Leadership Series: Matthew Corrin Brings Freshness to Fresh Food Business

Freshii founder and CEO Matthew Corrin

By Barbara L. Vergetis Lundin, Assistant Editor

At just 23 years old, Matthew Corrin set out to bring something different to the fresh food business. And, he did. In 2005, he branded Freshii, a restaurant committed to helping people live healthier, longer lives by enabling fresh, nutritious food choices that were both convenient and affordable. The first Freshii, whose motto is “Eat. Energize.”, launched in Toronto and was met with overwhelming success.

The menu that keeps customers coming back to locations in 75-plus cities and 15 countries today includes fiber-dense, slow-burning carbohydrates combined with lean proteins and healthy fats. On the menu: bases like field greens, quinoa, and kale are paired with proteins like tofu, chicken, steak, and falafel. Next up, toppings include green apple, red onion, blue cheese, walnuts, avocado, blueberries, beet slaw, black beans, and edamame. All of these ingredients and more can be combined to create custom salads, soups, wraps, and bowls – topped off with dressings and sauces ranging from spicy (yogurt, lemongrass, sriracha, buffalo, cilantro lime vinaigrette, fiery bbq, and peanut) to more mild (teriyaki, Asian sesame, balsamic, Greek yogurt ranch, lemon juice, salsa fresca, and olive oil). The traditional menu also offers breakfast, smoothies, fresh pressed juices, and frozen yogurt.

Freshii even offers a meal box program, designed by a certified nutritionist, whereby consumers can receive three meals and two snacks per day. The meal boxes are customized to meet specific nutritional goals. For example, the Clean Box is created around 1700 to 1900 calories of clean eating; the Slim Box, weighing in at between 1200 and 1600 calories is for those looking to lose weight; the Bulk Box is for those looking to build muscle and contains up to 2800 calories; and the Gluten-Free Box eliminates all wheat and gluten why maintaining around 1800 calories.

Corrin himself has received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and been named to Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30.


Q&A with Matthew Corrin, Founder and CEO of Freshii

Foodable: How are you growing and keeping your business competitive?

Matthew Corrin: Freshii models itself as the fast fashion of healthy fast food. We follow the same model as Zara. Just like Zara brings the latest runway trends to their shoppers at an affordable price point, we bring healthy food trends to our guests around the world at an affordable price point.

Foodable: To what do you attribute the longevity and success of Freshii?

MC: Since the first day Freshii was born, we’ve lived by these five guiding principles that are referred to daily across our system:

  1. Talk is cheap. Execution sets us apart.
  2. Launch fast, fail fast, iterate faster.
  3. Numbers rule.
  4. Build a company with a killer culture, not a culture that kills our company.
  5. Pick your battles.

Foodable: To what do you attribute your own personal longevity and success in the industry?

MC: To live a long and healthful life, we need to sleep enough, eat our fruits and veggies, work out often, and drink lots of water. I don’t get nearly enough sleep, but I am extreme when it comes to running, eating my greens, and drinking water. Three out of four is working well for me. 

Foodable: What do you need to do to stay on top of this business in the next year to five years?

MC: We will continue to live and breathe our five guiding principles and never become complacent. Five years from now, I hope I can say there has never been a time in our history that I’ve had my finger on the Freshii pulse more than I do at that very moment. 

Foodable: What is your advice for a young person wanting to start up in the restaurant business?

MC: Having one or even 10 great performing restaurants doesn’t mean you can get to 100. You will eventually stub your toe, so be totally aware of that fact, and, when it happens, make sure you can make it heal fast vs. getting it amputated.   

Foodable: What is the most impactful lesson you have learned throughout your career? What made such an impact?

MC: Numbers rule. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it, and, if you can’t manage it, you’ll be out of business “freaky fast.” I learned that from Jimmy John Liautaud. 

Foodable: What has been the highlight of your career?

MC: Witnessing employees that worked in our earliest restaurants become Freshii franchise owners themselves makes me proud. One particular partner named Jason Lim started as a part-time hourly employee as a new immigrant from Cambodia. Last month, Jason purchased his second franchise location and has plans to own his third. Helping partners live the American Dream, the Canadian Dream, the Swedish Dream, or any dream – drives me as much as my passion for health and wellness.  

Foodable: What does the future hold for Freshii?

MC: My hope for Freshii is that we will continue to drive our mission of making healthy eating convenient and affordable around the world.  Our efforts will go toward delivering superior new unit growth and superior same store sales growth for our franchise partners.