The Top 20 Quick Service Restaurants in Canada + How to Open One

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Caroline PriceAuthor

What is a quick-service restaurant?

A quick-service restaurant is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant aiming to provide food and service quickly and efficiently. Quick-service restaurant, also known as QSR, is the restaurant industry term for this specific segment of restaurants. 

A quick-service restaurant in Canada can be a fast-food restaurant chain or a just fast-casual restaurant. There’s significant overlap in the definitions, though some say that fast-casual belongs in a different category (and not within the quick-service restaurant definition), with slightly slower service than a traditional quick-service restaurant. Typically, quick-service restaurants offer food at a lower price point, with little or no table service, and a casual atmosphere.

Top 20 quick-service restaurants in Canada

The quick-service restaurant industry in Canada is a diverse and dynamic sector, reflecting a mix of traditional favourites and evolving consumer preferences. You can find everything from classic poutine to comforting hot drinks – all provided by quick-service establishments. 

Here are the top 20 quick-service restaurants in Canada.

  1. Tim Hortons
  2. Subway
  3. McDonald's
  4. Starbucks
  5. Dairy Queen
  6. A&W
  7. KFC
  8. Domino’s Pizza
  9. 7-Eleven
  10. Pizza Hut 
  11. KFC
  12. Wendy’s
  13. Burger King
  14. Taco Bell
  15. Mary Brown's Chicken
  16. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen 
  17. Harvey’s
  18. Little Caesars
  19. Boston Pizza
  20. St-Hubert
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Restaurant Business Plan Template

No matter where you’re at in your restaurant ownership journey, a business plan will be your north star. Organize your vision and ensure that nothing is overlooked with this free template.

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How to open a quick-service restaurant in Canada

While all of the top 20 QSRs in Canada are massive fast food chains, not every quick-service restaurant has to be — and in reality, most are not. You don’t need a drive-thru, greasy fried chicken, and a broken ice cream machine to be a successful QSR in Canada. If you’re looking to open up your own quick-service restaurant, here is what you need to know. 

1. Create a business plan

The first step to starting any business is creating a business plan and the fast food industry is no different. A quick-service business plan is a blueprint for your entire project and it explains in detail how you will finance, operate, market, staff, and run your business once you’re open. Understanding your own business model will make the rest of the opening process simpler.

Here, you’ll talk about your company overview (what kind of quick-service restaurant are you? What might your menu items be?), your operations (who are your suppliers? What is your staffing and specific service model? Are you part of a franchisor or independent?), your technology (will you use kiosks or are you fully counter service? What quick service restaurant POS system are you going to use?) and even more detail that will help you get everything going (what differentiates you from your competitors? What quick service restaurant trends are you capitalising on?). 

No matter where you’re at in your QSR ownership journey, a business plan will organise your vision and ensure that nothing is overlooked. 

2. Secure financing

The initial investment of starting a quick-service restaurant in Canada can be really expensive, even if you’re just looking at franchise fees, and most people don’t have that money sitting in the bank. Fortunately, restaurant financing is available, and there are numerous options to consider for your quick-service restaurant in Canada. 

Identify the purpose of your loan—understanding why you need the financing is the first step. Then, select a loan that aligns with your specific requirements, ensure it is the best fit for your financial needs.

 Finally, put together a strong application, make sure to gather all necessary documents and information to present a compelling case for approval. This approach will help secure the loan that best suits your needs while also increasing your chances of a successful application.

3. Obtain licences and permits and set up business structure

You’ll need several different licences and permits to open and operate your quick-service restaurant in Canada, so consult with your local and province guidelines for what a business has to do to get off the ground on the right foot. You’ll also want to work with an accountant or lawyer to help you set up your tax paperwork and to make sure your licences and permits are in order.

Some licences are required for every quick-service restaurant in Canada, while others depend on your concept (i.e. liquor licences).

Here are some other licences and permits you’ll most likely need:

  • Business Licence
  • Food Establishment Licence
  • Liquor Licence
  • Health and Safety Compliance
  • Occupancy Permit

Licences take time and money to acquire. If you're serious about opening a quick-service restaurant in Canada, get a jump start on procuring them early on in the process.

4. Find your location and purchase equipment

Finding a great location can be difficult, and it’s often worth enlisting the help of a commercial real estate agent. If you have a lot of connections within the industry in your area, keep your ear to the ground and see if any recently closed restaurants need someone to take over their spot.

Once you have your location secured, finding equipment — new or used — to fill it up and get it ready for service is your next step.

5. Create your menu

Put together your menu, taking into account food cost, the supply chains involved, the labour required to make everything every shift, and what kind of food you’re trying to highlight at your quick-service restaurant in Canada. Of course, keep in mind that many quick-service restaurants in Canada operate on a build-your-own model, so consider whether or not your restaurant will too.

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Restaurant Menu Templates

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6. Hire your staff 

A great staff is the backbone of a successful restaurant. 

The key to success here is providing a restaurant workplace that provides great pay, solid benefits, a standout culture, and opportunities for growth and development. 

For hiring hospitality staff in Canada, platforms like EightSix Network, Hospitality Jobs and Hosco are highly recommended. These job boards cater specifically to the hospitality sector, offering a range of posting options for employers seeking quality candidates.

7. Create a marketing plan

Set up your grand opening for success and get customers in the door with great marketing. The best place to start is by creating your restaurant marketing plan - where you can set goals, learn best practices and tips, and plan out your marketing calendar and budget for that critical first year.

Don’t forget about social media too. Consider how you’ll present your quick-service restaurant’s brand on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, X, and TikTok. Ideally, you’ll want to grow and develop new content strategies.

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Restaurant Marketing Plan

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8. Open your doors

Get your quick service-restaurant off to a flying start with a successful grand opening. Here are some helpful tips to get you started, and generate early sales. 

There should be signs, balloons, banners, and — hopefully — a buzz around town for the event. Reach out to everybody you know and invite them to come. Depending on the type of quick-service restaurant you’re opening, live music and activities can help draw even more crowds.

The quick-service restaurant industry in Canada is massive with plenty of growth and opportunities, and with this information in your back pocket, you’ll be set up for success.

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