by Malcolm Jolley for Earl’s Restaurants, a ‘Certified Good Food Fighter‘
Father and son team Leroy ‘Bus’ Earl Fuller and Stanley Earl Fuller opened the first Earl’s restaurant in Edmonton in 1982 with 15 tables, 10 menu items and the conviction that if they made a better burger the people would come. There’s a lot more than burgers on the “West Coast Casual” menu at Earl’s restaurants now. The family run and owned enterprise operates across Western Canada and the United States from their headquarters in North Vancouver, and is about to open a flagship operation in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, after successful openings in Burlington and Mississauga.
Mark Hladik wants to make it clear that Earl’s “is not just another chain”. Hladik who runs the company’s operations in Ontario has been with the company for more than a decade (he started by busing tables). “We think like a small, independent, family business,” he explains. This is not merely business-speak: it translates right to the kitchen, where Earl’s makes as much as it can from scratch – including the buns for all those burgers that are baked in-house.
“I don’t know of any other company that invests as much in their people,” says Chef Scott Rolfson who overseas the back of the house at Earl’s Ontario restaurants. Preparing dishes from scratch requires a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and Rolfson explains he will hire beween 70 and 80 qualified cooks for the downtown Toronto location alone. Rolfson, a transplanted Winnipeger, who started with Earl’s 14 years ago as dishwasher, is equally proud of Earl’s ingredients, explaining their Salmon comes from a particular location in B.C., Lois Lake, and like all their seafood is Ocean Wise approved.
Rolfson is especially proud of the size of the new freezer being installed at the new King Street location: “It’s really small!” The point is, of course, that his chefs actually cook real, fresh food. He is adamant that no customer will be fed the processed, delivered from a truck fare that plagues most multi-store restaurants.
In addition to their made-from-scratch menu, Hladik is planning a Toronto chapter of Earl’s Wine Club, which promotes their friendly attitude with wine. Earl’s charges a standard “corkage fee” on bottles of wine, instead of the industry standard double or triple mark-up and sources exclusive house wines from Rhone producer Perrin and Australia’s Hardy’s, which leads to further savings. Hladik describes the Earl’s experience as “approachable pampering”, and is excited to bring their brand of West Coast casual dining to stressed-out Bay Streeters, adding that the restaurant is as set-up for big, important client dinners as it is for simple, casual after-work get togethers or lunches.
Earl’s downtown location at 150 King Street West will open in mid-February (look for a Good Food Fighter post and coverage at GFR). Find out more at earls.ca.