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    After successfully founding Cultures Fresh Food Restaurants and New York Fries, Toronto entrepreneur Jay Gould ventured into premium burgers in 2005 with the opening South Street Burger Co. in Toronto. He opened his 12th store this year -- all them in Ontario and Alberta. He spoke with Hollie Shaw about expansion plans and how to stay unique in a crowded category.

    Q: What made you decide to get into the burger market? Given the market presence of giants like McDonald's and specialty players like Licks, it is a pretty competitive category.

    A: South St. Burger Co. came about initially as an expansion strategy for the New York Fries brand and as we began to build the concept we quickly realized that this was a much bigger opportunity than merely growing our fry units. We noticed that the premium burger segment was being poorly serviced in Canada, so we set out to create upscale burger experience that stood apart from traditional fastfood burger offerings. NYF was built on the concept of real and fresh ingredients and we wanted that same standard put to our burgers.

    So, while the burger category is a very crowded one, as you point out, we don't feel there is strong competition at the higher end. Burgers are the second-most-purchased food item outside the house in North America. And fries are No. 1.