Recipe Unlimited

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Recipe Unlimited Corporation
Public company
Traded as TSXRECP
Industry Branded restaurants
Founded 1883
Founder Thomas Patrick Phelan and family
Headquarters Vaughan, Ontario, Canada
Key people
Bill Gregson, President & Chair & CEO; Hasan Demirovic, Chair & COO
Revenue C$2.78 billion (2017)
Number of employees
Divisions East Side Mario's
Kelseys Original Roadhouse
Milestones Grill and Bar
Montana's BBQ & Bar
New York Fries
Swiss Chalet
The Keg
Subsidiaries Prime Restaurants

Recipe Unlimited Corporation is a Canadian company that operates several restaurant chains including Harvey's, Swiss Chalet, Fionn MacCool's, Kelsey's, Milestones, East Side Mario's, Montana's and St-Hubert. Its headquarters are in Vaughan, Ontario in the Greater Toronto Area.[1] It used to be headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario.[2] In November 2008, the company moved to its new headquarters in Vaughan, Ontario near Vaughan Mills shopping centre.[citation needed]

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.

The name Cara was derived from the first two letters of each of the words "Canada Railway". In May 2018, Bill Gregson announced that Cara Operations Limited would be changing its name to Recipe Unlimited Corporation.[3]


It was 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.[4] Canada Railway News soon moved into the food business, catering to a boom in passenger rail traffic in Canada.

In the 1930s, Cara 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.

Cara was owned solely by the Phelan family from its inception in 1883 until it went public in 1968. At the 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 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.[5]

On February 26, 2004, Cara went private.

In 2008, 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 2013 Cara came to an agreement with Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. to make Prime Restaurants a wholly owned subsidiary of Cara.[6] This added restaurants such as Casey's, East Side Mario's, Bier Markt and Prime Pubs to its operations.

After the CBC investigated, Cara modified an outfit practice that insisted female servers at their Bier Markt locations don immodest dresses on the job. The work outfit practice came into effect on October 5, 2015, and applied to employees at locations in Ontario and Quebec. Under the updated practice, the previous gender-neutral outfit black pants and golf shirt was replaced.[7]

On August 31, 2015, Cara announced it will be acquiring New York Fries. South St. Burger would not be part of the acquisition.[8]

On March 31, 2016, Cara Operations announced that it will acquire St-Hubert in the summer of 2016 for CAD$537 million.[9][10]

In January 2018, Cara Operations announced their intention to acquire the 108-location steakhouse chain, The Keg.[11] The $200M deal closed on February 22 2018.[12]

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".[3]


As of December 2017, Recipe Unlimited had 1,221 restaurants within Canada and 51 additional restaurants that were situated internationally.[13]

Recipe Unlimited employs more than 38,000 people.[citation needed]

Catering services[edit]

Cara servicing a Czech Airlines flight in Montreal in February 2008.

On November 8, 2010 Gate Gourmet (GateGroup) acquired substantially all of the business assets of Cara Airline Solutions from Cara Operations Limited.[14]

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.

Restaurant operations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "footer_cara_contact_01.gif Archived 2011-10-01 at the Wayback Machine.." Cara Operations. Retrieved on September 13, 2011. "Address: 199 Four Valley Drive, Vaughan, ON L4K 0B8"
  2. ^ "Contact Information." Cara Operations. April 5, 2004. Retrieved on September 13, 2011. "Head Office 6303 Airport Road Mississauga, Ontario Canada L4V 1R8"
  3. ^ a b c "Cara Reports Q1 2018 Results Led by Solid Same Store Sales Growth". CNW. 10 May 2018. Archived from the original on 8 June 2018. 
  4. ^ Pitts, Gordon (11 October 2003). "The fight for Cara's soul". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 17 April 2016. 
  5. ^ :Cara Operations Limited: Archived 2004-07-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Shaw, Hollie (31 October 2013). "Cara, Fairfax's Prime Restaurants to merge". Archived from the original on 5 October 2015. 
  7. ^ Marchitelli, Rosa (2 November 2015). "Bier Markt's skimpy dress code called 'sexist and discriminatory'". CBC News. Archived from the original on 6 November 2015. 
  8. ^ "Cara Operations Limited announces purchase of New York Fries" (Press release). 31 August 2015. Archived from the original on 4 August 2016. 
  9. ^ Paddon, David (31 March 2016). "In rotisserie chicken marriage, owner of Swiss Chalet buys St-Hubert for $537M". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 23 December 2016. 
  10. ^ "Cara announces purchase of St-Hubert" (Press release). 31 March 2016. Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. 
  11. ^ Crawford Hampel, Emma (23 January 2018). "Swiss Chalet, Montana's owner Cara to buy the Keg in $200m deal". Business in Vancouver. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018. 
  12. ^ Deschamps, Tara (23 January 2018). "The Keg steakhouse chain to be sold to Swiss Chalet owner Cara Operations in $200M deal". Global News. Archived from the original on 23 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018. 
  13. ^ "Cara Operations Limited Declares Dividend and Increases Fourth Quarter Dividend by 5%". CNW. 9 March 2018. Archived from the original on 10 March 2018. 
  14. ^ "gategroup completes acquisition of Cara Airline Solutions" (Press release). 8 November 2010. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. 
  15. ^ "New York Fries". New York Fries. Archived from the original on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c d e "Cara Operations Limited announces purchase of Pickle Barrel". CNW. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  17. ^ "Cara Operations to merge with Keg Restaurants Ltd". CNW. Retrieved 23 January 2018. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°41′27″N 79°37′26″W / 43.690824°N 79.623928°W / 43.690824; -79.623928