The new owner of the only P.F. Chang's restaurants in the Montreal area had no idea the U.S. chain existed in the city up until recently. "I must admit up until recently I did not know P.F. Chang’s was in Montreal. It needs brand recognition," explains Jean Bédard to the Suburban blog today. Bédard, the C.E.O. of Groupe Sportscene, which owns the La Cage aux Sports chain of sports bars, hints that his company will use ample resources to rebrand P.F. Chang's in the city.
Smart move. The company that held the exclusive license to P.F. Chang's in Canada filed a notice of intention to make a proposal to creditors, pursuant to a section of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, last April. Interaction Asian Restaurants LP operated three P.F. Chang's restaurants in Montreal (Hampstead), Laval, and Toronto. (The Toronto restaurant has since been taken over by Cara—the company that owns chains like Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, Kelsey's, and Bier Markt—and will cease to operate as a P.F. Chang's.) Principals included prominent Montreal businessmen Stephen Bronfman and Michael Aronovici.
The pan-Asian chain was launched in Montreal in 2012 amid much fanfare. "Many Canadians have expressed to us, both in person and over social media, how much they love P.F. Chang’s, and wished it was closer to home," said Aronovici at the time. "Given this existing fan base, a commitment to fresh, Chinese-fusion flavour combinations in a distinctive dining setting, we have no doubt that this bistro experience will resonate with Canada’s sophisticated dining population."
Resonate P.F. Chang's did not. Despite the Suburban's Mike Cohen's statement that Aronovici "should be commended for bringing the storied brand to Canada," it's doubtful La Cage aux Sports would be in charge today if Montrealers had embraced Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Orange Peel Beef with gusto. Aronovici blames other factors, however. As told to Cohen: "The U.S. dollar got much stronger, driving up many of our costs. The price of oil dropped badly hurting the Alberta economy, the economic situation in Montreal is worse than we had expected and the real estate market in Toronto is extremely hot driven by Western based casual dining chains looking to expand and the list goes on."