It’s sleek, it’s modern, it’s impressive, and it’s a secret! At least for now, but the extensively renovated Chicken Chef is gong to thrill you.
New franchise owners, Lisa and Baird Murray, along with mentors Rosie and Brent Plaisier gave me the grand tour of the elegant space on February 5. They showed off their gorgeous colour schemes and layout, all designed by Lisa herself, and I’m sworn to secrecy, but to suffice it to say, it won’t disappoint.
Joined by Chicken Chef Canada president, Jeff Epp, the group was excited to share the news of their upcoming opening.
Both Baird and Lisa Murray are local southwest Manitoba people. They hail from Pierson and Virden respectively and moved to Winnipeg where Baird ran a landscaping company and Lisa ran a home day-care service. Their mentors, the Plaisiers are well known in the region, having run the extremely successful Chicken Chef in Virden for over twenty-one years before retiring to a consultant role with the company. According to Epp, there was no way they were letting the Plaisiers ride off into the sun set with retirement. “These two people were simply too valuable to Chicken Chef for us to simply let them go,” he explained. “We convinced them to stay on as consultants doing quality assurance, menus and marketing for Chicken Chef Canada.”
Brent and Rosie Plaisier are long-time friends of the Murrays and it was through them that the idea to purchasing the Souris Chicken Chef franchise took root. Through Epp, Plaisier became aware that the former franchisee in Souris was moving on so he shared that information with the two people he thought would be an ideal fit for Souris and it has steamrolled from there.
The Murrays, who will be moving to Souris and buying a home here when their property in Winnipeg sells, have nearly completed three months of extensive renovations using as many local contractors as possible, and purchasing much of the supplies needed to complete the job from local businesses as well. Being from rural Manitoba, they have a real “shop local” mentality.
“We truly believe that if we expect local people to support us then we need to do the same thing with them,” explained Baird Murray. “Everyone we’ve dealt with has done an amazing job and we’re looking forward to opening day.”
Epp explained that Chicken Chef Canada opened its first franchise in Carmen, Manitoba in 1978 and the mainly family owned business has grown to over thirty communities in Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. He believes Souris is the perfect community for a successful Chicken Chef. In fact Epp himself has had connections to Souris in the past as he was in sales and marketing back in the 1980s and sold computers to Ralph Whitfield at Whitfield Drugs long before he joined Chicken Chef Canada.
“Souris was always been in the back of my mind. It’s the prettiest town in southwestern Manitoba and it has a long history with Chicken Chef,” he explained. “It’s always irked me that there were challenges for the franchise with several ownership changes, sometimes not in the spirit of what Chicken Chef should be.”
In discussions with the Plaisiers, who had trained, with great success, previous Souris Chicken Chef Brenda and Murray Wilkinson, they believed Souris could be the next shining star in the company.
“Lisa and Baird are very much like Rosie and I were when we first started out in Virden,” said Plaisier. “We believe this is the best chance for Chicken Chef and we believe we have a star here.”
The Murrays have already hired more than twenty staff members to join the team and they will be trained to Chicken Chef standards. Epp says that he is exhilarated with Lisa and Baird and with the Plaisiers as mentors; this bodes well for the franchise for the future.
The actual opening date has not yet been determined as the Murrays are waiting on some deliveries. They do believe that they’ll be opened by the end of February and people are urged to watch for the “open” sign and the paper to come off the windows. “We’re proud of how the place looks and we’re so excited to open our doors to out customers,” explained Lisa. “We want this to be a surprise and we really think people are going to be pleasantly surprised. We’re looking forward to meeting everyone!”
In a closing note, Epp said.” The thing here is that we stick to our motto, be where it always feels like home, where memories are made.”
Keep an eye open for Chicken Chef’s next star establishment, opening soon in Souris.