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Food & Drink

What’s up with all the “Firkin” pubs?

Dear Urban Decoder: What’s up with all the “Firkin” pubs?—James Patel, Moore Park

A firkin is a unit of Old English measurement, equalling one quarter of a barrel or 86.47 pints of beer. The Firkin enterprise dates back to 1987, when two South African expatriates bought the Fox and Firkin at Yonge and Eglinton and used it to start a chain of their own. That was 40 outlets ago, and they’re planning to expand their empire well beyond the GTA. The Firkin Group has partnered with an American franchising company called Fransmart, which was looking for a pub concept to replicate across the continent. Eight are already open stateside, and another 125 are in the pipe. Fransmart foresees as many as 1,000 little firkins. So you want to open your own Firkin franchise? Don’t even bother applying unless you have a net worth of $1 million and are ready to spend upward of $500,000. Then you’ll be presented with a list of possible names to choose from; the company’s president holds a closely guarded master list. And one more thing: management, tired of Torontonians heading to “The Fox” or “The Quail,” will flip U.S. names around so that the “Firkin” comes first, like the Firkin & Bull in—wait for it—San Antonio, Texas. Americans might not know what firkin means, but damned if they’ll forget it.

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