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Island Grill comes of age - New commissary opens today

Published:Friday | May 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM
New commissary opens today
Thalia Lyn
From left: Raymond Chang, Gladstone Chang, Thalia Lyn, Maisie Chang with infant Mary Joy O-Reilly, and Karen Chang. - Contributed
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 Barbara Ellington, Public Affairs Editor

Today, the popular Jamaican fast-food chain, Island Grill, opens its new commissary, a symbolic 'homecoming' to the 2 Valentine Drive, Red Hills Road address, bought by founder Thalia Lyn's father, Gladstone, and his brothers 60 years ago.

Lyn, who owns the chain, says her father had won a premium bond and used it to purchase some 42 acres of land, most of which has now been sold for development into what later became Valentine Gardens. The Island Grill headquarters occupies some of the property.

Also housed there is the chain's new commissary. The previous one opened in 2000 but quickly outgrew its limited storage capacity. "Our new commissary opened in December last year with approximately 13,000 square feet of storage and 12 temperature-controlled production areas. It took two years of planning, $200 million in investment and has created 32 new jobs," the proud owner said.

NEW Catering & Mobile Units

The commissary is Island Grill's way of spreading its wings. There is a new 1,200-square foot kitchen where thousands of meals can be prepared for events. "We can also deliver these meals in our new mobile unit to events and areas where we don't yet have restaurants. This will create another 50 new jobs," Lyn told The Gleaner in an interview on Monday.

But there have been some bumps along the road to maturity, like the closing down of the two Florida locations some years ago, something Lyn cites as her one major regret to date. "After 9/11, we were hit hard; business just went south and we couldn't mark time waiting for things to improve so we took the decision to close," she said.

Naturally, today's official opening of the commissary marks a high point in the chain's 21-year history. It's an expensive move, but they are happy to be servicing the $200-million loan. Another big plus is watching her staff grow and develop over the years. She cites the example of a deaf mute who has worked her way from line staff to a supervisory position. "I love to see their passion for the job, they are the best," she said. She is also pleased to be contributing to the growth of the agricultural sector. And, being a locally owned and operated fast-food chain, all the decisions are made locally.

Corporate Social Responsibility

An excellent corporate citizen, Island Grill has sponsored many causes, including 'Soupa Pot of Love Programme', started in 2010. This programme encourages teams to work with a charity of their choice in the community. It is based on the idea that a simple act of kindness can make all the difference. Teams deliver and serve soup and spread cheer to the organisation they are visiting.

The Employee Giving Programme started in 2010 encourages the children of staff to do well in school. They are awarded school supplies, money and a book bag, for earning good grades.

Her son Michael Lyn and his wife Denise are integral to the business' marketing and development, always bringing fresh ideas and innovative thinking. The company is on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare and just surpassed 126,000 Facebook fans. They respond to both good and bad postings on their sites.

Contact them at: Island Grill, 2 Valentine Drive, Kingston 19, Telephone: 876-931-8596 or, Fax: 876-924-0463:https://www.facebook.com/IslandGrill or: https://twitter.com/#!/IslandGrill, or; https://foursquare.com/user/2495440barbara.ellington@gleanerjm.com.

The company's history

Island Grill was founded in 1991 by Thalia Lyn at its Twin Gates location.

It was rebranded in 1998, changing its name from Chicken Supreme to Island Grill, to express its Jamaicanness in both menu and decor.

Now 21 years old, there are 16 restaurants - 15 here and one in Barbados; the chain employs more than 500 persons. Plans are in place to open three new restaurants this fiscal year.

Local supplies - they process approximately a quarter of a million pounds of locally raised chicken and fish each month. Last year, 130 tons of locally farmed carrots, cabbage, lettuce, tomato and yam were processed.

At Island Grill, 90 per cent of its shift managers and 86 per cent of its kitchen supervisors joined the company as team members, many of whom have worked their way all the way up to restaurant and commissary managers.