Swiss Chalet is not just any family restaurant, it is a Canadian institution and holds a dear place in the hearts of many.
The history of Swiss Chalet began with a restaurant in Montreal, Quebec called Chalet Bar-B-Q, in 1948. The restaurant quickly became famous, mostly because of an imported recipe they used for their rotisserie barbecued chicken and their fresh cut fries. Based on this popularity, the restaurant decided to expand to Toronto and the first Swiss Chalet was opened on Bloor Street in downtown Toronto, across from Varsity Stadium, in 1954.
As word got out, the restaurant continued to expand across Canada and into the north eastern United States. The chain was purchased by Cara Operations Limited in 1977. Cara Restaurant Group operates many popular brand name restaurants like Milestones, the Breadgarden and the Second Cup among others.
In 1981, Swiss Chalet introduced barbecued ribs to its menu and because of the success and popularity of this addition, the name was changed to Swiss Chalet Chicken & Ribs. Then in 1998, Swiss Chalet not only further expanded its menu, but also gave their restaurants a facelift. Gone is the dark, wood paneled décor and cafeteria bench style seating. Today’s Swiss Chalets are hip and contain their own bar, which is called The Roost. The name has also been changed to Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill.
There are currently over 190 restaurants in North America, with another dozen opening in 2002.
There are four core items that make Swiss Chalet famous and keeps customers coming back. Almost any Canadian can tell you they are the chicken, the ribs, the fries and the sauce. But what’s so good about them anyway?
The chicken and ribs are “fall off the bone,” which means simply that. The meat is prepared to always be exceptionally juicy, tender and moist and peels off the bone without any effort. The chicken is coated in salt and cooked in open fire rotisserie grills for one hour and fifteen minutes. The ribs, which are marinated over night, spend 3 hours in a slow cooking oven before they are grilled for several minutes immediately before serving. After coming out of the oven, the meat spends a maximum 20 minutes in a holding bin. If it is not sold in that time, it is used in cold meat items like sandwiches, salads or the chicken soup.
The french fries are fresh cut. This means that they are not frozen or brought in from outside the restaurant. Instead they are made every morning before opening and prepared in small batches throughout the day.
Lastly, the sauce is unique to Swiss Chalet. Patrons either love it or hate it. Most love it’s unique combination of spices and flavors. The sauce has become so well known, that packages of powered sauce are available in most Canadian supermarkets and it is easy to make at home. Just a note: the supermarket version does taste exactly the same as the restaurant version since the restaurants use the same mix.
The Service Team
In the past, Swiss Chalet restaurant staff were over worked, middle aged women, recently arrived in the country. They wore the most hideous polyester tent skirts, with frilly aprons and fluffy shirts. Service was minimal. You came in, ordered a quarter chicken meal and, if you felt wild, maybe asked for some vanilla ice cream after your meal.
Like everything else about the restaurant, this has also changed. Today, Swiss Chalet looks for more from the people it hires. They are no longer called staff members, but teammates. The people who serve you at today’s Swiss Chalet were specially chosen for their bright attitudes and unique personalities. In short, you can expect you Swiss Chalet experience to be filled with surprises and exceptional service.
For The Majestic Pod and the vicarious noder