86: The Healthy-Eating Success Story of Freshii
It wasn’t long ago that the healthy alternative to McDonalds and other fast food chains was Subway. I recently read about a guy who had a dream when he was 23 to try and “Starbucks” the much-needed health-casual dining category. He had no retail experience when he opened his first Freshii location. Ten years later it operates in almost 300 units across 80 cities and 20 countries. Freshii opened its first 100 locations faster than both Subway and McDonalds and they have no plans to slow down. Matthew Corrin is the CEO and founder of Freshii, the recipient of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, Canada’s top 40 under 40, and Inc Magazines 30 under 30. He was also awarded restaurateur of the year by the Canadian Association of Food Professionals. I invited him on the show tonight to hear his story about how he took that dream into the phenomenal success it is now and how it’s continuing to grow.
Can you tell the listeners more about you and what you do?
I’m Matthew Corrin, I’m the founder and CEO of a healthy fast food chain called Freshii. I opened the first location a decade ago when I was 23 years old. The first day we opened was the first day I ever worked in the restaurant business. I think my youth and naiveté is probably the only reason I stayed in business all this time. Today we sit here with almost 300 locations in 80 cities and 20 countries. This week we’re opening four more restaurants in four different countries. It’s been a fun journey with a brand focused on health and wellness.
For anyone listening who has never heard of Freshii or the concept behind it can you tell us a little more about what you do and where the idea came from?
Freshii was inspired by the mom and pop delis of Manhattan in New York. Their branding is quiet dull and their service pretty lackluster in nature but the fresh food component and ability to customize and build your own was really unprecedented a decade ago in the restaurant industry. What I wanted to do was bring that concept of how you build a healthy and fresh meal and create a strong brand around it and then scale it and I wanted to do it outside of New York. That’s why I opened the very first shop in Toronto. Today our mission is we want to make citizens of the world live better by making healthy fast food as convenient and affordable as possible.
The two biggest barriers to eating well a decade ago as well as today, is it’s not the path of least resistance, that’s typically a slice of pizza or a burger and fries, and outside of the home you can’t afford to eat healthy. We want to eliminate those two reasons through our mission.
Am I right in saying everything a customer takes from the store is either biodegradable or recyclable? The forks, knives, spoons are made from eco-friendly vegetable starches like corn or potatoes to biodegrade quickly. Is that right?
That is indeed the case. When we started doing that around 2008-2009 it was truly cutting edge. What’s been amazing though is as supply and demand have increased you have more and more companies that can bring those better products in. The more demand we can drive for that eco-friendly packaging the more producers can drop the price and the more people can access them. That’s just a testament to this triple bottom line which drives us which is people, profit, and the planet. We talked about people and obviously we’re a for-profit business but the planet is equally important to us.
What’s next for you guys at Freshii?
We continue to enter new countries. We have a group in from Australia training. We’ll open several stores in Australia next year and we’ll open several stores in the U.K next year. We’ll also continue to go deep in the existing markets that we operate. We’re opening in high schools and we’re opening in Target and Walgreens locations throughout the United States. We continue to open on college campuses, airports and then obviously our traditional street business that continues to drive our mission. So I’d say more of the same and the key is to continue to get good at doing the same thing over and over again. I think we’re getting pretty good at it so we don’t want to stop anytime soon.
Are there any in the U.K at the moment or can you share what cities you will be coming to in the U.K?
We’re getting close. We’re through Ireland right now, specifically in Dublin and the surrounding areas. But we’re going to be entering some of the high street areas of the U.K in 2017. We’re looking forward to announcing what that means when we’re able to.