says Sherbanow, and the company has expanded on menu offerings so people could come at different times of day between 7 a.m. and midnight. Coffee Culture’s old-world, European flair is the perfect place for any time for day, from breakfast to an after-dinner dessert—the perfect end to the day.

Union Burger

Opened just under a year ago, Union Burger serves North America’s deeply ingrained love affair with burgers. Managed by Obsidian Group, Union Burger has carved out its own niche in the food and beverage industry by offering a high quality burger for a very competitive price. “We looked at the market place and came down between the regular quick-service restaurant and a gourmet burger, so we split and made our own niche. “

Union Burger is distinct in other ways as well, most importantly for its perfect union of fresh, 100 per cent Canadian burgers, fresh, homemade buns and hand cut French fries cooked in peanut oil. Take, for example, the Peppercorn Burger with cracked black pepper, caramelized onions, lettuce, whiskey BBQ sauce, goat cheese. “We deliver the unique Union Burger experience to each and every customer that walks through our doors, selling food and delivering service that makes them smile,” says Sherbanow.

Crabby Joe’s, Coffee Culture and Union Burger are three distinct brands that have each independently settled into its own place in the market and have garnered customer response beyond expectation. With an operational team specific to each banner and district managers assigned to certain groups Obsidian Group work closely to enhance operations and food quality, to the purpose of making customer experience No.1.