Why Osmow’s created National Shawarma Day

With expansion plans on the horizon, the Middle Eastern QSR creates an occasion to build awareness for a menu favourite.


Coffee, pizza and donuts already have their own days, and Middle Eastern QSR Osmow’s thinks its high time for there to be a National Shawarma Day that is just as special.

The franchise chain, has registered Oct. 15 to officially be National Shawarma Day as a way to celebrate 20 years since eponymous founder Sam Osmow came to Canada from Egypt and set up the first location in Mississauga.

“We felt it was time for the brand to take ownership of National Shawarma Day,” says Marina Baric, marketing director at Osmow’s. She says the plan is part of an effort to drive trial for the famous street food, which is well-loved in regions with established Middle Eastern populations but less known elsewhere. Osmow’s will be enticing consumers by scaling back the cost of a shawarma – as well as vegetarian falafel options – to pre-new millennium pricing. The celebration was to have been promoted with in-store messaging, as well as a socially distanced celebration at its first location in the Streetsville area of Mississauga, but plans were cancelled thanks to COVID.

Baric tells strategy that Osmow’s is Canada’s largest Middle Eastern fast casual restaurant brand, operating primarily in Ontario and Alberta with about 100 locations. Despite the difficult pandemic economic conditions, it is sticking to an “aggressive” growth strategy that includes expanding into more provinces.

Osmow’s does have some momentum on its side, as awareness and brand affinity in its home province has been growing. In 2019, the QSR partnered with Toronto Raptor players Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet for what ended up being very well-received TV spots, alongside a promotion offering discounts on Raptor game days. The timing, Baric says, turned out well thanks to the team’s fortunes, and Powell returned for new ads the began airing when the delayed NBA playoffs began in the summer. Whenever Powell’s play became a focal point of a game, mentions of Osmow’s in online discussions were also abundant.

The promotion for National Shawarma Day also includes a strong social, digital and influencer play. That will include content on sites like Taste of Toronto and BlogTo, but also paid content on Instagram and Facebook, as well as popular Instagram page 6ixBuzzTV. Third party delivery partners like Door Dash and UberEats – which have become key to Osmow’s business since March – are offering free delivery and showing billboard and carousel advertising in their apps.

“We are still a smaller brand at the end of the day, and we need to be nimble and cover all areas as best we can,” Baric says.

Osmow’s tends to do most of its ad work in-house, though it works with Mississauga’s Kick Media on social outreach.