How a small institution became a sizeable franchise: Boustan’s ongoing story
For Gen X and Millennial Montrealers familiar with the downtown core, Boustan was always known as an “institution”, and a “staple” for Lebanese fast-casual dishes like shawarma and falafel. Founded in 1986, the single location near Concordia University would stay open late for the nightclub crowd, and was especially loved for their grilling technique that left pita bread crispy and ever so slightly charred.
When it was acquired in 2011, many questioned if they would be able to maintain their quality and taste. Today, Boustan is a franchise with over 50 locations in Canada. It is safe to say that they are as loved today as they were in the 90’s.
Emad Saad, Boustan’s president, actually acquired the franchise business in 2018, as the new owners were having difficulties scaling and maintaining consistency across a small number of stores. With an IT background, the entrepreneur sought to implement systems and processes that would not only help the franchise business grow, but would also help maintain consistency in quality and service. Part of that solution was MYR POS.
“We want every single store to provide the same great service and high quality product. We’re pretty adamant about everyone following the same formula, and of course that extends to the point of sale”
A move towards automation and better tech
“I love that Boustan was a cherished restaurant with a legacy, but a business can’t survive on legacy alone, especially not among younger generations,” explains Saad. “First of all, I restructured the business from an operational standpoint so that we could ensure uniformity and quality which as we know, is crucial for franchises. I also sought to make it more contemporary to reflect more modern tastes.”
Consistency is key
All 50+ Boustan locations have been running on MYR POS since 2020.
“We want every single store to provide the same great service and high quality product. We’re pretty adamant about everyone following the same formula, and of course that extends to the point of sale,” says Saad.
The switch to MYR came at an ideal time, as they needed curbside pickup and delivery integrations to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Right before the pandemic hit, we were working with MYR on our curbside pickup service. Actually, we got it going just in time, which definitely helped us stay alive.”
Staying at the forefront of food trends
Currently, Boustan offers more than the usual fast-casual Lebanese fare. In addition to ever-popular chicken pita sandwiches and garlic potatoes, they serve protein bowls with innovative flavours, kids’ meals, and vegan kebab.
“Staples are great, but you constantly have to innovate if you want to be competitive. We introduced the vegan kebab because veganism is on the rise. That one menu item generated over 5 million in sales this year. It’s based on shiitake mushrooms, so it doesn’t contain a lot of that artificial stuff that so many meat-alternatives have these days. We like to promote a healthy diet, which is also why we developed the kids’ meals, and why we are exploring partnerships with schools,” says Saad.
360-degree solutions for delivery and takeout
The POS they were using before lacked a lot of functionality. The Boustan operators were looking for something that could integrate with all of the popular third-party delivery solutions, and other software.
“We needed a Quickbooks integration, as well as Uber Eats and Door Dash. The MYR team was super responsive and worked hard to make it all possible in a pretty timely manner. They also provide the white-label online ordering app. I think people realize by now that franchises in this market need a solid online and delivery operation. With MYR, our online sales have been a massive success.”
Franchisor needs vs Franchisee needs
As head of the franchise, reporting functionality to make better decisions in terms of sales and ingredients is essential for controlling costs and forecasting profits.
“What I appreciate most about MYR is their eagerness to adapt and solve problems. They provide great service. Our former POS partner would tell us why they couldn’t do something. MYR is solutions-oriented. Right now we’re working with them on some new reporting functionality, and the communication is superb. Basically, whatever we need, they listen and respond. It’s a growing company that is constantly adapting, like us,”
For franchisees, a system that is easy to use and stable is the most important thing. The Boustan franchisee operators love that MYR runs on an iPad that doesn’t crash, and that it’s easy for staff to learn.
“One of our franchisees runs a couple of other franchises. He loves using MYR at Boustan so much that he had it adopted by the other franchise company!” shares Saad.
Boustan’s short-term and long-term outlook
Boustan has massively expanded over the past four years, and they will be penetrating the American market in the coming months. In the short term, however, they’ll be focusing more on growing franchisee sales and working on the product, rather than opening more stores.
“We always look to improve taste and quality, and next year, we’re going to invest more heavily in terms of our suppliers, cooking methods, ingredients, and so forth. We recently invested in an oven that cooks food more efficiently and uses less oil. We’ll keep making these kinds of improvements so that customers not only get a meal that’s as tasty as possible, but as healthy as possible without significantly raising prices,” he says.
In the long-term, possibilities are endless. “I think if we keep up with the trends while maintaining the essence of what we’re about, which is fresh Mediterranean food, the sky’s the limit in terms of growth. Technology has to be part of the package for any franchise. Without automation, growth isn’t possible. MYR will be part of our formula, and part of our success story, that’s for sure.”
For Saad, MYR is a system with a lot of value. “MYR does what we need it to do, but is really simple and streamlined. It’s also well-priced. As far as we’re concerned, it’s probably the best one on the market for our type of business in terms of value.”
Boustan found a system adapted to its fast-casual franchise model
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