Toronto Raptors fans in the Nickel City may have caught a glimpse of a pair of Raps players chowing down on a dish called Chicken on the Rocks in an Osmow's commercial that aired frequently throughout the course of the NBA finals.
Raptors players Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell feature in the commercial, shown inside a restaurant, when VanVleet asks "what's the Chicken on the Rocks?" to which he's greeted with stares from restaurant patrons and an incredulous, "who are these guys?"
To residents in and around the GTA, the commercial rings true, but for Northern Ontarians, they might have been asking that very same question, – "who are these guys?" – about the restaurant chain.
Osmow's has been around since 2001, with its first location setting up shop in the Mississauga community of Streetsville. In the past 18 years, the franchise has grown by leaps and bounds, and Sudbury will be home to the 83rd and 84th Osmow's locations.
Now that you know who they are, you might be asking, "so what is Chicken on the Rocks?"
Simply put, it's chicken cooked on a rotating spit, finely carved and served over rice then topped with Osmow's signature sauces. It's a hearty meal that sells for $10 for a large plate and $8 for a medium plate at most locations. On the go and need something a little more travel friendly? Another one of the restaurant's signature dishes is the chicken shawarma wrap, with the same carved chicken served in a pita with your choice of vegetables and sauces.
Sudbury will become the most northern location for Osmow's, with two shops slated to open Sept. 30. The move to Sudbury wasn't done on a whim, and the demand for an Osmow's in Sudbury has been growing for some time now.
"We've had a high demand to open in Sudbury for a long time now, a couple of friends that I went to university with have been asking me about it," said Ben Osmow, franchising and operations director. "We're actually going to be opening up two locations, one in New Sudbury right in front of New Sudbury Centre by the A&W, and the other one will be at 2040 Algonquin, in the Canadian Tire plaza near the Four Corners."
The plan is to have locations both in the north and south ends of the city to serve as large a customer base as possible.
"I made a lot of trips up to Sudbury over the past year and did the whole location scout to try to figure out what locations would be ideal," said Osmow. "We want to have them far enough apart to draw from different customer bases, but also not too far apart. By opening up two locations it makes it feasible for us to do delivery up there as well."
Osmow's will deliver through third party food delivery service SkipTheDishes.
In their close to 20 years in business, Osmow's has found a unique niche in the market and have carefully curated their menu to serve a wide-ranging customer base, along with catering to a specific base at the same time.
"We're very popular with students, we have a lot of healthy options, a lot of vegan and gluten-free options so we tend to fit the demographic that the consumer is leaning towards now with more health-conscious options. Our low price point at about $10 average for a meal which resonates really well with students," said Osmow.
"It's considered to be an exotic food offering. We took Middle Eastern food and essentially blended it with the Canadian consumer base and the concept over here, and it really took off. Our most popular item is our chicken on the rocks, we've got our chicken shawarma poutine -- we're taking Arabic cuisine and the Canadian culture and we're blending the two.” and this is Osmow's."
With three post-secondary schools in Greater Sudbury, the area was an attractive option for Osmow's due to the high number of students and a history of success in and around colleges and universities around Ontario. The company is also very active on social media, and the chatter became too hard to ignore as Sudburians had been clamouring online for some time to bring the restaurant North.
"We constantly post on social media when we open a new location and ask where people want us to open next," said Osmow.
"All of our customers comment and post and text friends, and it just happened that way. We started seeing Sudbury trending more and more on that list and we actually started getting emails into the office with people saying, 'We're from Sudbury and we love your food, we go to Barrie to get it, we're hoping you can open up here at some point.'
"It was impossible to ignore and we wanted to get up to Sudbury at some point and it's finally happening."
Whether you're a Toronto Raptors fan or not, Sudburians probably owe a small measure of thanks to the team's run to its first ever NBA championship for pushing Osmow's to the next level and making the decision to set up shop in Sudbury that much easier.
Osmow's was the smallest company ever to have advertisements running during the NBA finals.
"(After the ad aired) sales went through the roof and franchise applications quadrupled," said Osmow.
"Everybody kind of went crazy for it, everybody who didn't know what chicken on the rocks is kind of felt like 'how do I know what Osmow's is, or how do I not know this menu item' and kind of ran to their nearest location, it was incredible. Even for Sudbury, the demand went up like crazy. We had I think eight franchise applications come in for Sudbury a month after the ad aired, and three for North Bay as well."
Check out the NBA finals ad below that earned Osmow's all the attention.