Saskatoon Restaurants

Gator checks in with CEO Edmund Woo of Saskatoon Restaurants

Saskatoon Restaurants

Edmund Woo spent his entire life in the restaurant industry. He was in his twenties when he decided to get serious about being a restaurateur. After reading about the restaurateur he admired, Chicago's legendary Richard Melman, he picked up the phone and called until he got through to Melman himself. He asked Richard Melman if he could come to Chicago; follow him around in order to learn from him. Admiring his initiative, Melman agreed and provided him with generous mentoring and advice. Edmund continued to learn from the successes and failures in the restaurant industry - both his own and that of others. The Saskatoon concept is his crowning achievement, incorporating the elements that create a highly appealing business for the operator and a unique and fulfilling dining experience for the customer.

Tell us about Saskatoon:
The Saskatoon restaurant franchise is the culmination of all my years of experience in the restaurant business, a lot of trial and error and fine-tuning.

SASKATOON® is a dinner only casual fine dining concept serving Steaks, Fish and Wild Game in a captivating decor of a North woods lodge. Franchisees need a unique brand image. For example, how many bagel or sandwich or coffee concepts are out there? Tons, right? Now, tell me, how many truly unique concepts have you seen?

The SASKATOON® restaurant menu offers with unique wild game dishes such as wild boar with peppercorn or hickory-grilled Emu or Elk tenderloin, herb-roasted Pheasant, and Kangaroo Steak. While most of the menu offerings are of tamer fare, from Sizzling' Rainbow Trout and Campfire Chicken to aged, hand-carved beefsteaks, the wild game offerings generate substantial word-of-mouth advertising and memorable experiences. Heck, one of our best sellers currently is a 14 ounce Yak Ribeye, farm raised in Nebraska! Is that unique or what?

Why dinner only? I realized that the problem with most restaurants was that long hours took their toll on the operator's quality of life, draining the passion for the restaurant business right out of the operator. Furthermore, many hours were financially unproductive. I designed the Saskatoon concept to focus solely on the productive dinner hours, thereby reducing staffing and administration to a single shift. With just one shift, the operator can maintain both his passion for the business as well as his quality of life!

How did you settle on the lodge theme? People want to escape when they dine out. They want to be transported to a different place and time. Our SASKATOON® dining lodge decor has recreated the look and feel of a Northwest lodge, filled with beautiful pine wood ceiling beams, wall coverings, and furnishings. Dining at SASKATOON® provides a total experience, and a welcome break from everyday routines.What are the capital requirements for your opportunity?Based on retrofitting existent restaurant spaces, the capital investment ranges from $260,000 to $350,000 depending on the location. Many of the franchisees we're talking to make an initial investment of $75,000 to $100,000 and SBA the rest of it.

What kind of locations would work for a Saskatoon? The SASKATOON® concept will work in less costly locations - The uniqueness of the concept and the creative marketing programs make SASKATOON viable as a destination location, unlike generic casual-theme restaurants that require higher visibility, higher dollar locations!

It's a concept that could be adapted for large cities or even very small towns, and could be a perfect addition to a hotel or resort. It's a truly innovative concept with opportunities as vast the great outdoors!

Why should a potential franchisee consider a new franchisor like Saskatoon rather than go with one who's been around for a while? Many reasons. First, there's vast growth potential: many prime territories and locations still available. Also, they'll get personal attention because they've joined us at the most exciting stage of growth. They'll learn directly from the founders of the company and get the full benefit of our undiluted vision and personal guidance. And, because we're a smaller franchise company, we're more agile in seizing new opportunities and can adapt to trends much faster than larger companies. Moreover, because we're smaller, we have much less bureaucracy. We know our franchisees by name, not store number! Finally, as an early franchisee, their opinion and input is highly valued. Their success is integral to our growth as a chain.

What's the key for an interest franchisee looking to get into the restaurant business? A number of things: Is the concept unique to your market? Does it fit the demographics of your market? How many hours will you be open for? A business should provide for you financially and allow you the time to live your life. Make sure that you're not buying a job!

The key is doing what makes you happy. You've got to have passion for the restaurant business. You got to love dealing with people, whether they be customers or your employees. Just like me, there are many restaurant concepts where I could never pull a shift at, but to go into Saskatoon where the place is filled with regular customers enjoying great unique food served by a staff of service professionals, it's a rewarding environment.  

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