Quesada: The Taste of Success

Steff Charbonneau behind the counter at his restaurant.

Order up! Quesada, the Canadian-owned and operated Mexican fast casual chain, is busy building burritos as it continues to expand.

When Steff Charbonneau, a full-time Ottawa firefighter and father, tasted Quesada for the first time, the authentic flavours of Mexico captured his attention.

When he isn’t at the fire hall, you’ll find Charbonneau at his restaurant. He opened the first Quesada in eastern Ontario in Cornwall in 2013.

“I wake up some days and think that I’m the luckiest guy,” he says. “I’ve got a beautiful wife, two healthy kids and two great jobs.”

Charbonneau, franchise owner and area developer, loves to help newcomers with their first Quesada experience. “You can tell because they kind of scan the menu and I always stop and say, ‘First time?’ and they chuckle. I think–‘Oh god, I remember my first time. I was hooked!’”

BURRITO-SPICYCHICKEN-INGRED FADEAfter that first bite, Charbonneau was confident he found what he was looking for: “I really enjoyed everything about it. The more I looked into it, the more I really wanted to be part of it and the accessible cost of owning a franchise helped move things along.”

It’s evident Charbonneau’s passion, along with a consumer movement toward healthier eating and Mexican flavours, is catching on. In just two years, Quesada has opened five locations including Petawawa, Kingston and Brockville.

“It’s something that I believe in, so it’s easy to sell to other people,” he says.

Tom O'Neill
Tom O’Neill, president of Quesada Canada Franchising Corp.

Tom O’Neill, president of Quesada Canada Franchising Corp., says Charbonneau’s spirit is exactly what the company needs.

“He’s an entrepreneurial guy, even though he is a full-time fireman,” he says. “He gets it. He loves the product. He works with his franchisees to solve problems. He’s got it all.”

And the franchisees are part of what makes Quesada so successful.

“A franchisee has to understand that they have to be a hybrid of an entrepreneur and a manager,” O’Neill explains. “They have to be able to run the restaurant but also have to get out there and market.”

Quesada’s unique recipe for success is working. In fact, since the company began in Toronto in 2004 and opened its first franchise in 2010, the Mexican must-eat has flourished.

“At the rate we’re going, we are doubling every 12 months,” O’Neill says.

store 1There are currently 44 Quesada locations in Canada, with plans to reach 74 stores nationally by the end of 2015. And the future looks bright.

“We’re going to become a premier Mexican brand in Canada in the next 10 years, no question of that,” O’Neill says. “When we hit 300 restaurants, we’ll be well into the United States.”

Click here to learn more about Quesada.