Montreal-Based ‘World’s Worst Coffee’ Chain Pigeon Expanding Further into Toronto with Financial District Location [Interview]


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Montreal-based coffee shop Pigeon has a unique and funny way to promote itself.

Its tagline jokingly refers to itself as the ‘world’s worst coffee.’

Since its humble beginnings it has grown to several locations in Montreal, expanded to the Toronto market and has plans to open more locations.

“We focus on quality and, in everything, we aim to make amazing stuff,” said Jonathan Dresner, Founder and Owner. “We started out very playful. I’m a restaurateur with other restaurant banners. I’ve started all these different concepts.

Jonathan Dresner

“When I did Pigeon, everybody loved coffee. Very passionate about it. And I wanted to get into it. I found that as I was sourcing beans and talking to different roasters and all this type of stuff, I found it a little bit uptight. Too uptight. Everybody was claiming they were the best and they were claiming that everybody else’s coffee was garbage.

“That trend kept happening. It’s like wine. There’s good wine and bad wine. Some coffees are darker or lighter. A little bit of fruit nodes. Some are bitter. Some are not acidic. People have different preferences . . . It’s coffee. I’m a customer. I like coffee. I like different types of coffee. So I said let me lighten this up and I put a sign on our window and I said we’re the world’s worst coffee. I trademarked that in North America.”

Image: Pigeon Café & Bar

Pigeon became very popular in its first location in downtown Montreal about six years ago – it was basically an espresso bar. Before COVID, Dresner had signed a lease and location in a neighbourhood in Montreal where he wanted to do a coffee and cocktails concept. 

“We were going to open up January, February or March 2020 and then we were just about to open and COVID locked us down. We only opened July 3, 2020 and Pigeon cafe and bar, the full restaurant, that just took off. We had lineups day and night. It was very very popular,” said Dresner.

“We sell our coffee online. We’ve been in a few grocery stores and eventually we’re going to work on that as well. The expansion we’ve done so far hasn’t been really from being too aggressive. It’s been more like opportunity coming, someone saying hey why don’t you open here, take a look, we want Pigeon here.

“There’s been so much demand.”

Pigeon Coffee at Brookfield Place (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Pigeon Coffee at Brookfield Place (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

It has four locations now, three in Montreal, with the latest in Toronto on King Street as a full restaurant concept with coffee and cocktails.

“We’re going to keep expanding one by one,” said Dresner, adding he’s quite excited about the opening in downtown Toronto in Brookfield Place in the fall.

“That was one of the busiest Starbucks I think. Beautiful space. Obviously we want to do a really nice selection there. So hopefully people keep coming back to the towers coming back to work and we want to make something very special there.”

Pigeon Café & Bar on King Street in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Pigeon Café & Bar on King Street in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Another two are opening this year in the Montreal area.

“Hopefully if this Brookfield thing goes really well, we’ll be open to doing more of these espresso bars. Quick service coffee. Grab pastries and sandwiches and salads.”

Dresner said he’s never set target numbers with his hospitality brands in the past.

“But I think Pigeon could be very big. It’s a good name. We have a good product. We do coffee and food. I do plan to open in the States. I’d like to go around Canada. I’d like to bring it around the U.S. But how fast, how many, we’ll see,” he said.

“I take things one at a time.”

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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