Sam Osmow and his family emigrated from Egypt in 1998, eager to start a new life in Canada. He soon found, however, that, despite having had a successful career in sales and company management, he was unable to transfer over his certifications and education, making it difficult to secure a good job in his new home of Streetsville, Ont. To help his family survive, he did everything: pumped gas, worked retail. After saving up a little bit of money, he took over a sub shop from a friend in 2001. The store limped along for two years until Osmow decided to ditch the sandwiches and, inspired by the cuisine of his homeland, start selling modern Mediterranean food instead.
Today, Osmow’s son, Ben, heads up the Toronto-based business as CEO and head of franchising; the 110 stores he oversees have one of the highest average per-unit sales figures in the QSR space at $830,000-plus per year. He started out as a part-time cashier at only nine years old, eventually working his way up to manager at the second and third locations, and today is a passionate advocate for the modern Mediterranean food his business has helped popularize in Ontario. “We’ve always been very good at taking common Middle Eastern menu items and modernizing them to the point at which every consumer can fall in love with them,” says Ben Osmow.
Franchisees are also quick to fall in love with Osmow’s: almost all of the brand’s stores are franchises, and 90 per cent of its franchisees — many of whom are former store employees — own multiple locations. “One of our best multi-unit franchisees actually had the same problem that my dad did,” says Osmow. “He had a great career back home in Egypt and moved to Canada but couldn’t find a job. He worked at our restaurants for two years until he could finally find a corporate job. He worked the corporate job for two years just so he could save enough money to come back and open up an Osmow’s.” Today he has five.
“We treat our franchisees like they are our family,” says Osmow. Any change, whether it’s a major one or just the addition of a new sauce to the menu, is run by every single person at the company — 26 in the corporate office and more than 800 across all restaurants — so they can give their feedback. Employees who want to receive additional training, from a CPA designation to an MBA, are supported so that Osmow’s can prioritize internal development and hiring. The company is also extremely diverse. According to Osmow, more than 90 per cent of the corporate team are people of colour. “We push diversity in a really big way,” he says.
Support during the early days of COVID-19 was also extensive; the company even stopped collecting royalties for a few months. Any savings made were reinvested into more marketing campaigns. “We got a series of praise from our franchisees at the end of the year — they were just crazy happy and excited about how bad the year should have been but wasn’t and grateful that they’re not in the position to be closing down like so many of the other restaurants around them,” says Osmow. In the end, 2020 was the company’s top year of all time