TORONTO — More than 520 people came together Friday to kick off the holiday season and celebrate industry excellence at Kostuch Media Ltd.’s 28th annual Pinnacle Awards held at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
The iconic property sparkled with holiday cheer — the perfect setting to hand out the “Oscars” of the hospitality industry. Following a reception, sponsored by Saputo, guests enjoyed a menu created by the hotel’s executive chef Robert Mills and his team and perfectly paired with wines from sponsors Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs.
The awards presentations kicked-off with the Supplier of the Year category. Toronto-based Avendra Canada took home top honours on the hotel side, while King City’s Beretta Farms — which raises cattle that is certified organic, raised without the use of hormones, steroids or anti-biotics and treated ethically — were recognized as Foodservice and Hospitality’s top pick.
Independent Restaurateur of the Year and Hotelier of the Year awards were next, with Accent Inn president Mandy Farmer getting the nod for Hotelier of the Year. “I’m a CEO; I’m an entrepreneur; they don’t have a Super Dad award, so I share this with [my husband],” she told the room as she thanked her husband for supporting her endeavours. F&H’s Independent Restaurateur award winners (and former servers), Kelly Black and Jayme MacFayden of Calgary-based BMeX Restaurant Group shared their inspirational story — demonstrating how hard work, determination and a great concept helped them build a wildly successful restaurant group.
The 2016 Chef of the Year award was presented to Anthony Walsh, a 25-year-verteran of the industry who has been instrumental in building Toronto’s Oliver & Bonacini Group. Walsh has been a mentor to many of Toronto’s top chefs and as O&B’s corporate chef, oversees the kitchens of 14 restaurants, 10 event venues and the company’s catering arm.
Sunray Group president Ray Gupta took the stage next to accept this year’s Hotelier Regional Company of the Year award — the company’s first Pinnacle Award. Sunray Group currently owns and operates 28 hotels, with an additional two set to open later this year, representing about 3,500 hotel rooms in Eastern Canada. “What I am most proud of,” said Gupta, “is our company culture. People love to work for us.”
F&H’s Regional Company of the Year award was presented to Paramount Fine Foods, a relative newcomer to the foodservice landscape, launching its first unit in 2007. Since then, the halal Middle Eastern restaurant chain has had a meteoric rise. By the end of 2016, the company is projected to have a total of 55 units open, mostly in southern Ontario. Additionally, the company also has a gourmet butcher shop, food factory and a food truck. Founder Mohamad Fakih, who admitted that he can’t fry an egg, credits his team for the brand’s success.
Company of the Year awards were the next order of business, following a visually stunning and delicious dessert plate. McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada president and CEO John Betts accepted the prestigious award on behalf of the iconic brand. Thanks in part to menu introductions and innovations, the company managed to increase its 2015 sales to close to $4 billion sales with a total of 1,443 units.
On the hotel side, Superior Lodging is coming off a solid year, despite the vagaries of the western Canadian market. In the past year, the company added six Super 8 hotels, five Microtel Inns and Suites, eight Travelodges, six Thriftlodges and two Super 8’s. In 2015, the company partnered with Waramaug Hospitality Canada Partner to acquire the master license rights for Travelodge Canada — helping to mitigate the performance declines in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A standing ovation greeted this year’s recipient of the Rosanna Caira Lifetime Achievement award winner. Michael Beckley, a consummate hotelier who has spent 50 years in the hotel industry both in Europe and Canada, opened with a joke but quickly turned serious as he expressed his love and appreciation for the industry, his colleagues and most of all, his family. Most recently, Beckley was executive vice-president of Marriott Hotels of Canada before retiring late last year.
Since introducing the first industry award in 1988, Foodservice and Hospitality has honoured a diverse group of leaders for their continued success and achievements, representing every facet of the industry, from upscale restaurants to quick-service chains. Each of this year’s winners are distinguished for their contributions to the image of the industry through civic, educational and community involvement, as well as their efforts in establishing innovative concepts in foodservice or hotel management. Past winners include George Cohon of McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd.; The TDL Group; Starbucks Canada; Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser of Inniskillin Wines Inc.; and Four Seasons Hotels founder, Isadore Sharp. Hotelier magazine’s first annual Hotelier of the Year award, representing similar achievement in the hotel industry, was presented in 1994 to hotel executives Robert DeMone, Canadian Pacific Hotels & Resorts; Michael Beckley, Commonwealth Hospitality; and Simon Cooper, Delta Hotels & Resorts.