Started as a luncheonette, Vancouver-based Chicken World is now a fast-food restaurant chain, with a growing presence all over the province.
Adeel Jahangir, an ex-KFC employee, immigrated to Calgary from Pakistan in 2006 to find better career opportunities. Jahangir brought his Master of Business Administration and managerial experience from Pakistan but had to do multiple survival jobs and side gigs to make money and support his family after immigrating to Canada. “One time I worked straight for 37 hours, and I was completely exhausted after that,” recalls 37-year-old Jahangir.
Though he had worked with KFC for several years in Pakistan, the fast-food chain rejected him in Canada after initial rounds of interviews. “I joined KFC at the age of 17 and went on to win the national KFC champs challenge in Pakistan. That competition tests employees on food quality, product packaging, customer service, front of house set up and cleaning and I had mastered all those skills. When they rejected me, I was devastated, I thought I was the best candidate,” said Jahangir during an interview at Chicken World on Denman St.
Looking back, Jahangir said he now feels lucky that the company rejected him. He wants to one day directly compete with the fast-food giant.
In 2017, Jahangir left Calgary as it was getting harder for him to manage expenses without a stable job.
In Vancouver, he thought he could have a fresh start. “I instantly fell in love with the city and told my wife that I want to open a restaurant here,” added Jahangir. His wife supported his decision. However, the family decided she should move to Pakistan with their newborn for a while so that Jahangir could financially support his business idea.
Jahangir’s elder brother quit his job and moved to Vancouver from England to become a business partner.
In 2019 the duo invested all their savings in taking over an existing restaurant space in Surrey. Adeel said that though they enjoyed the journey, starting from scratch was a real struggle. “Managing the financials and overlooking all the operational aspects was the hardest part.”
They introduced new recipes that included a blend of spices and 13 distinctly flavoured herbs commonly used in South Asian cuisines.
Menu items are named after different characters of the popular Bollywood movie Sholay.
“I know it's hard for some people to pronounce those names correctly, but our team enjoys teaching them the story behind the names and also a bit about the South Asian culture.”
The Jahangir brothers shared a basement suite for the first six months and utilized the savings to fuel the business operations. After one year, they opened their second location - also in Surrey - and since then, the chain is expanding on a franchising model.
“I remember the first day at our Vancouver location. We had a long line-up. Though we were open for only a few hours, we had good sales. I was like, wow! It was my dream come true. I am so thankful to the city for the support,” said Jahangir with a big smile on his face.
Chicken World has three locations in Metro Vancouver, with a fourth that should be open by mid-September at the latest, located at 1707 Kingsway in Vancouver. Their most popular location is on Denman in Vancouver's West End which attracts many evening strollers coming from English Bay. The fifth location for Chicken World will be in Victoria, and Jahangir is hopeful that he can open the restaurant by the end of this year.
The Jahangir brothers follow Islam and consider it their religious duty to work in support of charity. Through their ‘blessing Friday special’ program, they offer free food to the people in need and also, a percentage of sales every month goes to charity.
Chicken World offers a variety of halal-style burgers and other snack options. The restaurants are currently open for dine-in, take-out or delivery through apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Jahangir said he aims to open at least 10 more Chicken World locations by the end of next year.