Week of Feb. 14, 2011

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CCGD Update
According to industry insiders, the Feb. 4 shutdown of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors (CCGD) followed a decision by Loblaw Companies to pull out of the association. The decision was apparently made by the association’s directors at a Jan. 25 meeting. As a result, the five largest retail members of the former CCGD — Loblaw, Sobeys, Walmart Canada, Metro and Canada Safeway — are expecting to set up a food division with the Retail Council of Canada. Of the 16 CCGD employees, several have agreed to join the Retail Council of Canada, including Jackie Crichton in Ottawa, Allen Langdon in Vancouver, Frédéric Alberro in Quebec and David Wilkes in Toronto.

Record $46M Awarded to Denny’s Shooting Victim
A jury recently awarded a victim of a 2007 shooting at a Seattle Denny’s $46 million — a Washington record for a personal injury case. Lawyers for Denny’s and the plaintiff had previously agreed on a settlement minimum of $5 million and maximum of $13 million, the latter of which will be awarded. Denny’s agreed to the settlement and would not appeal, but, in a statement after the verdict, said that the act of violence could not have been foreseen or prevented by the company or its local restaurant personnel. “We understand that our insurance carrier chose to enter into a settlement for a much lower amount in the interest of bringing closure to this matter,” the Denny’s statement said. “Our sympathies have always been with the victims of this senseless act, and we hope the best for them in the future.” The case follows a finding that the family dining company was negligent in protecting its customers and employees. For the complete story, click here.

NAFEM 2011 Tradeshow Impresses
“Confidence. Connectivity. Customization. Conservation. Creativity. Collectively, these terms symbolize the mood and developments at the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers 2011 tradeshow [NAFEM 2010, Orlando, Fla.],” writes an unidentified foodservice equipment news and information journalist in The Schechter Report, adding the industry event was a “far cry” from its 2009 incarnation. According to the report, this improvement comes thanks to a rise in the number of attendees and exhibitors as well as an increase in the floor size and boost in booth innovation.

In other NAFEM Show news, the association honoured 53 elected leaders of major allied U.S. foodservice industry associations for a commitment to their respective organizations and the industry at-large at the Doctorate of Foodservice awards.

CAFP’s Top Management Night Success
The Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals’ (CAFP) 37th annual Top Management Night saw more than 200 industry professionals converge at its new home at Mississauga Ont.’s International Centre on Feb. 7.

The kitchen brigade, led by executive chef Joe Levesque, kicked off the evening with a four-course meal, while five awards were handed out to industry leaders, starting with CAFP Champion of Education and Training nods to Ann Buller, president of Centennial College and the International Centre.

Charles Grieco, legendary Toronto restaurateur and president and chair of the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI), accepted the Hans Bueschkens Award of Merit on behalf of the Canadian Hospitality Foundation — an OHI-managed source of industry-driven scholarships. “What this award of merit does is validate the work of the board and committee members who award $220,000 in scholarships [annually],” said Grieco, upon accepting the award from Rosanna Caira, editor and publisher of Foodservice and Hospitality magazine.

The final trophies of the evening were awarded by Ontario Restaurant News to Michael Doyle, vice-president of Food and Beverage at Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment for Newsmaker of the Year and Ion Aimers founder of The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro for Restaurateur of the Year.

Capping off the night, Dr. Nick Bontis, an award-winning professor from Hamilton’s McMaster University, captivated the audience, explaining how to work smarter by processing information more efficiently. “We have morphed from a physical world to an intangible world,” said the author and educator, alluding to the information age that is growing exponentially, potentially leading to problems down the road. “Our kids are going through a tremendous challenge in comprehension, and we have to teach them the skills” necessary to succeed in the future.

George Brown Student is Almost Famous
Jean-François Daigle, of Toronto’s George Brown College, has earned this year’s title of Canadian Regional S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef. “Although I was nervous presenting to the judges, I believed in my vision,” said Daigle of his honey-seared bison tenderloin. “I’ve learned from a number of great chefs, and it’s this learning that helped me achieve this honour.” A new addition at this year’s Canadian Regional Competition was the People’s Choice Award, which went to Christine Amanatidis of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Vancouver for her crispy duck breast with chestnut bread pudding. The aspiring chefs prepared their signature dishes at the Calphalon Centre in Toronto for a celebrity panel of chef judges and media. Daigle is one of 10 regional winners who will be flown to California for the final event at The Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley held from March 11 to 14. He will compete against nine regional winners from North America before a panel of food media, guests and chefs. The victor will earn up to $20,000 in prizes and a paid apprenticeship from one of the participating chef judges.

First Earl’s Opens in Toronto
After years of speculating where Earl’s Kitchen & Bar would open its first Toronto location, the West-Coast chain has landed at King and York Street, deep in the financial centre of Canada’s largest city.

In welcoming media to a preview Feb. 9, three days before the doors opened to the public, owner Bus Fuller, quipped, “It’s surprising what people can do when you give them enough money,” referencing the $6-million cost of the 10,000-square-foot space.

The restaurant fuses New York’s edge with Vancouver’s laid-back attitude with 225 seats and an expansive bar area. Come spring, it will feature an outdoor patio. “We’ve softened the concrete feel of being outdoors in the city by using vegetation and other natural elements to create an environment made for lingering,” said Tanya Klarich, lead designer from e+design + construction, Earl’s in-house design company, of the outdoor space.  

As usual, locally grown and seasonal produce will be at the forefront. “Nothing is more important than the quality of the ingredients,” said Fuller. All of Earl’s sauces, dressings and baked goods are made in-house daily using fresh, clean products by skilled bakers and sauciers. “It takes more time, but the end result is worth it. It’s an investment we’re happy to make,” said Fuller.

At the preview, media were treated to a sampling of some of the restaurant’s signature dishes, including its popular clam chowder, spicy seafood linguini, ribs and Cajun chicken and salmon with brown sugar and mustard glaze. The eight-course extravaganza was paired with a selection of high-quality wines, including the chain’s popular Whatchamacallit Chardonnay as well as Joel Gott’s Zinfandel from California.

Ranked among the 50 Best Employers in Canada for four years running, Earl’s began in Alberta and now features 62 locations across the country and in the U.S., including two others in Ontario: Mississauga and Burlington. A new Ontario location is expected open near the Colossus Theatre in Vaughan in early May.

Wacky Wings Comes to the GTA
Greater Toronto Area wing enthusiasts are getting a taste of Wacky Wings, a new resto inside Mississauga, Ont.’s Playdium complex. The new 16,000-square-foot space is the third location for owners Craig and Damon Burgess, a sibling team who opened the first resto in Sault Ste Marie in 2007. The Mississauga site holds more than 500 people in a space that includes a restaurant, a 65-screen sports bar and a fun zone with the latest interactive games and 25 billiard tables. The menu features more than 100 wing flavours, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads, appetizers and pizza. And, the restaurant design pays homage to Canada. “Similar to the original Sault Ste. Marie locations, the walls of the Mississauga venue are covered in spectacular Northern white cedar, while custom-designed wooden tables and chairs evoke the natural beauty of a Muskoka log cabin,” reads a company press release. The opening comes on the heels of a wing war in Ontario where the U.S.-based Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. is facing legal opposition from the founder of the Aurora, Ont.-based Wild Wing chain in regard to the Canuck operation’s trademarked brand name.

New Chef Joins Lord Elgin’s Grill 41
Chef Brian Vallipuram has stepped up to lead the kitchen at the new Grill 41 restaurant in Ottawa’s Lord Elgin hotel. “We are proud of the new space and the locally inspired menu at the restaurant and know chef Vallipuram will continue to raise the standard, bringing our guests an incredible dining experience,” said David Smythe, the hotel’s GM, while speaking of Vallipuram, who helmed Mark McEwen’s North 44 in Toronto and his own Axcess Restaurant. Named in recognition of the year The Lord Elgin was built, Grill 41 features a Canadian-inspired menu created in collaboration with the Food Network’s Michael Smith.

Airship37 to Open in Toronto
Toronto’s new event venue Airship37 is under construction and set to open in mid-April. Situated in a renovated industrial warehouse in the Distillery District, the 5,000-square-foot space will be outfitted with fully functional garage doors to provide access to an outdoor garden. The meeting rooms will have state-of-the-art technology and the ability to accommodate up to 400 people. There will be two facilities: the Gooderham Lounge and the Tabula Rasa Main Space. The Lounge will combine 1920s art deco with a contemporary look and built-in customized bar, while the larger Main Room will be a white open space. For more information, click here.

Honorary President Named For Montreal Festival
The only woman chef in France to have earned three Michelin stars, chef Anne Sophie Pic of Valence, France, is the honorary president of this year’s food and wine segment at the Montreal High Lights Festival, Feb. 17–27. The 12th Annual fest will highlight women, with more than 50 female chefs and wine producers focusing on the art of fine dining. Pic will cook for two sold-out crowds at Toqué! Restaurant on Feb. 18 and 19. For more information, click here.

U.S. Sales of Hotels Doubled in 2010
U.S. sales of hotel properties more than doubled in 2010 (1,298 hotels sold or transferred versus 513 in 2009) and the average selling price per guestroom soared 86 per cent to US$108,199 per key, compared to just US$58,301 in 2009, according to Lodging Econometrics. The global authority on hotel real estate predicts transaction volume “is poised to increase over the next three years, with Wall Street banking activity accelerating and a large flow of existing real estate loans coming due.” Many of these assets will be distressed, presenting attractive investment opportunities for those able to access funds. Other contributing factors for increased sales include: recovery of investment banking; new REITs being formed with access to both equity and debt and older REITs. Publicly traded hotel companies and private equity groups were also able to secure corporate debt at record-low interest rates.

U.S Hotels to See Gains in 2011
U.S. hotel occupancy in 2011 is projected to increase 1.8 per cent to 58.5 per cent; average daily rate is expected to jump 4.2 per cent by the end of the year to US$102.21 and revenue per available room is projected to rise 6.1 per cent to US$59.78. Jan Freitag of Smith Travel Research (STR) told the recent ALIS Conference that 2010 saw a great increase in demand and that improving fundamentals make 2011 the year of great expectations for the hotel industry. Supply is expected to grow slightly in 2011 with a 0.7-per-cent increase, and demand is projected to increase 2.5 per cent. “While this strength resulted in rapidly recovering occupancies last year, we look for rebounding room rates to lead RevPAR growth in 2011 and 2012,” said Mark Lomanno, CEO, in an STR report. “While it may be the second half of 2011 before we begin to see rapidly accelerating room rates, by the time we get to 2012 we now expect room rate growth to rival the boom years of 2006 and 2007.” For more information, click here.

Pet-Friendly Motel 6 Gives CKC Members Discount
Dallas-based Motel 6 has partnered with the Etobicoke, Ont.-based Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) to offer CKC’s 25,000 members a 10-per-cent discount on Motel 6 and Studio 6 room reservations at 1,100 properties across the U.S. and Canada. “We understand that finding pet-friendly accommodations can be a challenge and welcome CKC members and their four-legged friends with this discount at our locations across the United States and Canada,” said Olivier Poirot, CEO for Accor North America, Motel 6 and Studio 6. For more information, click here.

 

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