Matthew Corrin's aha moment came one afternoon six years ago in a Midtown Manhattan deli. He was 23. He was hungry. And he was sick of eating in greasy delis like this particular one.
"I thought the service, the branding, and the food was lackluster," he recalls. "I wanted a better alternative."
Corrin, 29, moved back home to Canada and, with seed money from his parents, opened the first Freshii location in Toronto. Freshii's concept is straightforward: custom-made healthy food at an affordable price. Ordering is a four-step process in which customers choose a wrap, soup, salad, or bowl, then create their dish with hundreds of healthy options.
"We want to eliminate the excuse that people don't eat well because there's nothing convenient or they can't afford to," says Corrin. "I have no interest in dealing with burger or pizza or donut concepts." Freshii's online menu tallies the amount of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, and protein each time an ingredient is added to an order.
Before launching Freshii, Corrin had limited business experience; a graduate of The University of Western Ontario, he moved to New York after college to take an internship at The Late Show with David Letterman. Later, he worked in public relations for Oscar de la Renta.
"The first day I opened Freshii was the first day I ever worked in the restaurant or retail business," he says. "Arguably, that's probably not the smartest thing to do, but isn't that the entrepreneurial spirit to just jump in and figure it out on the fly?"
So far, it seems, Corrin has indeed figured it out. Since launching in 2005, Freshii has grown to over 50 locations in four countries, including Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Austria, and the United States. Corrin directly oversees about 20 employees in the company's Chicago headquarters, and estimates there are nearly 500 Freshii employees worldwide.
The company has maintained an aggressive franchise model to grow the business internationally. Franchise partners pay an up-front $30,000 fee, a six percent royalty, and three percent advertising fees. A typical start-up cost for franchise owners, according to Corrin, is about $250,000. Though the company does not disclose official revenues, Corrin says the company expects to generate about $50 million in system-wide sales this year. But that's just the beginning. Corrin plans to open 700 stores—half franchise, half corporate-owned—within the next five years.