You know what sounds like a great business plan? Trying to make a poutine and hot dog chain from Ontario work in Quebec.
According to La Presse, that’s just what New York Fries is doing, as the chain just opened a counter in Carrefour Laval this week.
New York Fries has no connection to New York (city or state) — rather, it came out of Brantford, Ontario, in the ‘80s. While it did have locations in Quebec in the ‘90s, it’s been gone from the province for a couple of decades now. It has over 150 locations elsewhere in Canada, and a few dozen overseas, primarily in the Middle East. The company was acquired by hospitality and fast food corporation Cara in 2015, which also owns St-Hubert, Harvey’s, and Swiss Chalet (Cara is now known as Recipe Unlimited).
There’s probably a reason that New York Fries didn’t become a success in Quebec — its menu is rather similar to that of a casse-croûte. It’s centred around fries, poutine, and hot dogs. The poutines vary from the classic to options such as butter chicken or pulled pork poutine; hot dogs include rather salty items such as a bacon-cheese topped dog.
Given that this is the home of poutine (and there’s perhaps a certain Quebec pride around that), “let’s bring poutine from Ontario to Quebec” is perhaps not the wisest business move. That said, there are a couple of factors that might work in New York Fries’ favour.
Firstly, its new Laval location is being directed by St-Hubert, a company that very much does know how to do business in Quebec. Secondly, it’s in a food court, so its immediate competition is a bunch of other chains, many of which won’t be particularly strong in the poutine realm in any case. New York Fries has a veneer of quality, and may be able to compete in that controlled setting — for example, it advertises that its fries are hand-cut, and its curds are sourced from a fromagerie in Lac-Mégantic.
Alternatively, it could go the way of another Ontario import, Smokes Poutinerie — that chain was inspired by Montreal’s La Banquise, and tried to get a foothold with locations in Montreal and beyond several years ago, before it retreated and set about expanding to the United States instead.
In any case, New York Fries says it’s sticking to just the one Quebec location for the imminent future, but leaving the door open to future expansion, if, for some reason, people take to it.