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Not an Average Franchise Owner


I sit down at a rear booth in the new St. Louis Bar & Grill in Stouffville. Everything is bright – the light, the colours and the numerous television screens. I am waiting to meet with franchise owner Alin Iliescu. In the few minutes I wait, each and every smiling staff member stops, greets me, and asks if I would like a menu. When I say I am waiting for Alin, they insist upon getting me a drink or something. I gracefully decline all offers but am impressed that none blurred by with a wind gust, as often happens when a restaurant floor is divided up like real estate with servicing borders.

Alin Iliescu celebrated 20 years in Canada this past Valentine’s Day – “Lots of Love,” he says. He is originally from Romania. His family moved to Canada in 1999 when he was 16 years old. His whole family is involved in mathematics. Alin’s background is in Information Technology. He worked at TD Bank in I.T. for 13 years.

Alin is tall, slender and friendly. We start talking about the restaurant, but leadership philosophy is at the top of mind for Alin. He grabs his smart phone and shows me a video of a wolf pack. He explains why the leader of the pack walks in the rear. “A servant leader focuses on his or her team’s goals rather than his or her own goals. It understands that by helping his or her team members realize their goals, the leader naturally achieves his or her own goals. A servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong, just like the leader of the wolf pack,” says Alin.

In the restaurant, Alin says that as a servant leader, he observes from the rear and does what is needed – dish washing and hosting – to support the team.

Alin’s wife Lyn is originally from China. She came to Canada to attend University of Toronto, and then went to George Brown College. Lyn’s background is in Human Resources. She supports the restaurant by managing the payroll and helping with social media. Lyn and Alin have three kids – ages six, three, and a fourmonth old infant.

“Why did an I.T. professional invest in a St. Louis franchise?” Alin smiles and explains that for years he and his wife would go to the neighbourhood St. Louis Bar & Grill every Friday night. They loved the place. But, one day it “clicked” in his mind that he wanted to own one. He had taken his son out for an early lunch on a Saturday. He saw that the restaurant was full of families. He had no idea that a family demographic frequented St. Louis Bar & Grill. He thought this was magical.

I bring the discussion back to the Stouffville restaurant, which leads Alin into an aside about philanthropy. He proudly says that they raised $5,900 for the Shining Through Centre during the Stouffville “soft launch”. The Shining Through Centre is a not-for-profit school for children with autism and is a recognized leader in the field of autism, providing service excellence in therapy, education, research, and awareness to affected children and their families. St. Louis Bar & Grill has contributed over 1 million dollars of support over the years. Last year, they donated approximately $260,000 dollars to the Centre.

St. Louis Bar & Grill, a sports bar known for its wings and ribs, and famous garlic dill sauce started with a single location in Toronto that Brent Poulton (current CEO) began working at, owned by his father-in-law. He later bought out his father-in-law in 1998 and started franchising in 2002. Brent loved the interaction with the people in the restaurant industry, the vibe, the excitement and everything associated with it. He genuinely believes in the emphasis on not just quality of food but also the experience. It’s this mindset that has contributed to the chain’s impressive growth. St. Louis Bar & Grill opened its 61st location, in Stouffville on Tuesday, February 19, 2019.

As the interview is winding down, Alin starts speaking about thermodynamics and dietary health. He’s definitely not an average franchise owner.

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