New restaurant opens in Toronto amid industry shutdown

Apr 27 2020, 1:23 pm

The middle of a pandemic and global shutdown might not seem like the most typical time to open a new restaurant.

But neither Adam Gilbert, nor his team, were about to pump the brakes on launching a new, plant-based, quick-service joint with a menu designed by a Top Chef Canada All Stars Competitor.

The original plan for SweetChops was to break out onto Queen West — a strip bustling with foot traffic and known for great options for eats — with a little location offering indoor and outdoor seating.

But, all things considered, that plan didn’t exactly pan out.

Instead, in the interim, the “modern Americana” eatery is slingin’ plant-based meatball subs, burgers, and bowls from a “Dark Kitchen” at 46 Noble Street. You’ll find the spot alternating weekly between lunch and dinner service on all major delivery platforms.

 

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“Opening a new restaurant during the pandemic has definitely become an inextricable part of the SweetChops story, but truthfully it hasn’t deterred us at all,” Gilbert told Daily Hive.

“It may be a long time before people can be back in restaurants again, that doesn’t mean they don’t want craveable plant-based food. It just means we need to rethink our relationship with them. We try and bring the hospitality you would get into a restaurant in the delivery service.”

Since the soft-launch earlier this month, the SweetChops team has been soliciting customer feedback through hand-written notes with each meal, reportedly, “to much fanfare.”

The team says that this first location now aims to serve as a proof-of-concept before seeking the investments necessary to scale the project out. And that was always the goal — Gilbert’s hope for the restaurant is that one day, it’ll become a major player in Canadian food service.

“SweetChops is a brand built on First Principles thinking. What makes our menu and food different in the first place, was to start with the basic questions – why does plant-based food always have to have so much tofu-based mock meat? So we started from the ground up with a celebrated Toronto-based chef who has never cooked plant-based before and we said “pretend meat doesn’t exist,” Gilbert said.

“It’s that same First Principles thinking that helped us push on toward launch in spite of the pandemic. We asked ourselves, why do we need a physical location to start?”

Now, after having become “pen pals” with many customers already, Gilbert says the response to the spots opening-of-sorts has been “overwhelming.”

“It’s been just over a month since we’ve opened our “virtual” doors,” he said, “but we can already feel we’re on to something big.”

 

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The message behind the restaurant is quite fitting, in fact, to the slower — and perhaps more considerate or mindful — pace of life that many are being forced to adopt under the given circumstances.

“Now more than ever we need to be more considerate of how we source our food, and the relationship we want to have with food systems,” Gilbert said.

“We believe you don’t have to compromise on taste, convenience and nutrition to have an incredible meal – that’s why I created SweetChops.”

 

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