Tom Donaldson - CEO of Edo Japan

Date: AUG 21st, 2013

Topic: Interview with a CEO

Understanding the importance of relationship building especially with franchisees, Tom Donaldson takes a hands-on approach at Edo Japan, often visiting franchisees and dining at their restaurants several times a week. He is driven to succeed by his high standards and desire to be respected based on his trust, integrity, leadership skills and personal credibility. The foundation of his success is built by developing a reputation for fair dealing in his pursuit of growth and profitability for the company and its franchisees. Tom has a strong personal commitment to the business, employees and franchisees. His conservative personal risk profile has proven be an asset to the organization in the risky and ever-changing restaurant industry. He took the Edo Japan restaurant concept to a new level with the belief and conviction that fresh, healthy and quality ingredients offered in a fast, causal and contemporary environment would be a great alternative for consumers.


BeTheBoss: Tell us about the Edo Japan concept.

We’re known for our hot, fast and delicious food, prepared in a traditional Teppan-style techniques. We have been providing customers with fresh, unique, healthy and delicious menu selections for more than 30 years. My pride in Edo is based primarily in one thing, the most important thing – the food. It separates us from other fast food options because it’s delicious, it’s steaming hot and the vegetables are bright, crunchy and fresh. When can you go to a fast food restaurant and find hot food anymore? Most fast food restaurants are selling warm or cold food. At Edo Japan, you get hot food – that grill is 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Our food is cooked to order and the tables are 15 feet away from it. It’s cooked, plated and then brought to you right away. And our customers love it. We serve more than eight million meals annually.


BeTheBoss: When did you become involved with Edo Japan?

I joined Edo Japan in 1999 as President and CEO and later purchased the business from the founders in 2006.


BeTheBoss: What was your background prior to joining Edo Japan?

I have worked in the retail and hospitality industry as a passionate decision-maker and entrepreneur for more than 30 years. I have guided several retail concepts to new, progressive levels, holding positions with a variety of companies including Mac’s Convenience Stores, PepsiCo Food Service International (Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Restaurants) and Moxie’s Restaurants.


BeTheBoss: What are some of the advantages of being an Edo Japan Franchisee?

Our fundamental responsibility is to our franchisees. We actually care about them, listen to them and take their wellbeing into account in every decision that we make. It might sound corny, but when you join Edo Japan you don’t just become a business partner, you become a member of the family. Having a positive, progressive and continual relationship with our franchise partners is essential for the ongoing health and growth of our business.


BeTheBoss: Who is your ideal franchisee?

First and foremost, Edo Japan looks for individuals who are driven and exhibit a love for their food and a love for their customers. It’s imperative that they care, both about the business and the customer.


BeTheBoss: Tell us a little bit about the Edo Japan market.

There has been a real shift in traffic from full service restaurants to quick service restaurants. Today, quick service restaurants are where Canadians go 64% of the time when they opt out of cooking at home. And on any given day almost half (47%) of Canadians visit a restaurant. With over $48 billion in spending over the past 6-years that makes for a very healthy market place.


BeTheBoss: What are some of the greatest lessons you have learned in growing the Edo Japan franchise?

The profitability of our franchisees is essential for the overall growth of our brand. Even if that means growing at a slower rate than we might like or expect. Growth is important, and we want to grow, but we want to grow smartly and responsibly while making sure that each location and each franchisee is profitable. We make a commitment to our franchisees that the business we have is more important than the business we don’t have yet. We’re not going to chase a growth target by saying we want 300 or 400 stores by a certain date. Growing properly is more important than growing quickly.


BeTheBoss: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire an Edo Japan franchise?

My best advice is to have a great attitude. We can take a person with a great attitude and teach them how to run a business. But it’s almost impossible to teach someone with a negative attitude, even if they have a strong business background.


BeTheBoss: In your opinion, why do you think that Edo Japan would be a great opportunity for someone?

The true strength of a franchise system lies in the mutually rewarding relationship between a franchisor and its franchisees. We have a profitable business model and a corporate team that supports and cares about our franchisees. Just ask our current franchisees who have designated us a Canadian Franchise Association Franchisees’ Choice winner for the past 3 years in a row. Being a Franchisees’ Choice designee is an honour and a vote of confidence because the high rankings in franchisee satisfaction come directly from the franchisees themselves through an independent review.