Poutine chain targets market
A Canadian poutine chain with a vision to "achieve global domination" in its category is targeting the Michigan market, including Grand Rapids.
Ryan Smolkin, CEO of Ajax, Ontario-based Smoke’s Poutinerie, said he has high hopes the fast-food company will open a location in Grand Rapids within the next six months, as part of the launch of a franchisee group that has the franchise rights to Michigan.
Smolkin opened the first Smoke’s Poutinerie in Toronto in 2009. The business takes the classic Canadian side dish of French fries, cheese and gravy and turns it into a meal by offering unlimited toppings.
“This is an iconic Canadian dish, and while they argue who invented it, I invented a category and want to take it across the world,” Smolkin said. “I wanted to be the first and now the largest poutine chain in the world — that’s why it’s global domination.”
The Michigan franchise group is made up of Joel Northam, Toine Murphy, Hilarie Tolsma and Craig Comer.
The group will mostly target Grand Rapids, East Lansing and Ann Arbor for expansion, but it will also focus on Detroit. The group is close to closing on its first location in Ann Arbor.
“People in the Midwest know it and love it, and now we have to get them to love it even more by putting their favorite foods on top of it,” Smolkin said. “This group in Michigan, they don’t want to open one store and wait and maybe open another two a year or two later. These guys want multiples opening quickly.
Smoke’s Poutinerie has 100 locations in Canada, as well as locations in California, Florida and Arizona.
Smolkin said there are 50 locations sold and in development in the U.S.
Forty locations are set to open within the next six weeks, and there are talks for more international expansion.
Smolkin said the franchise expects to have 200 locations by the end of 2016 and has a goal of 1,300 locations by 2020, with a major focus on non-traditional retail channels, such as stadiums, arenas, zoos, malls, colleges and airports.
“We’re focusing on U.S. expansion through 2016, 2017, 2018,” he said.