Poutinerie hiring workers with special needs to open in Downtown Naperville

Nathan Yuan, News Editor

Chez François Poutinerie, a poutine restaurant, is slated to come to Naperville downtown next to the Chipotle and Five Guys in River District next summer. The restaurant will not only bring authentic poutine, it will also create job opportunities for special needs teenagers and adults.

Poutine is a Canadian staple, usually made with french fries, cheese curds and gravy, though additions can be made. The idea to serve poutine came after Thi Nyugen, co-founder of Chez François Poutinerie, moved from Canada to Naperville. 

“We had poutine in every corner of the street and DNA,” Nyugen said. “When we moved here eight years ago, we tried to find poutine, and we couldn’t find a poutine restaurant, or the one that we tried wasn’t authentic.”

Another inspiration for the restaurant was Nyugen’s son who is a special needs student at Naperville Central High School.

“[Naperville] has been wonderful for all the services that [it] provides to the special needs community, but when they reach 22 years old, there’s nothing after that. Nothing,” Nyugen said. “You don’t see them, they’re isolated at home, they have no social life… They have no hope.”

Nyugen wanted to secure a future for her son and other developmentally disabled teens and adults like him. As a result, Nyugen combined her love for her son and her entrepreneurial dream to bring opportunities to developmentally disabled teens and adults.

“We’re gonna open a restaurant and we’re gonna hire special needs [employees],” Nyugen said. “But the restaurant is not only a restaurant, [it] is a fun club for friends and provides the social life. That’s what my goal is. To offer an authentic poutine to the population of Naperville and also opportunity and community.”

To get the concept off the ground, Nyugen, who has a background in marketing, partnered with fellow Central parent, Tim Baker, who’s operated restaurants for 30 years.

“We started with the idea that… we’re going to serve poutine,” Baker said. “And it was going to be a restaurant where we would train special needs kids and adults. Then, we determine pricing, [whether] it’s going to be something super casual or a sit down restaurant.”

Ultimately, the partnership decided on a fast-casual restaurant similar to Portillo’s or Buffalo Wild Wings with a focus on a gourmet twist on poutine. 

The demographic of Naperville was also an important consideration.

“We started adding on these variables that we had to account for,” Baker said. “We wanted to have a place where teenagers and young adults and people from the college were comfortable hanging out in our space… On the weekends we’re going to stay up until when the bar is closed because our food is really good after bar food.”

The restaurant has also acquired products from a multitude of sources. 

“The potatoes are cold weather Idaho potatoes, which makes a difference when you’re frying potatoes,”  Baker said. “We’re getting our cheese curds from Wisconsin.”

Due to supply chain issues, Chez François Poutinerie expects to open in late summer.