When it comes to expansion, Montreal-based gourmet salad brand Mandy’s believes the sky’s the limit.
With eight locations currently operating in Montreal plus its latest in Ossington in Toronto and two ghost kitchens in Toronto, the company has plans to grow to many more markets.
It plans to open another new location in the fall in the massive mixed-use The Well development in downtown Toronto.
The success of the company comes after a rough start in 2004 when sisters Mandy and Rebecca Wolfe opened up Montreal’s first create-your-own salad bar in the back of a women’s clothing store in the Westmount area.
“It was a slow start. We actually closed after the first six months because we weren’t really making any money,” said Mandy, the company’s Chef. “Like most restaurants do in the first year. But we were in a very lucky situation where our landlord, the owner of the boutique, is now Rebecca’s husband. He was quite forgiving with the rent payments and basic overhead.
“So after the first six months that we closed, it was winter time, salads weren’t selling in the winter, so we decided to re-open in the following spring with a little more gusto and we’ve been open ever since.”
The Toronto ghost kitchens are geared to delivery and quick service pick up. The Ossington location opened in March 2022. The ghost kitchens are located nearby in the Dufferin and Castlefield area and one in Liberty Village.
“We couldn’t keep up with the demand of orders at our dining restaurant at Ossington and Queen. It’s a great problem to have so we decided to open up satellite kitchens, production kitchens, where people could walk in and take out or get their delivery service for the north of the city and Liberty Village,” said Mandy.
Rebecca, the company’s Designer, describes Mandy’s as a “gourmet” chain.
“We’ve prided ourselves in making high end, high quality, excellent ingredients and we’re a create-your-own salad concept,” she said. “We have many different signature salads that we also offer. We have grain bowls, we have smoothies and in the winter time we have soups and it’s a dine-in experience as well as a take-out model,” she said. “It’s a hybrid.”
The brand has a grab and go model of about 500 square feet and the largest location is 4,000 square feet in Old Montreal with seating for about 75 people.
“Our sweet spot moving forward is somewhere between 1,600 to 2,200 square feet,” said Mandy.
Brandon Gorman of JLL is handling lease negotiations for Mandy’s Gourmet Salads in Toronto.
Vanessa Fracheboud, President of Mandy’s, said she’s very excited to embark on the brand’s expansion journey.
“We’re looking forward to bringing our delicious salads to more people across the country because I believe that Mandy’s has so much potential. We are definitely ambitious and believe the world is our oyster,” she said.
“Ontario so far has been very welcoming and it’s been a huge success for Mandy’s since day one. Hundreds of people visiting and big lineups . . . We are looking at other potential locations and building our game plan.”
The company believes it can definitely match its Montreal presence with the potential of having at least eight in Toronto. The idea is to go beyond Montreal and Toronto.
“We’d love to do northeast U.S. as well,” said Rebecca. “We’ve always done very well with university students so our plan is to open up in university towns across the northeast whether it be Princeton, Harvard or Georgetown. We’re looking at New York City, we’re looking at Miami.”
So potentially how many locations can the brand grow to eventually?
“I think the sky is the limit,” said Fracheboud. “Hundreds of locations. But truly we envision about 40 locations in the next three to five years because we believe in the brand and in creating a different world where healthy eating is the norm.”
Mandy said the brand has always been a restaurant that serves all kinds of eaters with everything from a Lumberjack Salad which is full of bacon and turkey and chicken plus cheese to vegetarian and vegan options.
“We don’t discriminate against anybody’s dietary preferences or requirements,” she said. “I think another part of what makes our food offering so interesting is that it’s really internationally inspired. The world seems to be getting smaller and more accessible. We’re getting to know different cultures and the history of food and palates and ethnicities. It’s really interesting and fun to be able to represent that in our menu and I think that really resonates with our customers as well.”
International firm SAJO is the design-builder for all of Mandy’s locations, and will be handling build-outs of the new locations.