The Moneris® Merchant Scoop Series takes a closer look at Canadian businesses who are thriving in an ever-changing business landscape. Learn what it took to get their businesses off the ground and how they are maintaining their success.
Located in the heart of the Notre-Dâme-de-Grâce district, 5 Saisons Sushi is a family-run business offering fresh market rolls and innovative chef specialties to Montreal diners. We spoke with Manager and co-owner, Thang Phan, about their beginnings - and their longevity – in the city’s legendary dining scene.
When did you open your restaurant? How did you start out?
We’ve been open for 10 years now. Well, Tam started it all, and we all knew each other, because we had worked together in another restaurant for 4 or 5 years. After talking about it with the others, we decided that we were ready to open our own restaurant.
What was your goal when you first opened your doors?
All of our career paths really are linear. In other words, after performing the same duties in a restaurant for a while, we all decided that it was time for us to take on new challenges. And at the time, the challenge was opening 5 Saisons. We needed to move forward in our careers and grow personally, and we knew that we needed to seize every opportunity to do so. For example, Tam went from being a dishwasher to sous-chef and then, chef. I went from being a busboy to a waiter and now, I am the manager. The others followed a similar path. It was quite linear. The main goal was for us all to find something more challenging to overcome.
Speaking of new challenges to overcome, it seems that most businesses have a hard time finding ways to distinguish themselves from other businesses. How do you distinguish yourself from other restaurants? What makes you stand out?
In terms of service, we mainly stand out by being an “à la carte” and a “bring your own wine” restaurant at the same time. We also stand out because of our sushi, something that I must admit we are really quite proud of. We serve many chef’s specialities. We make several of our own creations based on family recipes and unique sauces that you can’t find anywhere else. We love being creative and trying new things.
How do you adapt to the changes in seasonal rush?
What’s great about our restaurant is that we’re consistently busy. Our income is steady throughout the whole year because we’ve done a good job of establishing our sources of revenue, whether in our dining room, or our delivery service and takeout orders. So, to better answer your question, winter is when people prefer staying in the comfort of their home. They come home from work and school, and they are exhausted. Hence, ’tis the season for deliveries. In the winter, we focus more on the logistics behind the deliveries, which includes staffing. During the warmer months, people like to go out, and locals especially like going to the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce park across the street from our restaurant. They enjoy sitting on our outdoor patio or in our air-conditioned restaurant while sipping their favourite beer. This is also vacation time for many people and so they eat out more and later in the evening. Hence, we put the focus on the dining room.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your restaurant?
Personally, I think that I am most proud of the way that we attract clients without having to spend a single penny on ads. Everything is done by word-of-mouth. Clients eat in our restaurant, they leave happy and they tell their friends. We can be proud of that and consider ourselves lucky; our clients are, for the most part, very loyal.
We even faced a major kitchen fire when we first started. We had been open for almost a year before the fire occurred. After closing for 8 and a half months, and being on unemployment or working in other restaurants, it was hard to come back from that. We were worried that our patrons would have forgotten us. We wondered when we would start seeing our customers again and how long it would take for them to return. Thankfully, that feeling quickly disappeared when they started to return as soon as our doors reopened, and come back again and again, on top of recommending us to their friends. We can be quite proud of our relationship with our community.
What advice would you give someone who would like to open a restaurant in Quebec?
My first advice would be discipline. You must be very disciplined. You must ensure the quality of the service and food. Consistency in all aspects is key. Opening a restaurant is easy; running a restaurant requires a lot of hard work. Discipline and consistency are essential. As for the restaurant building itself, cleanliness makes all the difference, on all fronts, whether it be in the dining room, in the kitchen or in the bathroom. You don’t need expensive furnishings; cleanliness is, in my opinion, more important, and that’s my best advice. Of course, in terms of the exterior of the restaurant, location, visibility and parking are important. You don’t want to be hidden in a dark basement.
How long have you been a Moneris client and how did this partnership help you to grow?
We are a Moneris client since the beginning. They give us great service and are really efficient. We haven’t needed to change the technology in our payment solution very much, which tells us that the devices are very durable. We are happy with the fast and efficient service that they offer us.
Located at 5594 A Sherbrooke Street West, you can visit 5 Saisons 7 days a week for dinner, as well as for lunch Tuesday through Friday.
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