In this series, our collaborator Carolyne Brown meets the Local Talents—flagship stores in the heart of Alexis Nihon. These interviews are all about sharing, sincerity and proximity. We invite you to enter their world and discover who they are.
Let’s meet Nazir Al-Mohammad, Owner of Roasters BBQ Grill Bar
I became an entrepreneur by working hard. When I first arrived in Canada, I started working for free in a smoked meat restaurant to learn the business. I learned a lot of skills by working for free in the restaurant business. Then the owner hired me to cut smoked meat. My meat-cutting technique made me stand out from the rest and a competitor approached me with a better paying job. I told my boss about it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t offer me the same salary. I started working for this restaurant owner who didn’t give me enough hours, so I quit my job. Then I got an offer from my previous boss. He offered me 5% of the restaurant. I ended up buying 100% of the business.
What makes your brand stand out?
I always want customers to be satisfied, so I adapt my menu to suit their needs. I am the only Roasters who serves breakfasts. I have customers who come from all over the world (France, Switzerland, etc.) to try the Montreal menu. At Roasters, our menu is only one page long because everything is homemade and fresh.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career as an entrepreneur?
The COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant industry was greatly affected. The fact that I’m still open after everything that happened is amazing. During the first shutdown, I couldn’t afford to pay my employees so they decided to work for free for a week. They said, "We’ve been eating at your expense for 12 years. Today, it’s our turn to give back."
What is the biggest lesson that business ownership has taught you?
To learn and trust myself.
Tell us an anecdote from your entrepreneurial journey.
In 2016, when the Dawson College shooting happened, I decided to open my restaurant for free for the college students for a week. The entire school came, even TV reporters. We also raised money, $1 per plate, for a total of $12,000.
What keeps you passionate about your field?
When I see people still smiling and laughing after all we’ve been through since 2020, that’s what keeps me passionate.
What advice would you give to a future entrepreneur?
Be patient. You won’t make money today, tomorrow, or the day after. If you want to rise too fast, you will fall.
What do you hope that people know and remember about your company?
Our plates are large, and the food is fresh. I pay more for quality food. Customers tell me they’ve never had burgers as good as the ones we offer here.
What are your most popular products?
Our breakfasts are still popular and the evenings after work are starting to pick up. I run a lot of promotions to attract customers, like happy hours.
What is your best-kept secret?
I don’t believe there is any secret. You always have to smile with the customers and have a great presence.
What could we wish for you in the future?
Things are constantly changing in the restaurant business and you must be able to adapt. I came to Montreal with $80 in my pocket; I want to be an example for my children, because I’m doing all this for their benefit.