By Annie Pettit
When you ask kids where they want to eat, which restaurant name do they scream repetitively at the top of their lungs until you wish you’d never asked?
McDonald’s? Pizza Pizza? Chuck E. Cheese?
When my cousins were little, they would scream only one name. St-Hubert.
No substitutions. Nothing else would do.
I must clarify a bit. My cousins were born and raised in Quebec, Canada. French is their first of two or three languages and, for a few of them, French is their only language. They are Quebecois through and through and, besides loving the food, this is why they love St-Hubert so much.
Though you may not have heard of St-Hubert, it is Canada’s fourth largest full-service restaurant operator with 117 rotisserie chicken restaurants mainly based across Quebec. It was founded in Quebec in 1951 and, as such, exemplifies their culture in a way that no brand from outside their borders can. In fact, as a client-centric company, for a short time, St-Hubert maintained a French-speaking restaurant in Fort Lauderdale to accommodate the abundance of snowbirds who travelled there from Quebec every winter to avoid the ice and snow.
Not only an embodiment of Quebec culture, St-Hubert has long been a disrupter and innovator in the food service industry in Canada. They were the first restaurant in Canada to offer free home delivery more than fifty years ago in the 1960s, a disputable claim but certainly an indication of their ability to see and set retail trends. Also in the 1960s, they were early adopters of producing branded food for their customers to purchase at grocery outlets. Their manufacturing and distribution centers now offer customers the opportunity to bring home St-Hubert chicken pies, chicken soup, as well as sauces, salads, and desserts anytime they want. And, with the health of their customers in mind, St-Hubert was the first restaurant chain in Quebec to ban smoking in its restaurants. In fact, they did so voluntarily a full year before Quebec made it mandatory in 2006.
With their recent acquisition by Cara, their loyal customers are worried their gem will lose its edge. On the other hand, with renewed energy and financial backing, as well as a firm understanding of innovation in the food service industry, the future for this iconic Quebec restaurant could be very bright.