Thai restaurant in Toronto isn't letting the pandemic slow down its growth plans
A Toronto Thai restaurant has managed to expand from one location to three over the course of the pandemic with a fourth on the way, heartening to see at a time when many restaurants are being forced to close.
Isaan Der opened their first location in the Junction in 2017. After enjoying an unexpected level of success there, they took over a lease on a new location right at the beginning of March 2020 not knowing what was to come.
"Our Junction location at 2961 Dundas St. W. has surpassed all of our expectations and we have done all we can to expand our kitchen," Isaan Der owner Donald Drouin told blogTO.
"This prompted us to rethink our business goals and expand, but location was everything. That's when we were contacted about Yonge."
He added: "We decided to open our second location as there was an opportunity to take over an existing Thai restaurant which was perfect because of the location as well as having a large patio."
The restaurant was the super photogenic Dee Thai.
"We took over the lease on March 2 pre pandemic/lockdown and had no idea what was in store for us," Drouin said.
Isaan Der takes its name from a region in Thailand and is known for serving Thai classics like papaya salad, shrimp rolls, pad thai and khao soi.
Fortunately, their Thai food translates well to takeout, and has gotten an excellent reception in the Junction and from the communities where new locations have opened.
"We moved forward, knowing that we had to focus on only takeout and expanded the kitchen to accommodate our needs.
"The pandemic has affected a lot of restaurants and small businesses alike, but we remain optimistic about our branding and huge community support," says Drouin.
"Community support and our customers thanking us for opening on Yonge and having established a name for ourselves, Isaan Der has become one of the best Thai restaurants in our city."
The third location they've taken over isn't a Thai restaurant, but rather one of Toronto's most well-known restaurants in general: Ruby Watchco, formerly helmed by celeb chef Lynn Crawford before closing in the fall of 2020.
"Our third location, formerly known as Ruby Watchco owned by Chef Lynn Crawford at 730 Queen Street East, was perfect as it was big enough for our needs as well as the location in Riverside Community," says Drouin.
"Although there is no dine-in just yet, we plan on doing some cooking courses and videos upstairs on our second floor as it does have a full kitchen workspace."
Though the most recent Riverside location technically opened on Feb. 5, 2021, since dine-in restaurant service is still banned, they plan to begin work completely redoing the interior on Feb. 22.
They're still shaking out the menus while the pandemic continues, but do have some recommendations that have kept Thai food lovers coming back.
"Our menu is a bit more diverse since our 1st location has opened but due to the pandemic we had to limit our current offerings in all of our locations. Our signature Golden Bags is available in limited quantities and not currently offered online," says Drouin.
"Our signature Lamb Shank Massman Curry is the star for a delish treat, currently not offered at any other Thai restaurant.
"Any of our curries with fish...a whole filet of boneless basa with a little extra TLC in the marination process, a wow factor if you're looking to try something totally different."
While some of their dishes may be a little different from what's offered at other Thai restaurants, their formula for success feels simple, and always comes back to the quality of the food.
"Our strategy for being active is on social media platforms with the help of our social media team at 705Creative as well as being featured on some of the best delivery apps," says Drouin.
"We are still not done with opening our fourth location, but that's still in progress and it's hush hush for the time being. It's not us who say we are the best Thai in the city, we are really quite modest about that...it's our customers and loyal following."
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