Ken Monteith is the Senior Vice President of Country Style and MR.SUB for the MTY group. He is responsible for setting the strategic direction and all operating units for both banners. Ken has been in the food service business for the last 25 years.
Ken started his career with McDonalds Canada and has held senior roles at Mmmuffins Canada Corporation, Purolator Canada and Second Cup coffee company.
Over the last 10 years at Country Style, Ken has been responsible for the Operations of the business, before he was promoted to Senior Vice President of Country Style and MR.SUB in 2011. During his time with the Company, Ken has played an integral role in the re-branding of the Country Style brand, franchisee relations, as well as the Co-Branding of Country Style and MR.SUB. Ken continues to drive the business with a focus on new strategies for each Brand, as well as unit development and research and development.
BeTheBoss: Tell us about the Country Style concept.
Ken Monteith: Country Style is a Canadian Brand that has been around for 50 years! It started as a donut shop in the early 60s and expanded into more than just a coffee/donut shop. As the market place changed, the consumer was looking for something more, Country Style evolved with the consumer. Today, the focus is still on great coffee, which is a proprietary blend. We still grind the beans on site for a better, fresher cup of coffee. However, the menu has expanded to 12 breakfast sandwiches, more baked goods, baked fresh on site, a lunch program called Bistrodeli that focuses on unique offerings, with bread baked daily on site. Healthier options are also available, as the demand has increased for more choice and variety. Recently Country Style launched a new strategy focusing on our ALL Day Breakfast. Breakfast has been a growing category at Country Style and it continues to create strong points of difference from the competition. We have consistently offered choice, variety, value and quality.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with Country Style?
KM: I joined Country Style is 2001 as the Director of Operations and was promoted to Vice President of Operations in 2002. I was offered an opportunity to be a part of a team that was focused on rejuvenating and rebranding Country Style. As well, my objective was to stabilize the operational standards of the business and improve franchisee relations. I found this to be an exciting opportunity, to be affiliated with a brand that has so much equity in the Canadian Market and a brand that has a strong and loyal customer base
BTB: What was your background prior to joining Country Style?
KM: My background has been in retail food service. My experience spans 30 years with the following companies; McDonalds Restaurants, Muffins Canada, Second Cup Coffee Company.
BTB: What are some of the advantages to being a Country Style franchisee?
KM: Proven operating system with training programs and expert staff that provide guidance to the franchisee. Brand Strategy – good franchise systems have strategies that drive product development, advertising, marketing and promotions. These elements are critical to sales development. Expert Advice- Business Development consultants that build relationships and work with the franchisees. Purchasing ‘Power’ – capability of providing franchisees with pricing advantages on products. Brand strength is established and there is a proven track record.
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
KM: The ideal franchisee is passionate and committed. They must have a strong work ethic. They need to love interacting with customers and understand the need to exceed the expectations of the customer. The ideal franchisee has strong leadership skills and is a good communicator. They have to be able to motivate employees to key performance. They must be ''mayors' of the community, entrenched in their trading area, know their customers, know their community and be involved. A good franchisee must be willing to spend money and time in order to make money. They have to promote be able to use the resources available to them to help build their own business.
BTB: Tell us a little about the industry.
KM: The quick service restaurant industry is an ever changing one and extremely competitive. There was a period of a few years where we saw the coffee industry stagnant, however, in the last few quarters there appears to be growth and it remains steady. This is due in part to the increased development of specialty chains, as well as other QSR operators focusing on the breakfast daypart. However, with the introduction of single serve coffee units (i.e. Keurig, Tassimo), the coffee industry is vulnerable to in-home consumption numbers that are on the rise. In the submarine/sandwich market, it continues to see steady growth and is a strong category with 52% Canadian users.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
KM: One of the key learnings is understanding the ever changing needs of the consumer. The consumer has a lot more information available to them. They are much more aware of what they are consuming. They hold food service accountable and are more health conscious. This has inspired my team and me to stay ahead of the curve. We have focused our product development on offering healthier options. We have put the onus on our suppliers to get trans fat out of our baked goods and lower sodium levels in our products. We continue to challenge both our suppliers and ourselves to offer the best possible products on the market. We realize that it is important to continue to reinvent ourselves and give customers choice.
BTB: Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
KM: I have learned a lot from my past bosses, Michael Bregman, and Alton McGewen. They were inspirational in teaching me how to be a good leader, how to set vision and execute on strategy. They were both fearless in their thinking and that stayed with me as I have lead my team through challenging times in the industry.
BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Country Style franchise?
KM: This is a tough business - it's an owner operator business that requires focus and attention. This can be a very rewarding business that allows you to interact with customers and be successful. However, it takes dedication, hard work and a passion for food service. My advice is to do your homework, talk to other Franchisees, go experience the concept you're interested in as a customer. It's important you understand the industry, hear from people who run the business day to day, what the challenges are and what the opportunities are. I think the more a potential franchisee is prepared and arm themselves with information; they will be able to make an informed decision that is right for them and their family.
BTB: In your opinion, why do you think Country Style would be a great opportunity for someone?
KM: Both Country Style and MR.SUB are Canadian Brands with a lot of equity. They are both proven concepts with strong resources available to a franchisee. Both these businesses are ideal for families to operate together. It is this business model that has allowed our Franchisees to be successful. Our business model is set up for success. A new Franchisee coming into our system can be assured that they will have the resources available to them to help them be successful. Our online training program is ideal for new franchisees but also staff, this takes the pressure off Franchisees to train and they can focus on the business. Marketing, development, product development and in field support are all managed by the Franchisor to ensure their investment is protected, and continues to grow.