TORONTO — A restaurant operator from Canada’s smallest province is now leading the country’s 30,000-member restaurant association. Liam Dolan, chef and owner of three leading restaurants in Charlottetown, became the chair of Restaurants Canada (formerly the CRFA) for 2014–‘15 at the association’s AGM, held March 3 at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre.
“I’sve worked in foodservice since I was a teen, and I’sm honoured by this opportunity to use my passion for the business for the greater good of Canada’s restaurants,” said the affable Dolan.
“We are the only type of business that is in every community in this country. We are the number-1 provider of first-time jobs, and we create thousands of spinoff jobs for everyone from farmers to furniture makers.” He added:”This is an industry that governments need to get behind, and I look forward to delivering that message.”
Dolan, who has served on the Restaurants Canada Board for nearly 13 years, studied culinary arts at the tender age of 16 in his native Ireland, before moving to P.E.I. where he worked as a chef in various hotels. He opened his first restaurant in Charlottetown more than 30 years ago and now operates the Claddagh Oyster House, the Olde Dublin Pub and Peake’s Quay Restaurant and Bar.
Dolan is a strong advocate for PEI’s tourism industry. He founded the P.E.I. International Shellfish Festival, which has grown into one of the biggest food festivals in the country, and he made headlines around the continent for serving a signature seafood dish on Live with Regis and Kelly that impressed Regis Philbin, who wasn’t a fan of seafood.
Before introducing the incoming chair, outgoing chair Susan Senecal, VP of Marketing, A&W, reflected on a year of change, citing the association’s leadership over important issues such as food safety, nutrition, credit-card fees and advocacy. “We are the most valued partner of the restaurant industry,” she said, pointing to $330 million in savings for operators over the past year.
Hot off the heels of a recent name change, Restaurants Canada celebrates 70 years of history as an association this year, so it’s fitting that there’s been a focus on change in the past year. “We’ve welcomed new directors and new members into our association, we’ve bought a new building, and we launched a new brand,” noted Senecal before passing the baton to Dolan.