Chuck Pelletier: From ski coach to passionate restaurateur
Chuck Pelletier grew up in Orford, near Magog, in the Eastern Townships. He fell in love with this region at a very young age, which he strives to promote every day throughout Quebec.
Passionate about downhill skiing from an early age, young Chuck dreamed of becoming a professional skier as an adult. However, he was soon drawn into the work force and got his first job in the restaurant industry, working as a dishwasher and then as a busboy. As the industry dictates, when a person works well, they can slowly climb the ladder; Chuck went on to work behind the bar, and then in the dining room, to finally land the job of dining room manager. He gradually developed a real passion for the business and left skiing aside to open his first establishment.
“It was a combination of circumstances. Magog being a tourist spot, I was in the right place at the right time. In the winter I was skiing and in the summer I was called to work on the terrace; the two aspects combined well. After a while I had a business opportunity, a real estate developer approached me because he was looking for someone to open a restaurant. He told me that he was meeting with Francine Brûlé from Les Enfants Terribles to open a franchise in Magog.”
It was at this point that Chuck Pelletier’s career change really took place. From ski coach, Chuck became the owner of a successful restaurant in Magog.
“It happened just like that, initially we were two, and in the same year my partner ran for political office so I bought his share. At the time, he did not wish to be involved with an establishment selling alcohol at the same time as being a politician and, as he was elected, I found myself alone in the adventure.”
Chuck Pelletier was very well surrounded and called upon various resources to build a solid business. Through this adventure of new ownership, Chuck confirmed his true passion for hospitality and service. “I’m not particularly passionate about the restaurant industry, but I love the people, the atmosphere, meeting new people, and above all, I love that the people who come here are happy. I’m not the best at all the culinary details or all the great wines, but I like to have a good time, I like quality products and when the story is local, it speaks to me a lot. It’s the good stuff without the pretension.”
Following the runaway success of Les Enfants Terribles, Chuck and his team ventured into a new project with new resources. That’s how he decided to acquire Le Principal restaurant, 30 minutes from Magog, one month before COVID hit Quebec. While Les Enfants Terribles offers a brewery concept, Le Principal distinguishes itself by its more family atmosphere and its take-out formula. “We set up processes internally to make the take-out and delivery efficient. We went there, learned what it was like and tried to bring it back to Magog at Les Enfants Terribles. One thing we’re proud of is that during the pandemic, we were able to keep all of our employees employed full time.”
At the same time, Chuck had the opportunity to buy a microbrewery that was located 200 meters from Les Enfants Terribles. Coincidentally, Chuck knew the address well. It’s where he used to party in his younger years and where he still goes out today. “It’s a place that is well rooted in the city of Magog and their offer is a little different, more accessible, more local, less Montreal flavours, and especially that is part of the tourist and cultural experience of Magog. It was a way to add knowledge to the group and to grow the family.”
Unstoppable, Chuck and his team are also working on a new project at the Auberge d’Orford. “On the other side of the river, there was a great site, the Orford Inn; we were charmed and it inspired us for a new project. This project aims to offer a complementary formula with Les Enfants Terribles and the microbrewery.”
With all his projects, Chuck Pelletier wants to create an ecosystem that aims to offer a complete tourist experience in Magog. From the restaurant industry to the hotel industry to the bar industry, Chuck and his associates want to make Magog a tourist destination of choice in the Eastern Townships.
The creation of this environment also aims to improve the quality of life of their employees. Thanks to the grouping of restaurants, they can now offer insurance, social benefits, improve salaries, and build a system that promotes internal wealth creation while allowing employees to grow professionally. “The restaurant industry is undergoing profound changes, many people have left this great industry and we want to create something greater for every employee. The ultimate goal is for them to be happy and able to grow in the restaurant industry.”
“My vision of the restaurant industry? One, it’s exciting, two, I love meeting people, and three, I think the region is vibrant. There are people in the Eastern Townships, there are people coming back to live in the Eastern Townships. The region has so much to offer, the Magog Lake is magnificent. I am rooted in Mont Orford. The large green spaces, the cycling, all that is downhill skiing, the blaze of colours, the apples, the products, and everything else that the region has to offer. In terms of lodging, food, events, and activities, I wanted to position myself in such a way as to be able to offer a great deal to people who come to the Eastern Townships, whether they are just passing through or want to establish themselves here.”
During our meeting with Chuck Pelletier, we discovered a humble person who wants to put his region first, beyond his own projects.
“I sincerely believe that the more offerings there are in the restaurant industry, the better off the industry is. I’m not afraid of having too many concepts in the sense that the three concepts are going to be strong and the destination will win. There are plenty of other good restaurants in Magog, there are plenty of other professionals in Magog who are doing a great job, and I’m happy about that because I think it’s a healthy competition; I see it as an improved offer that contributes to people coming to spend time in the Eastern Townships.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Chuck and his team have seen a marked return of Quebecers to the region, particularly to Magog. Chuck attributes this success to the improved offer: “I’m not saying that there wasn’t an offer before, but investing in the local area allows us to create a place where people want to come more often. If we’re not open, if we don’t have good products, people don’t come to the Eastern Townships.”
For Chuck, the secret to success in the hospitality business is to please, to share, to be present, to be close, and to be available for people. “You have to work as a team, not be afraid to get your hands dirty. Cohesion, team spirit, and a family atmosphere are essential elements for me in my daily work.”
Chuck Pelletier in three words: passionate, dedicated, accessible.
Written by Marc-Antoine Ranger