To some, the business idea behind I Miss Montreal Food may sound a little too niche to succeed. Surely, picking up food from Montreal’s restaurants and delivering it to Toronto residents would only appeal to a small number of ex-Montrealers. Right?
The remarkable success of I Miss Montreal Food may have even surprised RBC clients Amir and Megan Epstein, the brains behind the endeavor. Amir, who owns a concert production company, realized he wasn’t going to be doing any business in the foreseeable future due to COVID-19. “Concerts and festivals will likely be the last thing to get going again,” says Amir. “It could be one or two years before I’m back in business, so I knew I had to think about something different in the meantime.”
As a serial entrepreneur, Amir began bouncing business concepts off his wife in an effort to fill the space left by the pandemic. Most ideas were met with lukewarm responses…until he suggested a food delivery service from Montreal to Toronto. The response this time was: “You’ve got to do that! That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard in my life!”
While Amir isn’t from Montreal, Megan is, and her connection to food – like most Montrealers – is strong. “Montreal is one of those places,” Amir says. “People from Montreal are so connected to the city and its restaurants.”
And so the couple put up a website and $20 worth of Facebook posts, thinking maybe a few people might be interested. And they did get some bites early on. Two weeks later, however, they had 300 requests for food waiting for them (turns out BlogTO had posted an article about them) and things snowballed from there.
So how does it work, exactly?
I Miss Montreal Food then picks up orders and delivers to customers in Toronto and the GTA. Amir does some of the runs himself, and on these days he leaves home at 4:00am and hopes to return to Toronto around 7:00pm. He aims to deliver to Toronto residents by 10:00pm, because “nobody wants day-old bagels,” says Megan. It’s about an 18-hour day from beginning to end.
But sometimes, there is a crash on the 401, which gets him back to Toronto a little late. While there might be some panicked calls from salivating Torontonians, customers are just very grateful when their bagels, smoked meat, or foie gras poutine arrives.
Asked why Montreal food has such a hold on people, Megan says it’s all about family. “In a time like this when everyone is separated and not seeing family as much as we would like to, there is a feeling of family and connection to each other through food. So many people are getting food for their whole family then getting on Zoom calls to savour it together.”
And it’s not just the Toronto residents who are benefiting. “Montreal bakeries and restaurants are really excited about this,” says Amir. “This gives them a secondary market. They now have a Toronto clientele.”
Amir and Megan are grateful for their success, and thrilled they have been able to shift gears to literally put food on their table, and the tables of others. “With luck and support from amazing news and social media outlets, we have a business that stands a chance at becoming successful. With all the excitement and kindness shown to us and our new business, we decided to pass it on!”
As such, the pair is doing something very special for Father’s Day this year, delivering amazing boxes full of Montreal food favourites to healthcare workers and other deserving superdads who were recognized by friends and family. “This is just a tiny gesture and the very least we can do for them,” says Amir.
Watch how Amir and Megan Epstein are surprising some special dads this year – and how they have turned a love for Montreal restaurants into a successful business that brings people together over food.
More from the #RandomActsofCanadian Series:
RBC Clients Enduring COVID: How the Power of Music Brought Joy and Connection to a Toronto Neighbourhood
RBC Clients Enduring COVID: How Callia Flowers is Delivering Love, Thanks and Connection During the Pandemic
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