Many Torontonians don’t ever venture past what they consider ‘downtown’. Growing up, as a Torontonian who didn’t (and still doesn’t) drive, my parameters were: south of Lawrence, as far east as Sherbourne, as far west of Dufferin. It was obviously to my detriment. When I eventually did head outside my comfort zone, I was rewarded with authentic and delicious Indian, Chinese, and Italian food (just to mention a few). It seems like I’m not the only one to catch onto the benefits of the Greater Toronto Area.

The Good Son opened its first location in downtown Toronto’s popular Queen West neighbourhood. When it came time to expand, the team decided to not look to Toronto’s east end or south core, but instead look to the outskirts of the city – in Don Mills.

The Good Son’s second location can be found at the Shops at Don Mills, an outdoor mall complex. It may seem like an unlikely location for a hip restaurant whose decor is reminiscent of the library in the Beauty and the Beast cartoon (think cigar lounge meets old school dining room and library).

How a hip, Downtown Toronto Restaurant Successfully Expanded to the Suburbs

There’s a presumption that the outskirts of almost any city are quieter, more family-driven. And, to a certain extent, that may be true. However, Chef Vittorio Colacitti of The Good Son believes that this area is a destination in evolution.

With a menu of share plates that ‘embraces Toronto culture’ (think Italian wood-fired pizzas, Korean-American fusion dishes like bulgogi short ribs, and jerk shrimp), the dishes reflect Toronto’s melting pot so it only makes sense that they would choose to look to a completely different neighbourhood. But why Don Mills?

Start a conversation with any Torontonian about rent prices, and be prepared to stay for at least a five-minute rant. With prices increasing and the population growing, we’re starting to see locals move to outside the downtown core. Commuting downtown to work is becoming more commonplace. Chef Colacitti points to these conditions as part of the reason why their move to Don Mills makes sense. As their consumers are moving outwards, so are they.

How a hip, Downtown Toronto Restaurant Successfully Expanded to the Suburbs

Aside from the new market opportunity, the location also makes sense for logistical reasons, the team makes some items in-house, so they wanted to choose another spot close enough to the city, so trekking back and forth wasn’t a major pain.

Being in the Shops at Don Mills, means that The Good Son is capitalizing on a unique set of foot traffic as well. Being close to shopping and entertainment means that consumers head to Don Mills for a day – they’re browsing, grabbing a coffee, seeing a movie, then capping off the day with dinner at The Good Son. Again, Chef Colacitti put it succinctly – they’re creating a destination.

This differs somewhat from the Queen West location. Along a popular pedestrian strip, The Good Son on Queen West is right off the streetcar line which means many patrons are not driving to the restaurant. This means more alcohol is purchased, and customers are more likely to take their time dining. Chef Colacitti has noticed that while the restaurant clientele doesn’t really differ in terms of demographic, the circumstances around why and when they are dining does change depending on the location.

How a hip, Downtown Toronto Restaurant Successfully Expanded to the Suburbs

With a comprehensive menu, The Good Son team, fortunately, did not really have to adjust the menus to meet demands, however, knowing that the lunch period is popular at the Don Mills spot has been key when developing specials. The Good Son team ensures that they are providing lunchtime options that fit the customers’ desires. For instance, the organic salmon, Cubano sandwich and classic anchovy caesar salad are all well-received dishes at The Good Son Don Mills for the lunchtime crowd. The Good Son Don Mills holds their wine special Monday to Friday between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., while Queen West holds it Tuesday to Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

How a hip, Downtown Toronto Restaurant Successfully Expanded to the Suburbs

These keen observations on customer behaviour is something Chef Colacitti attributes to the success of opening a second location. He’s learned over the years that listening to the customers is key, and in turn, restaurants need to evolve to accommodate to consumer expectations.

Chef Colacitti highlights The Good Son’s healthy work environment as one of the reasons why they were even able to open a second location in the first place. Chef Colacitti places a lot of importance on his staff, and he understands that they are vital to his and the restaurant’s success. He aims to promote from within; he knows that foodservice and hospitality careers are often seen as temporary ‘jobs’, so teaching and growing staff is important for retention. Retaining his talent has allowed him (and The Good Son) to grow with a trusted team.

While the ‘burbs may still be in the process of flourishing, the addition of The Good Son has definitely added to its appeal. Having been able to taste test their steak tartare, warm mushroom salad, and pizzas, I can accurately say that it’s worth the subway ride over.