Local Heroes

How one group of friends created a delivery only restaurant concept in the midst of the pandemic at Casina Montreal

March 25, 2021

An eclectic group of friends who found success through a delivery-only restaurant concept

Fresh, beloved restaurant concept, Casina Montreal, was founded in 2020 by a group of entrepreneurial, food loving, friends who came together to create and serve exquisite Italian cuisine. Co-Founder, Kevin, has spent most of his life in the real estate and hospitality sector with a focus on boutique hotels. Working in hospitality developed his passion and mastery surrounding high-taste, trends, experiences and consumer behavior. Naturally entrepreneurial minded, Kevin has built many of his ideas with his partner, Jérémie.

Their relationship is one marked by passion, instinct, “big bets” and trust. In 2020, Kevin was browsing Youtube when he came across a new industry that peaked his interest: ghost kitchens. The idea of ghost kitchens felt timely, innovative, and trendy, and because it’s an industry rooted in food and people, Kevin saw a good amount of overlap between his skillset and what creating a ghost kitchen concept would require.

He shared the idea with Jérémie who did some research and planning. He was instantly passionate about the idea, but Jérémie and Kevin knew they couldn’t do it alone. Kevin and Jérémie knew they had the hospitality skills, and they reached out to a group of their friends who rounded out the skillset needed to create a successful restaurant concept through a ghost kitchen. One of those friends, Laurent, was a chef who would end up creating the menu, recipes, and specialties. The other was an industrial engineer, Gad, who was able to take his background knowledge in business operations and apply it to the restaurant industry. This allstar cast of friends each specializes in something distinct, but the common thread is their passion for travel, food, experiences, and people.

A virtual concept that conquered the obstacles of the pandemic

Montreal is well-known as being the runner up for highest number of restaurants in North America (second only to NYC). Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the 8pm curfew that’s in place in the area, restaurants in Montreal have been forced to, at best, re-invent their operating system, and at worst, close down until further notice. Food delivery and online ordering is the “only way to stay alive in this industry in Montreal.” From its inception, Casina Montreal was optimized for delivery and online-ordering.

Casina Montreal’s hyper-focus on delivery in an era when restaurants are delivery only.

Casina Montreal is one of the innovative restaurant concepts built with the intention of being delivery only.  Kevin had always wanted to open a restaurant, but he was hesitant to make the major upfront investment required to create a brick & mortar eatery – compounded with the fact that Montreal is quite literally filled with restaurants, and most restaurants operate at low margins. Ironically, 2020 was both one of the most challenging time-periods in history for restaurants, and the perfect time for Kevin to fulfill his dream of opening a restaurant. Industry-wide reinvention presented Kevin with the opportunity to start an unconventional, innovative restaurant concept that he hopes will grow into a multi-brand restaurant “house”  that lives on every delivery platform. Although the concept of ghost kitchens was undoubtedly new and mainly only being adopted in big cities like Toronto, Kevin knew that if the food was good, the concept was unique, and the people behind it were passionate enough, they could turn this dream into their reality.

A food menu for the people, by the people

Kevin and the team chose to start this endeavor with an Italian restaurant concept that draws inspiration from some of the group’s most loved Italian dishes, flavors and experiences – many that they discovered while either traveling or working in hospitality. Once they had the cuisine type, they moved on to menu development. The driving force behind their menu is people – they “crowdsourced” their recipe development amongst their friend group: in a sense, their dishes are designed for people who love food by people who love food. Conventional? No. Genius? Yes. After they decided on a cuisine type, they spent a month serving their food for free. “Payment” came in the form of constructive criticism by their “customers.” Real feedback from real people helped them ensure that their menu would be filled with the best possible dishes.  Within a few weeks of having a lot of picky eaters in their kitchen, Casina Montreal moved on to branding. Their brand look and feel is as fresh, simple, and innovative as their restaurant. At this point, they had a name, a cuisine type, a menu, and a brand. Casina Montreal launched, and has been serving accessible, gourmet food to Montreal since December 2020. 

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Trusting reviews as the source of truth and growing Casina by partnering with new delivery services

So far, they’ve been met with great reviews – which are critical to running a successful restaurant in this day and age – and after two short months, they started seeing early signs of success. “You just can’t cheat a review, it’s the most honest marker of whether something is great.” Founder Kevin says his ultimate goal and driving force is to never fall below a 4.9 average in customer ratings. As a restaurant that’s hyper-focused on serving great food, and even more focused on making people happy, Casina Montreal has since landed in the Top 5 restaurants on Uber Eats in Montreal. 

Since their community was loving Casina, they expanded their business to list their restaurant on nearly every delivery app: Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats, and Doordash. After enduring the chaos of managing multiple different delivery services and multiple tablets, Chef Laurent had had enough. The kitchen was becoming far too hectic, and deliveries were getting disorganized: leading to order errors, missed orders, and cancellations (all of which equated to lost revenue).

Saying goodbye to tablet chaos and order errors with Otter

Laurent had come across an ad from another delivery management and optimization company, but this company didn’t offer POS integration: which was critical to Casina Montreal’s delivery business. While researching various delivery management and optimization platforms, the team at Casina came across Otter on Facebook. After checking out the website, Otter’s POS and delivery service integrations, requesting a demo, and speaking to someone on the team, they were confident that Otter was the solution for them.  

Almost immediately, they were able to say goodbye to tablet chaos and start receiving all their orders across platforms through one platform which then directly went to their POS system: improving accuracy and decreasing stress. The team at Casina notes that after switching to Otter, they had the “easiest week and a half yet.” “We’re excited for our future alongside Otter and we expect the experience to just keep getting better as time goes on.” 

As for Casina Montreal’s future, they plan to continue developing new restaurant concepts and cuisine types through the delivery-only model – all of which will be powered by Otter.

You can support Casina Montreal by ordering delivery on Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats and Doordash. Chef’s favourite? "The Cacio e Pepe. A traditional Italian plate, the name translates to Cheese and Pepper. The pasta sauce is made on the spot using parmigiano reggiano and crushed black pepper. Our customers also love the Pesto Pistachio Burrata – pasta covered with our tasty, homemade pesto pistachio sauce with a creamy burrata added on top.”

Start succeeding in delivery with Otter today!

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