Chalet Suisse caters to Quebecers’ tastes

Quebec is a very developed and competitive barbecue restaurant market compared with the rest of Canada.St. Hubert Chicken and Ribs, the major contender in the category since 1951, has a chain of 120 locations in Quebec.Chalet Suisse, which specializes in rotisserie...

Quebec is a very developed and competitive barbecue restaurant market compared with the rest of Canada.

St. Hubert Chicken and Ribs, the major contender in the category since 1951, has a chain of 120 locations in Quebec.

Chalet Suisse, which specializes in rotisserie barbecued chicken and grilled ribs and is extending its menu to include other chicken dishes, has nine restaurants in the Montreal area.

Because of this competition and the innate differences between Quebec and the rest of the country, Toronto-based Cara Operations runs Chalet Suisse, the Quebec chain of Swiss Chalet restaurants, as a separate business.

Denis Bachand, Toronto-based director of marketing for Chalet Suisse/Swiss Chalet, is originally from Quebec but has been in Ontario for 13 years.

Bachand says a company can acknowledge the differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada, but must have a presence there to have a handle on the market.

Chalet Suisse has a Quebec area manager who plays a big role in all areas of the business and helps to keep Bachand in touch with consumer demands.

Bachand says having a separate Quebec advertising agency, Martel & Associates of Montreal, is an intrinsic part of the Chalet Suisse marketing plan.

Competition in the barbecue restaurant segment has made choice of media and promotions important.

The Quebec target group is the same as the other regions, 18-plus with an emphasis on the 25-49 age group.

The Chalet Suisse media mix includes tv, radio, newspaper and billboards.

Ads with coupons are being run in local newspapers because Chalet Suisse has found that Quebecers use coupons more than consumers in other regions.

French print ads feature similar visuals to the English advertising, but a different story is told in the copy using plenty of tongue-twisters.

Since humor appeals to Quebec consumers, it has been the focus of the company’s radio and tv campaigns.

Two years ago, a successful Chalet Suisse tv campaign featured a spokesperson called Inspector Tournebroche, which translates to ‘turning spit.’

The actor delivered the message while horizontal and turning as on a spit.

Bachand says although the restaurant menu is standard across Canada, buying behavior in Quebec has been different in a couple of areas.

The consumption of white meat is much higher in Quebec than the rest of Canada. So much so, says Bachand, that Chalet Suisse charges a premium for all-white-meat requests.

Desserts are also ordered twice as often in Quebec than the rest of the country.

Bachand says 50% of Quebec diners order dessert compared with just 25% in other provinces.

During the Christmas season, Chalet Suisse adds sugar pie, a popular Quebec dessert, to the menu, while the rest of Canada is offered a different festive dessert special.

Another concession to Quebec tastes has been the addition of ‘nouveau’ wines to the list once a year.

Cara is quite involved in tracking satisfaction levels of its customers through comment cards, and Bachand says he noticed a politeness factor early on in the process.

He discovered the French culture was more polite and less straightforward with comments, resulting in the same restaurant experience receiving a higher rating in Montreal than in Toronto.