Lean Rhino
By Athena Raypold

Food and New Canadians

Food is a current that runs through every aspect of Lean Rhino owner Michael Sidra’s life. From growing up in Sudan, where food was so scarce that his father waited in line for three hours before work just to get two loaves of bread, to arriving in Canada, where food was abundant, Michael continually found himself working with and around food. And for him, food is intrinsically linked to the immigrant community: It’s a unifying force, a cultural comfort and the gateway to entrepreneurship. Michael believes that many immigrants are attracted to entrepreneurship. “[They] think that if they start their own business, they can be their own boss, that they can hire someone to sit at the front and interact with customers [for them],” he says. “But that never works, because you do have to interact with your customers.”

As a food inspector for more than 15 years, Michael often saw people starting up restaurants without any business planning or foresight. “I’ve had conversations with people who came into this country and invested their entire life savings into a food business and then they were in tears when they had to close [without] anything to fall back on,” he says. Heartbroken after seeing so many immigrant families fail, Michael created the first arm of Lean Rhino to give back to new Canadians by developing business plans for aspiring food related entrepreneurs.

I’ve had conversations with people who came into this country and invested their entire life savings into a food business and then they were in tears when they had to close [without] anything to fall back on. - Michael Sidra, owner
Lean Rhino also provides food safety courses for food-related businesses
Photo provided by Lean Rhino

Setting Businesses Up for Success

Between his own hands-on experience in the food industry, his training and experience as a food inspector, and his business degree and acumen, Michael researched and developed a compact business plan model that clients can use not only to submit to banks for financing, but also to create a roadmap for starting and running a food business. Each plan is a collaborative effort. “I don’t do it in isolation; we have to do this together,” says Michael. “This has to be your plan, there’s no sense in me writing it and giving it to you if you don’t understand it.”

To illustrate the benefit of his business plan, Michael provides an analogy: “As a pilot, you’re on a runway –the business plan is your runway – once you get up and you’re in the air, if you have to land quickly, it’s going to hurt. But if you hit the brakes because things don’t look so good, it’s a lot safer and better on the ground. The business plan tells you if you should take off or if you should stop and look somewhere else.” Michael’s unique expertise allows him to analyze and consider every angle of a potential business to determine whether or not it will succeed before people invest everything they’ve got. Lean Rhino business plans cover every aspect of business start up and planning: business concept and plan, market differentiation and competitor analysis, customer profiles, financials, marketing strategies and a financial forecast.

Lean Rhino writes business plans and offers food safety courses for food-related businesses.
Photo provided by Lean Rhino

Creating a Food Safety Culture

Passionate about the importance of safe food handling, Michael says that of the millions of people who get sick every year, 70 per cent are from restaurants, and 100 per cent are preventable. “Food safety is about prevention, it’s public health,” he says. “It’s more than just a government responsibility, it’s everyone’s responsibility.” Michael has investigated countless cases where mishandling resulted in serious, life threatening outbreaks, particularly for children and immunocompromised adults. But safe food handling isn’t just about preventing bacteria growth; it’s also about preventing physical contaminations. One of the cases Michael investigated involved a four-year-old boy who got a piece of metal stuck in his throat from a strainer (it had to be surgically removed).

Lean Rhino’s second arm focuses on creating a culture of food safety – which can make or break a food business. “I’ve seen tons of business get destroyed because of a food-borne illness,” says Michael. “For every one person that gets sick from your business, they tell 10 other people. So eventually, your business is going to suffer.” Because “food safety courses don’t make a difference unless the restaurant itself has an environment that supports food safety,” Lean Rhino provides businesses with an education program that aids them in creating a food safety culture. Michael’s unique approach reaches both the business as a whole and the individuals that work within it, ultimately making food safety a habitual, natural inclination for all employees.

Lean Rhino also provides food safety courses and online training
Image provided by Lean Rhino
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