We had the pleasure of sitting down with Alan Bekerman, the founder of iQ Food Co. Find out more about how this Toronto-based company is making a dent on a global scale!
Tell us a bit about the concept of iQ
iQ is a lifestyle brand.
It’s also an aspirational one. We’re a seasonal kitchen with sustainable food at our core. More than half of all the food we buy is sourced within < 100 km’s, and while not everything in our shops is organic, there’s a lot of it. And we’re adding more every day. Naturally, healthy and vibrant and food will always be at the centre of what we do, but our passion and interests extend beyond the kitchen. Fashion, art, music, design, architecture, and technology are central to inspiring creativity that shapes our business.
How did iQ come to be?
I built the company for my friends and myself.
Fresh out of university and working my first job downtown, my friends and I struggled to find good spots to grab a proper, healthy lunch. There was a disconnect between the style of food we were cooking for ourselves (simple scratch cooking using quality ingredients) and what we were able to get downtown (highly processed faux healthy fare). It felt like an opportunity existed to do something special in the healthy fast-casual restaurant space not only in downtown Toronto, but globally. So I left my job and with no restaurant experience launched iQ in 2011. The vision was (and still is) to serve sustainable food that we wanted to eat. Fortunately that resonated with more than just my core group of friends – and what started as a 500 SF take-out counter has expanded to five locations in as many years with more on the way.
How would you describe the eating experience?
Vibrant and balanced food is the centerpiece, but it’s the details that we find beautiful. We create restaurant spaces that celebrate health and wellness and show an appreciation for thoughtful design. Whether you’re having lunch at one of our restaurants or grabbing lunch to go, in the few minutes you’re in one of our shops we want you to feel lifted. You might hear a Future or Radiohead song that you connect with or find beauty in the natural stone or wood we’ve chosen for a counter surface – there’s magic in those moments.
Favourite item(s) on the menu?
Peach Gazpacho soup (a summer seasonal).
What is your mission statement?
To become the world’s most innovative purveyor of sustainable food.
Who is your typical customer?
20 – 35 year olds with a love for big ideas and a nose for good food. Probably the person reading this post.
What does it take to make your mark in Toronto’s food scene?
Be authentic. Never play copycat. Just do you.
Patrons are smart and have an unbelievable bullshit detector. Don’t try and re-create food and experiences that resonated with you in NY or LA. Create things that you love, that are true to this city.
How do you build community awareness?
Make friends with your neighbours. Be nice. Send them cup of sugar (or in our case, some Rosewood Estates honey) when they need it. It’s cool to root for the businesses and shops next to yours – even if they might compete for the same guests. We’re a city of 6M, there’s room for everybody to win.
What’s your ideal weekend look like in Toronto?
Wake up, hit the gym, go visit my family, spend time outside with my girlfriend and our dog, get in some work and then meet up with good friends for dinner. Repeat.
What will be your go-to Toronto patio this summer?
Terroni Summerhill. It’s a fairy-tale oasis up there.
How can people reach you?
[email protected] – I see all the messages that come through.
Where do you see iQ in 5 years?
Making a dent on a global scale. Canada will always be home, but we’re gearing up to open shops both south of the border as well as oversees. In 5 years, we hope to be on at least two continents.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Listen to music. Learn a new language. Travel like crazy. Go out of your way to connect with the most creative people in your community. All of these things help stir the imagination needed to leave your mark on the world.