From Skid Row to Success, and Other Lessons Learned at the CAFP Top Management Night Awards

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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Nearly 40 years ago, Frank O’Dea found himself living in a 50-cent-a-night flophouse at the corner of Toronto’s Jarvis and Shuter Streets, suffering from alcohol abuse and holding little hope for the future. “It was a dirty, lonely and sometimes violent existence,” the co-founder of The Second Cup told a rapt audience of foodservice professionals at last night’s CAFP Top Management Night awards.

After a stranger gave him a dime, O’Dea made a phone call to an alcohol-abuse help group that would change his life. He never had another drink. He said having hope and vision helped him take action and turn his life around.

After a stint selling coin-sorting devices, O’Dea and his friend, Tom Culligan, were asked to open a coffee shop at Scarborough Town Centre mall. In 1975, they launched the first Second Cup, a 154-sq.-ft. food-court kiosk, which was soon followed by units at Square One in Mississauga, Ont. and Carlingwood Shopping Centre in Ottawa. They didn’t realize it at the time, but the business was losing money, and fast.

A simple idea turned everything around. “Why don’t we put a coffee maker out and charge more than anybody else?” O’Dea said. It turns out, premium pricing would transform the coffee industry, and as Second Cup flourished coast-to-coast, O’Dea used his success to help others, founding several charity initiatives including Street Kids International, War Child (Canada) and the Canadian Landmine Foundation. “One man, with a vision, changed the world. Don’t tell me you can’t,” he told the audience. “Hope, vision and action changed the world.”

Award-winners
Many of the night’s award-winners have been living out O’Dea’s philosophy of “hope, vision and action.” One of which is Jim Kostuch, president of TrainCan in Toronto, who was awarded the Food Executive of the Year Award. Kostuch joined Kostuch Publications in 1989 and began working with both Foodservice and Hospitality and Hotelier magazines. In 2002, he joined TrainCan and began developing and expanding the company’s food-safety training programs across Canada. But Kostuch’s industry involvement extends beyond the thousands of certified people in the foodservice industry each year. He has been a passionate supporter of Friends of We Care and provides scholarships at Ryerson University, George Brown College, Humber College, Centennial College and more.

Meanwhile, the Restaurateur of the Year Award went to Anthony Rose, who, with business partner Robert Wilder, is behind the ever-growing empire of restaurants on Dupont Ave. and beyond, including Rose & Sons, Fat Pasha and the recently opened Bar Begonia, a Parisian cocktail bar.

Alix Box, president and CEO of Second Cup Coffee Co., was named Newsmaker of the Year. Box landed at the coffee company two years ago and has since committed to a company-wide transformation, unveiling the Café of the Future on King St., which has been a resounding success, posting year-over-year sales growth of more than 40 per cent.

At the end of the evening, Rosanna Caira, editor and publisher of Foodservice and Hospitality magazine, took the stage to award The Keg Steakhouse + Bar with the Hans Bueschkens Award of Merit, an honour bestowed on companies demonstrating outstanding service, dedication and social advancement in the Canadian hospitality industry. Ryan Bullock, VP of Marketing, accepted the award. “The Keg appeared on the Canadian landscape in 1968 and over the years the restaurant chain has become renowned for serving great steaks, for mentoring many of the industry’s leading stars and in the process, for being part of the community it serves. In fact, since 2001, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been one of the largest beneficiaries of grants from the Keg Spirit Foundation,” said Caira. To date, the Keg Spirit Foundation has contributed more than $7.1 million to more than 300 different charities.

 

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