Downtown store ready to open in a few weeks, sports mural on side of building
You might call it a Newfoundland tourist’s dream.
Imagine: Tasting taters in Turkey. Biting into a Big Mary in Bolivia.
Mary Brown’s is set to open its 41st restaurant in the province at its new Water Street location in a couple of weeks, but the company is setting its sights internationally.
At the restaurant’s Adelaide Street mural unveiling on Saturday, owner and CEO Greg Roberts discussed the company’s future.
While the brand is a household name in Newfoundland and Labrador, its main growth right now is happening in Ontario.
“When I first started, it was probably one of Canada’s best-kept secrets.” — Hadi Chahin, President and COO
Roberts said he expects there will be a few hundred stores in Ontario alone in the years to come.
Within a year, he aims to have 200 restaurants across Canada — an increase of roughly 40 locations, the majority of which will open in central and western parts of the country.
At the mural unveiling, Kingston, Ontario franchisees Peggy and Charlie Young said they’re proud to take their passion for the brand from Newfoundland to Ontario.
The couple is originally from Bell Island.
“We grew up on Mary Brown’s, of course,” said Charlie, and when the Kingston location went up for sale in 2015 they jumped at the chance to purchase it.
In that time, he said they’ve managed to take their restaurant from the top 40 Mary Brown’s locations in Ontario, according to sales, to the number one.
And their restaurant isn’t the only one seeing such rapid growth in the past few years.
Since Hadi Chahin became president and COO about two and a half years ago, the company has set its sights on expanding nationally and internationally.
“When I first started, it was probably one of Canada’s best-kept secrets,” said Chahin.
He said they’re specifically looking at opening locations in Latin America, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom, with the expectation that they’ll have their first international location outside of Canada and the United States within a year.
In 2017, the restaurant expanded to the United States with a diner in Florida.
Roberts said his vision for the company is to be recognized worldwide.
“A lofty goal, but we’re actually getting closer now,” he smiled.
‘Everyone sees it as their own brand’
There’s already one quick service chicken restaurant called Marry Brown seeming to imitate the brand in Dubai.
“They say imitation is the highest form of flattery,” said Roberts, who seemed unfazed by the imitators.
In fact, he said he met them at a franchise show in Dubai last year, and learned they are from Malaysia. He said the product they offer isn’t made fresh from scratch like Mary Brown’s.
“We’re not too worried about them, but they do create a few headaches with our branding and our intellectual property in some countries.”
Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, Roberts said the brand is essentially “maxed out”.
“It hasn’t been our growth centre for a long time, besides same-store sales.”
He said 41 stores for 500,000 people is a pretty large chain.
“I want to thank Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for what they’re doing for our company – it’s just remarkable…the support they give us is just unbelievable, and I don’t know any brand in the world that got so much support from home.”
Roberts said there was a time when sales in this province were much higher than the mainland, but these days sales are roughly the same nation-wide.
"I don’t know any brand in the world that got so much support from home.” — Greg Roberts, owner and CEO
Still, it’s Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are the brand’s “ambassadors,” he said.
“Everyone sees it as their own brand.”
He said whenever they open a new store across the country, expats show up and “push the brand,” bringing their friends with them.
“It usually starts off, like, Newfoundlanders will come – two, three, four times a week – then, eventually, it will die down, they might come once a week.
“But by that time, they got a lot of friends and acquaintances coming, and then we’re embedded into the community.”