Alex Shtein graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelors degree, and then continued his studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business. After graduation, he operated one of the largest banquet Halls in Toronto, with a capacity of over 1500 people, and as General Manager, was responsible for all aspects of its operation.
In 2005, Alex and a partner opened the first Barburrito Location at the heart of Little Italy in downtown Toronto. A year later, another location was added in North York, Ontario. Shortly therafter, the two partners went their separate ways, with Alex continuing the operation of the North York location, whilst his partner kept the downtown location and changed the name. In 2008, another Barburrito location opened in Markham, Ontario. In 2009, Barburrito Restaurants Inc. was incorporated in Ontario for the purpose of selling Barburrito Franchises, with Alex heading the company as President.
BeTheBoss.ca: Tell us about the BarBurrito concept.
Alex Shtein: Barburrito is an award winning Mexican Quick Service Restaurant concept featuring gourmet burritos, quesadillas, tacos and salads.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with BarBurrito?
AS: This journey started in 2005, with our first location in downtown Toronto. We knew we had something special from the very start. Seeing the same customers come back 3, 4 times a week led us to believe this concept was more than just another fast food restaurant. We understood that our attention to freshness, and the belief that even quick service restaurants should strive to avoid pre-packaged ingredients and make their products from scratch, was something that was being translated in the culinary experience of the customer. From there, we opened our next location and started thinking about franchising our concept.
BTB: What was your background prior to joining BarBurrito?
AS: My experience in the food industry started during high school on working at a National restaurant franchise for over four years. After I received my degree, I was the General Manager of one of the largest banquet halls in Toronto for nearly five years.
BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a BarBurrito franchisee?
AS: Firstly, is the opportunity to join an organization that is committed to the success of its franchisees, and one that is experiencing tremendous growth, but even more than that, we offer a business concept that has proven itself. Some of the things we offer are:
- Site Selection and Lease Negotiation
- Store design and construction
- Financial Assistance to qualified applicants
- Comprehensive training program including a minimum of 5 weeks on-hands training at one of our corporate locations plus a manager to work with you with your open your store.
- Field support and marketing programs specific to your location, including a pre-opening marketing campaign to jump start your business to immediate success
- Business management training, including bookkeeping software review
- Negotiated supply agreements
- Low Franchise and Royalty Fees
- An easy to execute concept, requiring no previous background in the Food Industry
- Strong Profit Model
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
AS: Is a franchisee that is committed to executing the system he/she has bought into and is passionate about what they do. We recognize our franchisees want to make money; that is ultimately the goal. But from our experience, the ones who consistently outperform expectations are those who are truly immersed in their craft. Passion is infectious, rubbing off on employees, who in turn begin to feel passionate about what they do and the success of the business they work for. This is a labour-intensive business and one that often employs students and other transient staff members, at or near minimum wage. Those staff members are the face of the business, and when they see the owner passionate about what they do, their performance skyrockets, customer experience is enhanced, which in turn creates creating happier, repeat customers.
BTB: Tell us a little about the (industry) Market?
AS: According to Entrepreneur magazine, Mexican food is the next big franchising opportunity, and I feel we are well positioned to take advantage of this trend. Basically, it feels a void for healthy, quick service food to complement the traditional options, usually served in a bun. The Mexican food market as a whole is rapidly gaining popularity; just check out your local supermarket. Where 5-10 years ago almost no Mexican products were available for mass consumption, today nearly every major grocery store has shelves dedicated to a variety of Mexican foods. We believe this segment, which has been tremendously popular in the U.S for quite some time, is going to continue and experience massive growth in Canada in the coming years.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
AS: I have learned a great number of things during the past few years, but the lessons that meant the most are the importance of branding, having the right franchisee partners to operate their locations, and to be flexible to changes in the marketplace.
BTB: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?
AS: My former employer at the Banquet Hall, who’s full time job is running a National Insurance Brokerage; a very smart man who taught me a great deal about business in general.
BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
AS: Make sure you are entering an industry you have passion for, and something you can see yourself doing for years to come.
BTB: In your opinion, why do you think that (Company Name) would be a great opportunity for someone?
AS: We are an off and running proven business concept, with opportunities for prime locations. We have a strong business model and a management team that is dedicated to the success of our franchisees.