by Michael Abbey
I had a chat with a very enthusiastic owner of the Bank at Powell location of Boston Pizza. Cam Saikaly is no stranger to Ottawa and not new to the restaurant business. He also owns the Boston Pizza location at Walkley and Conroy where he has been for 10 years, and yes, business is great. I remember picking up fares at an early Saikaly family business at Bank and Gilmour called the Voyageur in the late 70s when I was driving for ABC Taxi. Around that time, the Commodore at Lafontaine and Montreal (in Eastview, at that time) was in the family too. “I remember standing on Coke boxes, since I was seven or eight. I wanted to run that dishwasher.”
The Bank Street location is a familiar edifice for Glebites, with so many motorists coming to that corner for so many years in need of goods from the LCBO. Boston Pizza has been open for a few months, after a productive dialogue with some of the neighbours and the inevitable red tape at City Hall. The décor, with its abundance of big TVs, will inevitably woo the World Cup crowd in July. Saikaly and his people are well in tune with the appetite their clientele has for a spectrum of sporting events.
The subject of community outreach surfaced early in our chat as Boston Pizza wants to be part of the fabric of the neighbourhood. The list of community events is endless and speaks to a dedication to new programs in the area. Saikaly was in close touch with the Glebe BIA during early discussions and appreciated the support and mentoring provided by this strategic organization. Asked if there was anything unique about this location that the public will notice, he said, “A lot of our fundraising as a corporation is geared for children.” They have already dabbled in fundraising geared to the little ones, having recently partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters. “We partner with a daycare in the Glebe on their meal program and we’ve done outreach to some churches for after-hour activities.”
They are sensitive to the needs of some of their younger customers and will go out of their way to separate the junior crowd from the alcohol being served in a different area of the establishment. He is in ongoing discussions with Carleton University, offering, amongst other things, a 15 per cent student discount card. “Boston Pizza is as Canadian as hockey,” Cam pointed out, a fact that is not well known in the food business in this town and elsewhere.
The salt volume in their offerings is deliberately low. The recipes for the sauces with which they smother their offerings are consistent. Their fixed recipes reflect the desire to control the caloric and sodium count of the food.
Boston Pizza ingredients are all fresh and Saikaly’s eager description of the lettuce they use in particular allowed me to munch on a piece of romaine as we spoke. Each outlet has a loose franchise relationship with head office, all the way from the look and feel of the establishment to pricing. “Yes, we’re a franchise but we’re family run. My son works here, my wife’s here, my daughter’s here.” Saikaly’s staying power in the food arena speaks to his success. From what I saw and heard, 640 Bank will roll nicely into the repertoire of food giants in the Ottawa area. Cam Saikaly, having raised three children with his wife Linda, lives and breathes the needs of the children who frequent his establishment.
Asked about a patio, he said, “We’re working on it but it’s not going to happen any time soon.” The plan, if it were to come to fruition, is to have it on the Bank Street front of the restaurant. Stay tuned for updates as dialogue on the topic is ongoing with the neighbours. He has offered his parking lot to the Great Glebe Garage Sale, after discussions with the Glebe BIA.
Saikaly left me with an understanding of where his business priorities lie – fundraising, working with the community and making the business work. He is keenly interested in standing out as a professional supporter of everything Glebe. The business is important but so is his commitment to the community and the not-so-fortunate–both are at the forefront of his psyche. I walked away having enjoyed meeting “Cam” rather than just “Cam Saikaly, who owns Boston Pizza on Bank.”
Michael Abbey is a retired high-tech professional and bridge enthusiast who writes about business for the Glebe Report. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Prefer Majors.
640 Bank Street
Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–midnight
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m.–1 a.m.