Cara puts new chain on the Grill

Cara Operations will begin testing a self-service, cafe-style version of its full-service Swiss Chalet chain in mid-March.Michael Nahirny, Cara's chief financial officer, says the new specialty chain, to be named Blazing Grill, will carry the same air-chilled, spit-roasted chicken sold in...

Cara Operations will begin testing a self-service, cafe-style version of its full-service Swiss Chalet chain in mid-March.

Michael Nahirny, Cara’s chief financial officer, says the new specialty chain, to be named Blazing Grill, will carry the same air-chilled, spit-roasted chicken sold in Swiss Chalet outlets.

But instead of offering a sit-down, family dining environment, the trademark of the 142-outlet Swiss Chalet chain, Blazing Grill will cater to a younger crowd with smaller, more contemporarily decorated outlets and a healthier menu.

Nahirny says the Blazing Grill concept will be a new experience for most Canadians, although he says a similar chain out of Australia, Big Rooster, briefly opened a few Canadian outlets in the early 1980s before closing them down.

Nahirny says advertising for the new chain will be handled by Toronto agency Ambrose Carr Linton Kelly, which also has the Swiss Chalet account.

News of the impending launch of Blazing Grill comes just days after Cara announced a long-term agreement with America’s Favorite Chicken to bring the quick-service Churchs Chicken chain into Canada.

The deal, made public Jan. 31, makes Cara the master franchisee in Canada for Churchs for the next 10 years with an automatic 10-year renewal clause.

(Ten Churchs outlets in the Vancouver area are not part of the deal, but will continue to operate as independent franchises.)

Under the terms of its agreement, Cara will introduce Churchs deep-fried chicken menu in 160 of its 264 Harvey’s hamburger outlets.

Cara has already begun testing the combination concept in an existing Harvey’s outlet in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Several additional test outlets will be opened in the next several weeks.

Nahirny says the test will be successful if overall sales in a dual-branded outlet increase by 15% over its previous level.

But, more importantly, Cara is hoping to increase Harvey’s share of the fast-food dinner dollar.

Currently, dinner-time sales represent only 27% of Harvey’s total sales.

Nahirny says he would like to see that figure rise to 35% to 40%.

Toronto ad agency SMW Advertising handles the Harvey’s account. Levenson & Hill of Dallas is afc’s agency on Churchs.

As part of the deal, Cara has also promised to open 60 independent Churchs outlets over the same 20-year period.

Nahirny is bullish on Churchs’ future in Canada, saying he believes it will be possible to open the stipulated number of stand-alone Churchs outlets well before the deadline.

According to Nahirny, the Canadian market for deep-fried chicken is somewhere between $600 million and $1 billion – and growing.

‘That’s a market we want a part of,’ Nahirny says.

Atlanta-based afc operates 1,100 Churches in 30 u.s. states and Canada as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and Indonesia.

Bill Van Epps, senior vice-president of international for Churchs, says the chain’s move into Canada is part of an aggressive global expansion strategy by afc.

Last month, Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken & Biscuits, a large sit-down chicken chain, also owned by afc, began running ads in Canada looking for new franchisee holders.

Currently, there are two sit-down Popeyes outlets in Canada, both in Toronto.