It is no small achievement for a man to trade his desk in the secure world of corporate finance for the risky territory of a fast food franchise. But that is exactly what 36-year-old North Leaside resident Neil McMahon will accomplish with the opening of a new Freshii outlet this month in the Leaside SmartCentre.
Freshii specializes in customizable salads, wraps, frozen yoghurt and smoothies and is most popular among consumers between the ages of 18 to 34 who want quick, healthy, custom-food options at a reasonable price.
McMahon says of his transition: “My previous job was to ensure there were proper policies and procedures in place to mitigate conflicts of interests in various business lines such as investment banking, corporate banking, equity research and equity trading.
“I had often heard the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and I couldn’t envision sitting at a desk for the next 25-30 years so I knew I had to make a change.
“Luckily, a friend of ours had purchased a Freshii outlet several years prior and we really liked the concept and felt it was in line with long-term trends in eating healthier.
“People are really starting to question where their food comes from and what is in it, and we felt Freshii was the right fit. Also, Freshii is a great Canadian success story, having started in Toronto and now growing globally.”
The company was founded by Matthew Corrin and opened its first location in Toronto in 2005. There are now more than 430 locations across 17 countries.
“The reality is that you need to be picking better-for-you ingredients — more often than not, more days than not, more meals than not — you need to be choosing healthier foods to keep you energized and not put you in a food coma,” says Corrin.
“I think one of the reasons why people have historically picked unhealthy fast food is that it’s the path of least resistance, and it’s the most affordable option out there.”
According to retail consultancy NPD Group, Canadians spent $50 billion eating out at restaurants in 2016, with $322 million of that at fast-casual restaurants.
McMahon adds: “Leaside was an easy choice for us. Since we live here, we know there aren’t really any quick-serve healthy options to eat. We have a lot of great food options, but nothing quite like Freshii.
“We had to drive to the Rosedale location when we wanted to eat Freshii. We felt there was a void and an opportunity to fill it. Being a smaller quick-serve restaurant, however, the only viable location for us in terms of square footage happened to be occupied by Menchie’s in the SmartCentre. As it happened, Menchie’s closed their doors and we thought that it was the right place to be for us!”
McMahon and his wife Celine also own a Freshii restaurant on the Danforth.