What motivates a couple to move half way around the world and open a franchise in Sarnia that serves food that’s new to them?
Ask Trushar and Priti Patel, owners of the Taste of Mediterranean franchise on Lambton Mall Road, which opened seven months ago.
“We are used to hard work,” says Priti Patel, who works 11 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week alongside her husband and four part-time employees.
“Sarnia’s response has been excellent, and we are so happy.”
The Patels moved to Brampton, Ont. from India in 2000 and found jobs in the automotive industry. They sponsored their parents, then his brother, and they all stayed in Brampton.
But the growing population, frequent traffic gridlocks and a sense that crime was rising motivated them to search for a smaller community. The first to leave was Trushar’s brother who moved to Sarnia and bought the A & W franchise in Lambton Mall.
“I came to help my brother,” explained Trushar Patel. “And I learned about the food industry, customer service and being a franchisee.”
The Patels liked the idea so much they began looking for a franchise opportunity of their own. When a friend opened a Taste of Mediterranean outlet in Toronto they decided to bring one to Sarnia.
“Sarnia had nothing like this and we knew people were going to London for Lebanese and Greek foods,” said Trushar Patel. “People here definitely wanted to try it.”
The restaurant, which has eat-in and take-out options, opened in June. The lunch crowd was particularly strong in the summer but dinnertime is busy now too.
“Our first six months have met our business expectations,” he said
Most Sarnians aren’t familiar with a Mediterranean menu, according to the Patels.
First-timers are urged to try the chicken shwarma, made with chicken marinated for eight to 10 days, seasoned with herbs and spices, then slowly cooked on a skewer. At $6.99 for an eight-inch pita or $7.99 for a 12-inch wrap, chicken shwarma is the Patel’s top seller.
The Lebanese platter for $10.99 is probably the second most popular and comes with chicken shwarma, hummus, tabouleh, Greek salad, rice and pita.
Taste of Mediterranean offers salads, fresh fruit smoothies, souvlaki, gyros, pizza and other platters as well.
The couple admits they didn’t eat Mediterranean food previously and are surprised with the popularity of falafels.
“I’d say 40% of our sales are vegan falafels,” said Trushar. “I’ve been in Canada for 17 years now and I’m a vegetarian, but I tried falafels only when I was considering a Taste of Mediterranean franchise.
“They are excellent. We get so much excellent feedback.”
Taste of Mediterranean was initially franchised in Canada in 2009 and moved into the U.S. in 2013. Each location features fast food and casual dining with an open kitchen where each meal is prepared in front of the customers.
Two spits display the chicken for the shwarma and a combination of lamb and beef for the gyros.
“All our family is in Sarnia now. We like the beaches. It’s easy-going,” Trushar Patel said with a smile.
“I’m really glad we did this. It’s something unique in Sarnia that will keep us here.”
Taste of Mediterranean is located at 1107 Lambton Mall Rd. Call 519-491-9022 or visit www.tasteofmediterranean.com. Specials are on Facebook and catering is available. Lambton College students get 10% off until April.
Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.