By Kavita Sabharwal-Chomiuk
Hopscotch, an Ontario-based, healthy fast casual concept, is expanding. The company, which currently has two storefronts in Ontario and three opening soon, recently signed two multi-unit franchise deals for the Toronto and Edmonton markets. The company will open three franchise locations in Toronto over the next four years, and will introduce the concept to Alberta through four Edmonton locations.
The concept was founded by brothers and young entrepreneurs Wyatt and Aiden Booth to appeal to a wide variety of customers and offer an innovative approach to healthy eating. Hopscotch taps local chefs to create an affordable and health-conscious menu featuring vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free choices, including salads, rice and quinoa bowls, smoothies and fresh juices. Recently, Hopscotch announced a partnership with celebrity chef Vikram Vij to create three seasonal winter menu items, which are currently available at all Hopscotch locations.
We spoke with Hopscotch’s Wyatt and Aiden Booth about the establishment of the fast-casual concept and what they’re looking forward to this year.
How did you come up with the idea for Hopscotch? What made you decide to make your dream a reality?
Aiden: We were both attending Western University in London, Ont. and felt there was a lack of healthy options around us. We had the opportunity to build Hopscotch’s business plan for a course project and we really enjoyed the process. We felt it was something born out of necessity, and others felt the same. We opened up the first Hopscotch location in London while we were in university, and then expanded to Toronto.
You’ve had well-known chefs, like Vikram Vij, work with you to create special menu items. What has working with those chefs taught you?
Wyatt: We have worked with two celebrity chefs to help us create the menus, however, Vikram Vij was extremely involved in the entire process beyond just menu development. He spent time with customers, getting to know them and listening to what they look for when selecting food options. He also worked with the media and participated in our opening events. It was a really exciting process taking Vikram’s creations and fitting them into our Hopscotch system. Our good friend, Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich, and his business partner, Ryan Donovan, taught us more about food than we could have imagined. Beyond taste and menu creation, they taught us about the growing of products, the farms they come from, and the impact food has on our bodies and world. It has been extremely enlightening working with such talented people.
How did you come up with the menu?
W: We have, and always will, work with different culinary talent. The people on our team have spent years mastering recipes and flavour combinations, and learning about the health benefits our food can offer us. We encourage them to spend time with the brand and have fun creating menu items they think will be a great fit. What’s really exciting about our restaurant is that we offer seasonal menus so we can utilize local produce, try different recipes, and engage with customers more often.
What are your favourite menu items?
A: Lucha Libre.
W: My favourite menu item always changes, but right now I am loving the Beets Salad that Vikram Vij created for our winter seasonal menu.
How did the restaurant expand to what it is today?
W: We believe the restaurant expanded because of our mission and philosophy. We go the extra mile to source better products, use environmentally-friendly packaging, and work with different talents to develop and share exciting new recipes. We listen to what our customers want and do our best to deliver; if they’re happy, we know we’re doing something right!
How do you feel now that Hopscotch is expanding and reaching more people every day?
W: It’s very fulfilling to know people are enjoying the tastes and benefits of the delicious recipes we offer. Our team is very excited to look at the markets we are expanding into, but it is not without its challenges, of course.
How did you get involved with working with local schools? Can you describe your community outreach program?
A: We knew even before we opened our doors that we wanted to find a way to give back to the communities that welcome us. My brother and I were very fortunate to go to great schools, but we know not everyone is that lucky. Right now, all of our opening day proceeds go to a local school in that store’s area. In 2018, we’re planning to expand our involvement by donating our “Hop2O” BPA-free water bottles to classrooms and sports teams at local schools.
Can you describe what a typical workday would be like for you?
W: With entrepreneurship, there is no typical workday. Our days are a mix of Hopscotch expansion and maintenance. We work each day to find ways to improve our restaurants, engage with customers, gather feedback from staff, and offer incredible and consistent dishes. On top of overseeing our current restaurants, we are working to plan future sites, creating partnerships, and furthering our brand any way we can.
What’s next for the company?
A: In 2018, we will definitely have five to seven locations open and operational, and maybe a few more if things go well! We currently have another 10+ stores in development that are in the pipeline that we will continue to build throughout 2018. With all that growth comes hiring more team members, as well!
Kavita Sabharwal-Chomiuk is the editor of RestoBiz.ca.