A healthy take on fast food

Don't let the name fool you, this isn't a burger joint. The fast-food restaurant offers an abundance of veggie-based meals.

Nathalie Slight | Journalist

When a group of friends originally got together to create the Foodchain restaurant, they wanted to work with a time-tested concept--fast food--and rethink the business model so people would think healthy food, not junk food. That's just what they've done. 

Quick AND healthy 
Last spring, Foodchain opened on McGill College Avenue in Montreal. Don't let the name fool you, this isn't a burger joint. The fast-food restaurant offers an abundance of veggie-based meals, and patrons can't get enough.

"Right from the start, we knew we had to rethink the fast food model if we were going to offer high-quality food at affordable prices and fast-food speeds. To make this happen, we had to cut out some steps, like serving meat, cooking, doing dishes, offering table service and fiddling with cash payments. Our kitchen doesn't have a range hood, and you won't find garbage cans here, either. But we never cut on the quality of what we serve because our vegetables come from the same suppliers as those used by the big name restaurants in Montreal. Most of the products are grown in Quebec, and they're available year 'round, too!" explains marketing expert Jean-François Saine, one of Foodchain's founders.     

Sheer simplicity
The idea of pairing the fast food model with vegetables is not a new one, but Foodchain stands out for its commitment to serving only the highest quality products. The menu boasts 8 succulent salads, like the "Concombre Pickle," a blend of cucumber, cheese, mint, parsley and mustard sauce as well as the "Carotte Canneberge," which is a carrot and cranberry dish that brings together endive, parsley and shallots, all in a raisin sauce. Salads run between $9 and $11 dollars, which is scarcely more than what you'd pay for a burger and large fries.

"We've got it set up so that we give you the highest quality in as little time as possible with the least impact on the environment. We portion the ingredients in single-serve bowls ahead of time, cut the veggies in front of customers using an industrial-strength chopper, and send people on their way with bowls brimming with goodness. It only takes a minute! There's no cooking, no dishes and no garbage bins because all our products can be recycled or composted."   

No cash, please!
To keep operations as simple as possible, Foodchain has a no-cash policy.

"We don't accept cash here; it's all done electronically, which really saves everyone time. And this cashless trend is getting more and more popular everywhere in the world. I think customers are ready for this switch--we figure that about 1% of our customers are carrying nothing but cash. After they've been here once, they know that you need a card to eat here. Things are so much easier when we take cash out of the equation!"

Branching out
There's an amazing group of people behind the Foodchain name: alongside Jean-François are chefs Charles-Antoine Crête and Cheryl Johnson (from Montréal Plaza), baker Jeffrey Finkelstein (from Hof Kelsten) and designer Zébulon Perron.  And they all agree that they're ready to put more locations on the map.

"Our simple, healthy, quick and one-of-a-kind concept will enable us to expand elsewhere in Quebec, across Canada, and even the United States and Europe. Though our business model is an exponential one, the pace will remain moderate for the first few years. If you want to re-write the story of fast food, you need a solid foundation!" says Jean-François.  

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