Ron Cecillon, a veteran of the hospitality industry, has taken over as the new Chief Executive Officer of Balzac’s Coffee Roasters with plans to grow the brand from its base in southern Ontario to other parts of the country.
“We underwent an extensive search and selection process and met with some amazing candidates. In the end, all parties unanimously agreed that along with his deep industry expertise, Ron best reflects our company’s values and culture,” said Diana Olsen, the company’s president and founder.
“We feel so fortunate to be gaining a leader with Ron’s experience, talent and vision. I look forward to collaborating with Ron on the Balzac’s brand as we work towards building on the solid foundation and momentum achieved over the past 25 years.”
Cecillon, who has a long history at Kelsey’s, Harvey’s, and Swiss Chalet, was recruited into the role of CEO at Nando’s Flame Grilled Chicken in 2011, where he made a significant impact on the transformation of the brand and its business model. Tasked with evolving and transforming the Canadian business, he focused on culture, people and the repositioning of the brand; opening 25 locations, renovating the real estate, and more than tripling the annual sales volume.
“The Balzac’s story is certainly one to be proud of when it comes to Canadian hospitality,” said Cecillon. “With its strong brand credibility, leading reputation, dedicated customer base, and robust long-term success strategy this is a unique and exciting opportunity. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Diana Olsen and the team to lead the Balzac’s brand into its next stage of strategic growth and development.”
“I do prefer founder-led, company owned and operated businesses and it’s a great product. It’s an exceptional product. Exceptionally designed spaces and we have an exceptional team as well. The ability to grow and partner with a founder was what drove me to take on this opportunity.”
Balzac’s currently has 14 locations with four under development. The locations are all in the southern Ontario and Greater Toronto Area. The company started as a coffee cart operation in its early days in 1993 with the first cafe opening in 1996 in Stratford, Ontario.
“We don’t endeavour to be the next Starbucks or the next Tim Hortons. That’s not what we want. We are a boutique coffee company that wants to scale but still feel boutique. If we looked at nationally, I can’t really see us doing more than 100 or 150 because we’re looking for smaller, unique spaces where we’re part of the community versus scaling it across the country,” said Cecillon.
“We’re looking nationally from our wholesale business which is in the grocery stores. And we are looking for opportunities in Western Canada as well.”
Cecillon said the company’s coffees are created a little bit different than the mega coffee giants. Balzac’s roasts in small batches. The company is a Canadian owned and founder led business and it really tries to establish its cafés in smaller communities and communities that are quite active.
“So you look at even in Toronto you won’t find us in strip malls. You’ll find us in very interesting communities – the Distillery District, Market Street around the St. Lawrence Market, Liberty Village, Stratford, Niagara on the Lake, Kingston. We really look for unique spaces that represent where the community congregates and where they gather to sort of get away from things for awhile and just enjoy a great cup of coffee,” said Cecillon.
“Our specialty coffees are really created a little bit differently than some of the more main street coffee shops. We use real ingredients such as vanilla or maple syrup, pumpkin puree. It allows us to really get the distinct flavours out with not a lot of added sugar. And organic milk. The whole host of non-milk alternatives is something that we pride ourselves in as well.”
Olsen will be assuming the role of Chief Design Officer moving forward focusing on driving Balzac’s design into a new era.
Recently, it was announced that Balzac’s is partnering with Porter Airlines as their in-flight coffee provider.
“That’s a big opportunity for us to allow more Canadians across the country to experience the magic of Balzac’s coffee,” added Cecillon.
Balzac’s name is inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s famous quote, “the Café is the People’s Parliament.”
“He was known as sort of the first man of coffee, drinking upwards of 50 cups of coffee a night because when he wrote he typically wrote from 10 p.m. through to eight o’clock in the morning. He wrote overnight. That’s where his creativity came. That’s where his mind was at its best. In order to stay alert, he drank significant amounts of coffee,” said Cecillon. “Diana spent a fair bit of time in the cafes of France and fell in love with the French culture of coffee and the way it celebrated congregating and gathering. Hence the name is after Honoré de Balzac.”