Cara Operations Ltd.
You’ve probably never heard of Cara Operations Ltd., but you’ve definitely eaten it’s food. The Vaughan-based company owns many of Canada’s most ubiquitous restaurant brands including Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet. Not content with serving the public, Cara is going public: on Friday, February 13, the company filed for an initial public offering to list the company’s shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
This isn’t the first time Cara has offered itself up to investors. The firm was publically traded from its first IPO in 1963 until it was taken private in 2004 by the Phelan famly, which has owned Cara for much of its history. The company once made most of its money from in-flight food, controlling 85% of the Canadian airline meal market at its height. This 1979 photograph shows Cara employees assembling meals for Air Canada. Since selling those operations in 2010, the company has focused on the restaurant business.
Restaurant companies of all sizes have been under increased pressure in recent years. Fast-casual chains like Panera and Chipotle Mexican Grill have expand into the Canadian market, putting pressure on quick-serve chains like Tim Hortons and McDonalds. The NPD Group, a research firm, estimates that traffic at fast-food restauarants will grow less than one per cent annually over the next five years.
In response, Cara has taken acquisitive approach to growth. The company took over Fairfax Financial Holdings-owned Prime Restaurants in 2013. The deal consolidated ownership of a large number of Canada’s low- and mid-range full-service dining chains under one corporate roof.
Here are the brands that Cara owns, and where each one fits into the restuarant landscape.