As It Happens

Sauce-loving Quebecers fear worst after St-Hubert sold to Swiss Chalet

The sale of the Quebec restaurant chain St- Hubert to the owners of rival Swiss Chalet for $537 million is making some diners nervous about the future of their beloved sauce.
The Quebec-based St-Hubert restaurant business has agreed to be acquired by the owner of the Swiss Chalet chain. (Marika Wheeler/CBC/Peter McCabe/CP)
St-Hubert restaurants hold a special place in the hearts of Quebec residents.

The chain serves up comfort food staples like rotisserie chicken, fries, coleslaw and, of course, its famous sauce. You might compare it to Swiss Chalet. Although, if you're in Quebec, you wouldn't — because that would undoubtedly ruffle some feathers.

A St-Hubert restaurant is seen in Montreal on March 31, 2016. (Peter McCabe/Canadian Press)

So when news broke on Thursday that the St-Hubert chain had been bought up by Cara, the owner of Swiss Chalet, reaction in Quebec was swift.

"I think Quebecers are taken by surprise. There's a huge emotional reaction," Allison Van Rassel tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "People are really scared that they're going to see the recipes that they love so much disappear."

St-Hubert CEO Jean-Pierre Leger, a member of the company's founding family, left, listens as Bill Gregson of Cara speaks to reporters in Montreal. (Peter McCabe/CP)

Van Rassel is a food blogger based in Quebec City, but she used to live in Toronto and has sampled the bird at Swiss Chalet. She says there is no comparison.

"[I'm] definitely a St-Hubert chicken dinner person," Van Rassel concedes. "There's an emotional attachment to St-Hubert barbecue. It's a love brand basically, here in the province."

Van Rassel echoes the overwhelming sentiment online, insisting that St-Hubert has superior sauce.

Many who love St-Hubert are particularly attached to the sauce. (Radio-Canada)

"I think there's too much nutmeg and cinnamon in Swiss Chalet's sauce," Van Rassel argues. "[With] St-Hubert, the success definitely is in the sauce. It's all about the comfort that comes from enjoying that very sweet, very salty, very bad-for-your-health sauce."


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