Interview with CEO of Paramount Fine Foods!

12:00:00 PM

I had an opportunity to interview Mohamad Fakih, CEO of Paramount Fine Foods. Across Toronto, you can find many locations of the Paramount Fine Food serving Middle Eastern food. Below is my interview:


How did Paramount start? What was your journey like to get where you are?



I grew up in Lebanon, and moved to Italy at the age of 16 to escape war and to finish my studies. At this time, I received a degree in Gemology and became a certified Gemologist by the Italian Gemological institute. After my studies in Italy, I moved backed to Lebanon and opened a jewelry store.
When I first arrived in Canada in 1999, I got a job in a coffee shop so I could learn the language. It was a fascinating way to get to know English and Canadians, but I was a jeweler and I wanted to get back into that business. With my poor language skills and no Canadian experience, no one would hire me. One day, I walked into a jewelry store in the Eaton Center and offered to work for free. A few years later, I was running that store and opening up more.  
I had been given a great opportunity when I found a middle eastern restaurant that was close to bankruptcy. I just happened to walk in, started a conversation with the owner, and found out that this struggling business needed an investment, some new energy, someone who cared about quality and the consumer. I had no knowledge of the food business and had to invest in learning every inch of it, building a knowledgeable team and finding out of this could be profitable.



What are your visions for Paramount?



My continuous vision for Paramount is to grow internationally and reaching our 100-store goal.  I also strive to broadening the minds of people all over the world in sharing knowledge of our culture through our food, while maintaining the highest quality and experience. I have always taken pride in feeding Paramount to my family and our community and want to continue that.



What do you think is the secret to your success? Recipes? Ingredients? Quality Chefs?



There are a couple of secrets behind my success, but my team is probably the biggest; building a family who can each bring something special to the table and turning it into a brand. I believe your biggest strength is “knowing what you don’t know.” This has been a major factor in our growth, as we have brought in the best of the best. If the restaurant was in my hands, I couldn’t cook you an egg - but with the international chefs I have hired, I don’t have to worry about it. Another major factor in our success is from taking the time and bringing in the right people to show you and teach you the numbers. The bottom line has to makes sense. Introducing someone who isn’t bias who will play devil’s advocate to show you your potential mistakes before you make them.



How do you plan to stay innovative? There are similar businesses that see similar challenges in the food industry.



We continue to stay innovative at Paramount by continuing to learn and move forward, never standing still. Our team is constantly meeting new vendors and working on new ways to showcase our culture and food. I often come back with some new idea in mind every time I travel abroad, taking pieces of growing success from places all around the world.



There were people that noted concerns about expanding too quickly on the international stage rather than focusing on local markets first (Canada). Any comments?



We waited several years to expand or even consider franchising and waited until we were ready. In franchising, a lot of people grow their brand too fast and it doesn’t end up reflecting the restaurants well. In our case, we built our entire team before we did any of our expansion so we would ensure we had the man power to keep the highest quality of our stores. Over the next year, we will be continuing our expansion, but spending our main focus and time on the quality and reputation of all of our stores to ensure we continue to have success.


What do you hope to achieve in your next position? 5-10 years?

In the next 5- 10 years, I hope to make Paramount a household name around the globe. I want people to know we represent diversity, the highest quality of food and customer service. I also have plans to open a couple new brands under the Paramount name. We are in the works of some of them as we speak.


Photos from the Paramount Launch at Don Mills branch

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