The shawarma master plan

 Boustan expands into Ontario

Boustan is expanding to Toronto, but its new location in Scarborough is only part of what could be the master plan to conquer the GTA – one pita plate at a time.

“Toronto has a lot of shawarma restaurants. But Boustan, it’s a unique flavor,” said Mohammed Khalid Iqbal, the owner of the new franchise, located on Lawrence Ave., Scarborough, Ontario.

“Toronto is a big market, bigger than Montreal,” said Iqbal. “We will go even further actually. We are talking to people in Hamilton, in Niagara Falls. The plan is to have 50 new locations in the next five years.” Boustan’s plans are ambitious, considering their humble origins as a Montreal neighborhood Lebanese spot.  

Boustan’s first location was opened in 1986. Imad Smaidi, known to regulars as Mr. Boustan, ran the small location down a flight of stairs on Crescent St. until 2012. Smaidi made it a hotspot for late night, tasty Lebanese food where ex-Prime minister Pierre Trudeau would occasionally visit.

Smaidi sold the restaurant in 2012, and it has not stopped growing since. The chain went from five locations scattered around Montreal in 2016 to currently having over 40 restaurants open as far as Ottawa and Quebec City.

“I’m really looking forward to the shawarma war,” said Liam Earle, a Concordia student from Toronto and top 0.02 per cent Boustan customer at their St. Catherine St. location according to UberEatsats. “Ali Baba is finally going to have some competition,” he said, referring to another well-established Middle Eastern restaurant chain in the GTA. 

Boustan is also welcoming new franchisees. Their website states opening a Boustan franchise is “an affordable investment starting from $125,000.” Along with the name, franchisees are supervised and receive the input of an operations team.

When asked about the goal of the new location, Iqbal said that the spot is “for people from Toronto but [also for] people who know us from Montreal.”

The question now is, will Boustan go even further west? “I don’t know of any shawarma place in Vancouver as famous as Boustan,” said Isaac Tetreault, a Concordia student from B.C. 

Tetreault says it would be great if Boustan expanded out west. While Iqbal said that plans to open in Vancouver aren’t yet on the table, the franchise opening in Toronto seems to be the first step of what could be a rapid expansion across Canada.

Graphics by Maddy Schmidt


A conversation with Concordia’s president

Alan Shepard comments on allegations, fundraising, campus expansion

“I hate that this kind of stuff happens,” said Concordia president Alan Shepard in response to a question about the unsolicited social media campaign that resulted in two Concordia students being allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted.

Montreal police opened an investigation into the alleged assaults, however, “I don’t have any idea how the investigation is doing,” Shepard told The Concordian. He said the SPVM hasn’t shared details with him.

The university was informed of the cases during the first week of November, Concordia spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr disclosed in an interview with The Concordian. Shepard said the incidents happened “some time ago,” including one last winter. “We acted as soon as we felt we had our facts straight,” he said.

According to Shepard, these incidents won’t change the university’s sexual assault policy, which he described as “strong and robust.”

Fundraising campaign

According to Shepard, the university is halfway to raising the targeted $250 million for its Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen fundraiser, the largest in the university’s history.

The campaign is to attract world-class talent to Concordia, Shepard said. “You’re trying to make great education. It’s a competitive landscape [between universities]. It’s not a ladies and gentlemen club—it’s a free-for-all,” Shepard explained. “We need the resources to attract really compelling faculty, researchers and compelling students.”

The president said the money is not currently in the bank, and, instead, comes in the form of pledges or promises of gifts that eventually come to the school “over a 10-year window.”

“We have the promise that it will come in the next while,” Shepard said, referring to the funds they’ve already amassed.

Expanding Concordia

Following the announcement of a new $52-million research facility to be built behind the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex on the Loyola campus, Shepard told The Concordian he has “ideas of other needs” the university has for expansion.

“Every public institution has a responsibility to look at options and think about the future,” Shepard said. But the president admitted the process can be long.

“These buildings take five, seven, eight or 10 years between the twinkle in your eyes [when you say] ‘I think we should build a building there’ to opening the doors to students,” he said. Speaking about the university’s downtown campus, Shepard said the university is “pretty strapped for land,” adding that, “if we were to expand, we’d probably look for new acquisitions.”

Faculty social media policy

In September 2016, a York University professor was fired “for allegedly sharing anti-Semitic posts on his public Facebook page,” Global News reported at the time.
Shepard and spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said there is no specific media policy, but the university’s academic code of conduct applies to all faculty members, even on social media.

“Whether you behave a certain way in person or in class or on social media, those same codes of conduct are in place,” Barr explained.
“If I’m your prof and I write to you by email, I’m writing to you in a governance framework. If you write to me on Facebook and I write back, I’m still writing to you as your prof, and the rule still applies,” Shepard explained. “If, as a private citizen, not as a professor, I write on Facebook, that’s a different matter.”

With files from Ian Down.

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

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