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Recipe Unlimited Corporation (formerly Cara Operations Limited) is a Canadian company that operates several restaurant chains, as well as major food distribution for correctional facilities, educational facilities and other large operations. The company's headquarters are in Vaughan, Ontario, in the Greater Toronto Area. In May 2018, CEO Bill Gregson announced that Cara Operations Limited would be changing its name to Recipe Unlimited Corporation.Contents
The company was originally chartered in 1883 as Canada Railway News Company, selling newspapers, magazines and confectionaries at railway stations. The company's roots go back to the mid-1850s, when Thomas Patrick Phelan was selling fruit and newspapers to train passengers between Hamilton and Buffalo. Canada Railway News soon moved into the food business, catering to a boom in passenger rail traffic in Canada.
In the 1930s, the company began offering catering services to the airlines. By 1951, it was serving about 1,500 meals a day. In 1961, the company changed its name to Cara Operations Limited. The name Cara was derived from the first two letters of each of the words "Canada Railway".
Cara was owned solely by the Phelan family from its inception in 1883 until it went public in 1968. At that time, its primary business was catering to the transportation sector (airline and rail meals), but it did operate a few 'no-name' restaurants and coffee shops in various office towers and airport terminals in Canada. Total sales of all the various operations was C$30 million in 1968. In 1986, Cara provided services for Vancouver's Expo 86.
In 2002, sales for the whole company were C$1.9 billion. 88% of the business comes from the restaurant services, with the remaining 12% deriving from airline catering.
On February 26, 2004, Cara went private, with the Phelan heiresses buying out the minority for $8 a share or $345 million, after a short battle in which they had offered $7.625 a share for the 46.5% of the company they didn't own. At the time, Cara fully owned Swiss Chalet, Harvey's, Second Cup, Kelsey's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, and Montana's Cookhouse. It owned as a franchisee Eastern Canadian Outback Steakhouse restaurants.
In 2006, Don Robinson was appointed President and CEO of Cara. Robinson retired in May 2013.
In 2008, the company moved its headquarters from Mississauga, Ontario, to Vaughan, Ontario, near the Vaughan Mills shopping centre. At that time, Cara was in the middle of a controversy, when three employees were arrested at the Montreal-Trudeau airport in relation to a drug distribution network that used the planes for which Cara provided the catering.
In 2014, Cara had EBITDA of $84 million on sales of $1.7 billion, but had a 6.4 debt leverage ratio when Bill Gregson assumed the presidency of the firm, because the funds obtained via the sale of non-core-asset had been used, not to pay down debt but instead to expand the business.
The March 2015 Cara IPO was brokered by Fairfax Holdings. Through it, the company raised $200 million, and merged in a 7:8 ratio with Fairfax's East Side Mario's, Casey's and the Bier Markt properties. The $200 million represented a 23% stake in the combined business, and the heiresses had in 2015 realised a valuation of roughly $300 million. The services of Bill Gregson were acquired in the deal by the merged company.
In May 2018, then Chief Executive Officer Bill Gregson announced that Cara Operations Limited would be changing its name to Recipe Unlimited Corporation and would be traded under the new stock symbol "RECP".
On October 1, 2018, the company was hit by a malware attack, requiring closure of many of its restaurants in Canada. The attack required some restaurants to continue as cash-only operations until at least the following day. Some locations were without point-of-sale systems and also without electronic payment methods for almost a week.Acquisitions
In 1999, Cara purchased Kelseys Inc. from owner Paul Jeffery, acquiring Montanas, Kelseys and the Outback (Canada). The rights to Outback steakhouse were owned in Canada by Cara, but it was sold back to Outback in the USA because of high food costs.
In 2013, Cara came to an agreement with Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. to make Prime Restaurants a wholly owned subsidiary of Cara. This added restaurants such as Casey's, East Side Mario's, Bier Markt and Prime Pubs to its operations.
On August 31, 2015, Cara announced that it would be acquiring New York Fries. South St. Burger would not be part of the acquisition. South St. Burger Co. was sold to MTY Food Group instead.
On March 31, 2016, Cara Operations announced that it would acquire St-Hubert Chicken in the summer of 2016 for CAD$537 million.
In January 2018, Cara Operations announced their intention to acquire the 108-location steakhouse chain, The Keg. The $200M deal closed on February 22, 2018.Labour issues
Beginning October 5, 2015, female employees at all Bier Markt locations were required to wear tight blue mini-dresses, and heels or boots as footwear on the job. The work outfit practice applied to employees at locations in Ontario and Quebec who had previously worn black pants and golf shirt as a uniform. After the CBC investigated complaints of gender discrimination, Cara modified its outfit practice to allow employees to wear the original gender-neutral uniform.
In early 2018, Cara's CEO and President Bill Gregson announced that the recent Ontario minimum wage hike to $14 an hour had not adversely affected revenues, with sales going up throughout most of Ontario.Operations Restaurants
As of December 2017, Recipe Unlimited had 1,221 restaurants within Canada and 51 additional restaurants that were situated internationally. Recipe Unlimited employs more than 38,000 people, either directly or through its franchise network.Restaurant operations
Under their subsidiary Summit Food Services, Cara provides commissary and kitchen services to correctional facilities internationally. Summit Food Service Distributors Inc., now a division of Colabor LP, is Canada's largest Canadian-owned broadline distributor to the foodservice industry.Airline catering Cara servicing a Czech Airlines flight in Montreal in February 2008.
The majority of Cara Airline Solutions business assets were sold on November 8, 2010 to Gate Gourmet (GateGroup). Before November 8, 2010 Cara controlled 85% of the Canadian airline market, providing meals for more than 60 of the world's major airlines including KLM, American Airlines, British Airways and Air Canada. Meals were prepared at Cara's nine flight kitchens located across Canada.See also
Coordinates: 43°41′27″N 79°37′26″W / 43.690824°N 79.623928°W / 43.690824; -79.623928