French Coffee House ‘Columbus Café’ to Expand into Toronto after Quebec Launch [Interview]


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Columbus Café & Co, the famed French coffee house, has brought the French Parisian coffee experience to Quebec with plans to open numerous locations in the province and expanding to Toronto in 2023.

“We’ve immersed ourselves in the local culture and our food is fresh and prepared on site every morning,” said Maxime Mayant, the company’s CEO in Canada.  “A large food offering to share every moment of the day whether it is lunch, breakfast, or snack.

Maxime Mayant

“Our values ​​are as follows: Live, share and enjoy. We cultivate healthy eating and products and do as much as possible on site. We also cultivate ecology throughout the process, whether for fair trade organic coffee, packaging, rules in branches.”

Columbus Café opened its first location in 1994 in France and quickly became the pioneer on the French Coffee shop market.

Columbus Cafe at 2153 Ste Catherine Street West

In 2001, the company kicked off its international expansion in Brussels, then began franchising in 2007. Today, there are more than 200 locations across France and internationally, with the company opening about 30 new locations a year of late. 

Montreal-based Think Retail is part of Columbus Café & Co’s expansion in Quebec which so far has opened nine locations in the province. Think Retail’s founder is also helping the brand for its launch in Toronto.

Tony Flanz

“Walking before they run, Quebec is the first market that they opened,” said Tony Flanz, of Think Retail, which consults and represents international, national, and regional retail chains. “They opened during the pandemic. The first unit was on Mount Royal East in Montreal. Since then we’ve leased at least five former Starbucks locations.”

Recent openings include two Montreal locations at 262 and 2153 rue Sainte-Catherine. It’s also got a 2,088-square-foot location with drive-thru at 269 Rue Sicard in Sainte-Thérèse, Que. Plus, another Columbus Café & Co is under construction at 5526 Ave de Monkland, a 1300-square-foot former Starbucks space. 

Columbus Cafe (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Columbus Cafe at Carrefour Laval (Image: Think Retail)

In addition, in the spring, Columbus Café & Co opened a 910-square-foot café at Carrefour Laval, just in front of La Maison Simons.

Flanz said the concept has been winning over the people of Quebec since its North American debut with its dynamic atmosphere, engaging menu and, of course, the premium coffee products. 

“The goal is to open a minimum of one a month,” he said.

“The concept is full of personality; from the bear on its logo to its fresh sophisticated spaces, with warm woods and pops of blue and yellow. It’s the perfect addition to any neighbourhood seeking a high-end coffee shop. Plus, the menu—sandwiches, salads and Buddha bowls, plus an array of quality baked goods and sweet treats—keeps customers coming back throughout the dayparts, from breakfast through lunch, an afternoon coffee break, dinner and an evening catch up with friends. 

“The French café is well positioned for high-traffic street locations in Montreal, as well as drive-thru opportunities in other cities. Markets of interest include, but are in no way limited to, the South Shore, West Island, Sherbrooke and more. Columbus will also consider busy open-air centres. The ideal size is 1,300 to 2,000 square feet.” 

Columbus Cafe in St Therese (Image: Think Retail)

Flanz said the concept gravitates to high street locations, high traffic, corner locations. It is also attracted to large open air centres that have a clustering of restaurants with drive-thru and patio preferred.

“They’ll also consider the odd super regional mall but it’s not something that is necessarily a target of ours,” he said.

Flanz said the coffee shop’s food component is very strong and of great quality.

“All the products are baked fresh on the premises, they’re not subbed out to a local contractor or wholesaler,” he said. “So when you walk into their premises, it smells wonderful and the product has been freshly baked in front of you. I think that really resonates with those coffee lovers that have been seeking for a long time a person in the space that has both good coffee and good food. That’s what’s been lacking and I think Columbus’ food is the best in the market today.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


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