South St. Burger & New York Fries Franchise Opportunity - President and CEO, Jay Gould

Date: JUL 23rd, 2014

Topic: Interview with a CEO

At 22, Jay Gould co-founded the Cultures franchise chain. He successfully grew the chain to 58 stores, eventually selling the franchise.

In 1983, Jay discovered New York Fries franchise in the South Street Seaport. Recognizing the business potential, he bought the Canadian rights. Within two years, New York Fries had grown to 25 stores and Jay purchased the American company. Today, New York Fries has 145 locations across Canada, U.A.E., Hong Kong, China, Bahrain, Macau, Kurdistan and Turkey and is regarded as a Canadian success story.

In 2005, Jay launched South St. Burger Co.; a premium burger concept that serves fresh patties from cattle raised without added hormones and antibiotics. South St. Burger has 21 franchises in Ontario, 3 in Alberta, 2 in the UAE and 7 more in development.

Jay is acknowledged as an industry trailblazer and has been honoured with numerous awards, most notably Canada’s 50 Best Managed Private Companies (2011 – 2014), Entrepreneur of the Year, and the Pinnacle Award for Franchisee Excellence.

Jay currently lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

BeTheBoss.ca: What is the South St. Burger franchise opportunity all about?

Jay Gould: In 2004, the management team of New York Fries set out to create a premium hamburger, worthy of a pairing with our famous fresh cut fries. The standards were high. The menu had to reflect the same values of our New York Fries brand – feature real food made from fresh ingredients – and raise the bar in fast food. A year later, South St. Burger Co. was born, and set a new standard for the burger category.

At South St. Burger every item on the menu is designed to be “Best in Category” – offering not only top quality ingredients, but the best taste as well. From using 100% Angus beef that is raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics, to fresh cut onion rings, and, of course, our signature New York Fries and poutine.

Serving real food with outstanding flavour is what sets South St. Burger Co. apart.

Resisting early offers to franchise, South St. Burger Co. wanted to remain corporately owned + operated in Ontario for the first number of years to ensure that the brand was well positioned to succeed. Today, with twenty five locations open in Canada, two in Dubai, and several in development, we are focused on finding the right partners to help us grow, without sacrificing the values that we have worked so hard to maintain. We are looking for quality obsessed, customer focused franchisees to open new locations or purchase existing locations in select markets.

BTB: Who is your ideal candidate for a South St. Burger franchise?

JG: Our ideal candidate is someone who will be “hands on” owner. They need to be customer experience minded and passionate about owning a premium burger franchise. We have a high benchmark for operating standards, however those candidates with a strong foodservice background, who are detail oriented, and have an innate ability to connect with people will do very well in our business.

BTB: What type of training and support do you offer South St. Burger franchisee?

JG: Training both now and ongoing is critical to the success of any strong brand. Franchisees are given 4 weeks of training at one of our existing stores, and 2-3 weeks of training at your location. Our trainers are always available to help you gain better efficiency and to review procedures with your staff, and visit stores regularly to offer support in operations, marketing and service.

BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a South St. Burger franchise owner?

JG: Franchisees will benefit from the excellent covenant and buying power that we offer, based on our New York Fries brand success. Established in 1984, New York Fries is a financially stable, well recognized brand, respected for its successful longstanding business partnerships with franchisees, landlords and suppliers.

This reputation benefits South St. Burger franchisees as the company co-signs every lease with our franchisee. Not only are franchisees able to take advantage of our negotiating strength and unblemished covenant, it ensures that we are truly “in this together” with you as our partner. This provides franchisees, and their financial backers, with an extra measure of comfort that is rare in today’s franchising landscape.

It also benefits South St. Burger franchisees as it allows them to tap into the buying power negotiated by New York Fries. The ability to negotiate terms for two strong brands aids franchisees greatly in keeping their cost of goods lower than many of our competitors.

As South St. Burger franchisee, you can take pride that you are serving the best quality food to your customers. Our beef is sourced from conscientious farms that raise their cattle naturally, without the use of antibiotics or added hormones. We insist on serving New York Fries french fries and poutine – the best in the market.

South St. Burger Co. is founded on the principle of simplicity. We recognize that you can’t be all things to all people and we’re ok with that. Our focused menu and basic cooking methods allow you to streamline your labour as well as your inventory and keep your costs lower as we purchase higher quantities of fewer products. This focus also benefits us in maintaining a high level of quality control, which means you’ll serve a superior product.

Offering customers a premium burger experience, South St. Burger franchise is a contemporary and relevant brand, earning the trust and loyalty of our patrons.

BTB: Are you a member of any Associations?

JG: I am a board member of Kostuch Media which produces Foodservice and Hospitality Magazine, and our company is a member of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

BTB: Tell us a little about the burger industry?

JG: Today’s consumers are better educated regarding their diet and tastes, and with that their demands have increased. They want real food that is unprocessed and ethically grown. They expect personalization and customization so they can get their meal just the way they want it. They reward brand transparency and authenticity with loyalty, and they support establishments that share in their values of sustainability and community. Yet they are not willing to sacrifice taste, décor, service and value.

Since South St. Burger Co. franchise first opened its doors in 2005, the gourmet burger market has grown into a competitive and profitable category. While there are numerous operations sprouting up in markets across the country, many claiming to be “premium”, we enter the market with solid, durable credentials. We encourage you to carefully examine these, and the background /experience of others in this category.

French fries and hamburgers are still the #1 and #2 foods purchased outside the home in Canada, but that doesn’t mean everyone selling them will succeed. South St. Burger Co. is, from top to bottom, the real deal.

BTB: How successful is your South St. Burger today and what are your future growth plans?

JG: South St. Burger franchise is having great success building our brand. We have lots of interest from new franchisees who want to buy into our better beef/better sides concept and this allows us to expand our brand aggressively in both Ontario and Alberta. There also continues to be demand for more South St. Burger locations across Canada, however, our challenge is that we serve a fresh, not frozen beef patty, which means that we have more limited shelf life than our competitors who serve frozen patties. We need to locate our restaurants in areas that have access to our distribution channels so that we can ensure we are able to deliver premium quality ingredients to our stores quickly. Right now we are focusing our growth in Ontario and Alberta because that is where our distribution networks are, however we are open to other markets once we know we can properly support them with our fresh beef patties.

BTB: What are your franchisees saying about the business opportunity?

JG: Our franchisees are really enjoying the burger business and embedding themselves within their local community. Our Calgary franchisee is bringing a modified version of South St. Burger to the Stampede this year. Other franchisees are sponsoring local festivals and developing strong networks within their local community. They love the feedback they receive from their customers, reinforcing that they are in the right business, and enjoy watching their customer counts grow as new people discover our brand. But, ultimately, as part of your due diligence, we invite you to ask them yourself.

BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a South St. Burger Franchise Opportunity?

JG: Do your homework! This is a big investment and you need to fully understand the day to day business you are about to invest in. Speaking for the burger segment, not all burger franchisees are alike. It’s important to get a sense of the culture and support you will receive from the head office as you are partners in the business’ success.

BTB: In your opinion, why do you think that South St. Burger Franchise would be a great opportunity for someone?

JG: Franchisees benefit from our purchasing power and supply chain infrastructure that have been built for our New York Fries stores, along with an experienced administration to help with your marketing, accounting and human resource needs. Our franchisees also benefit from direct access to our head office team, as well as the resources of the many agency and supplier relationships we’ve built, including:


  • Real estate site consulting
  • Operations field consultants
  • Award winning advertising + design agencies
  • Architects, engineers, and construction crews

These are all in addition to our experienced core administration team that has years of business development, leasing, local store advertising, purchasing and operations expertise.