Innovation Across the Nation

Boston Pizza

Contrary to what one might think is suggested by the name of the franchise, Boston Pizza or BP is actually one of the largest Canadian food chains, with locations in the USA and Mexico (where the locations are named Boston’s). The birthplace of Boston Pizza was actually Edmonton, Alberta in 1964, and in 2014, the company will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Today it is owned by Jim Treliving and George Melville, who were originally the owners of a single franchise location in Penticton, British Columbia. After a few years owning the BP location, they were able to spot the popularity of the brand and capitalize by opening 16 new restaurants in British Columbia by 1983. At this point, Messrs. Treliving and Melville purchased the brand from its owner Ron Coyle, who had originally purchased the company from a Greek immigrant by the name of Gus Agioritis.

Although the roots of the brand are in Western Canada, by 1998 it had made its way across the nation to become Canada’s largest dining brand. The company has continued to expand and today boasts around 350 restaurants in Canada from coast to coast, most of which were actually opened within the past ten years.

As might be expected, the look of the restaurant was completely different 48 years ago, but the driving force behind such dramatic growth is the fact that the core of the business has always remained the same. “The food that was developed as part of the brand was always the best in the market,” explains Ken Otto, the Chief Operating Officer for Boston Pizza International. “It was a casual dining restaurant that was comfortable for everyone – families as well as the guy wanting a beer in a good environment – and that philosophy has remained with us over the past five decades. It really has been the reason we’ve done so well, where in every market in which Boston Pizza operates we celebrate the fact that we’re a restaurant for everybody and that both the dining room and the very lively and active sports bar have been and will continue to be keys to our success.”

Boston Pizza has always been focused on great pizza and pasta and that’s always formed the foundation of the menu. These food items continue to account for about 50 percent of sales, and according to Mr. Otto, the company will always continue to innovate and build within that category. At this point in time BP is doing just that, while continuing to grow at a rate of about five to ten new locations each year.

Mr. Otto explains that the company has recently embarked on a ‘multi channel’ approach to development that will see the brand and the sizing of its stores adapt to the markets in which they want to compete. Traditionally, Boston Pizza restaurants were standalone, occupying anywhere from 53,000 to 60,000 thousand square feet; the new model will include a smaller prototype of around 4000 square feet that can be installed into smaller markets across Canada. In fact, on the 5th of August, 2012 at the Alberta Institute of Technology as part of its new campus, a new fast and casual Boston Pizza location was built. This location is a unique counter-service operation that serves the company’s famous pizza, made-to-order pasta, famous chicken wings and cactus-cut potatoes. This is a great opportunity for the company to open up new locations that will serve high-end food courts, hospitals, universities, colleges and airports all across the country.

Many Boston Pizza locations have traditionally been located in suburban areas, but the company is now very excited about some of the new branches opening up in urban cores. For example, there is a beautiful Boston Pizza in Toronto on the corner of Front and John St. within the CBC building. This is a stunning new restaurant featuring colourful LED lights, over 100 television screens and two floors of seating. More such locations are opening up all over in metropolitan cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal – all exemplifying a new design for an urban neighbourhood. These locations are one room restaurant/sports bars that can be anywhere from 3,000 to 3,500 square feet in size.

In addition to the new storefront locations, on September 17th Boston Pizza will also be releasing a brand new menu. Within this new menu, the company has elected to celebrate beautiful food photography, as well as a very unique look. Around a quarter of the menu items themselves will also be re-engineered or replaced with new items which will actually make this the biggest new menu launch in the history of the company. “Some new menu items include calamari, a new interesting desert called pizza cookie, and an awesome meatball sandwich called the meatball grinder,” shares Mr. Otto. “Our executive chef is named Michael Gray; he’s a very talented young man who knows a lot about food and dining trends in our segment and with Michael’s leadership we have a team that looks at culinary trends across the country. We also have a fascinating two year plan to make sure that our menu always stays relevant to our guests; we like to remain on the leading edge of what our guests are looking for. For example, one of our new menu items is a pizza spring roll; it’s your traditional pizza toppings wrapped in a spring roll, so we can really celebrate our pizza heritage while being more innovative by putting it in menu items that perhaps our guests have never tried before.” The company is also enjoying a new partnership with Starbucks Coffee Co., and customers in British Columbia, Northern Alberta, Quebec and Atlantic Canada will be able to enjoy the brand’s new Blond Light Roast coffee as well as its Tazo Premium Tea.

Another new and exciting event coming up for Boston Pizza is the reimagining of the restaurants’ look. Every five to seven years, BP redesigns its base building prototype to give it a more up-to-date look. The upcoming new design is said to have exciting exterior and interior elements that will further allow the restaurants to connect to their guests and remain ahead of the competition.

One of the key elements to Boston Pizza’s success is that it truly is geared toward all people. The restaurants are family friendly, with a brand new kids’ menu sure to put a smile on the young ones’ faces. The company feels it is its mission to make customers feel comfortable, warm and welcome, whether they are in a business suit or an old pair of work pants and safety boots. Of course, to complement all that, the brand also offers an action packed sports bar that, in this writer’s experience, is a great place to hang out, grab a beer and watch your favourite hockey team beat the stuffing out of their opponents while you enjoy the great taste of a Boston Cheese Steak sandwich or one of the many other great selections. There are few other restaurants that can live up to this sort of atmosphere, with its great style, attractive decor and friendly staff.

Boston Pizza has grown into a top Canadian brand that has truly swept across the nation, and with this success the company has also been able to give back to the community. The Boston Pizza Foundation, over the past 20 years, has raised more than 14 million dollars for programs that are important to Canadians. The company supports the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes, and Kids Help Phone, amongst other terrific community organizations. “It’s a great way not only for our company but for our franchisees to celebrate their success by giving back,” says Mr Otto.

For more information about Boston Pizza and to view its delicious menu options, please visit www.bostonpizza.com – and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the new book entitled, ‘Decisions’ written by the Co-Founder of Boston Pizza, Mr. Jim Treliving.

August 24, 2017, 12:52 AM EDT

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