Week of Feb. 8, 2010



Federal Government Denies Negotiating US$90 M to Intrawest
The Canadian government has denied that it is negotiating a US$90-million pre-winter Olympics payment to Intrawest ULC, the operator of the ski resort venue, Whistler Blackcomb. Deirdre McCracken, a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister James Moore emphasized there is no contract between the Government of Canada and the owners of the venue, New York hedge fund Fortress Investments LL, or its subsidiary Intrawest ULC, which is now in receivership. The New York Post reported last week that Fortress wants the Canadian government to put up US$90 million before the Games start or it will sue. While not commenting on the Post report, Intrawest CEO Bill Jensen issued a statement that the company “has a 2002 agreement with VANOC (the Olympic organizing committee) to host the Winter Olympics at Whistler Blackcomb and have every confidence that VANOC will honour its financial commitments. Intrawest is looking forward to a successful Olympic Games.”
Lenders who helped Fortress Investments acquire Intrawest for $2.75 billion in 2006, and who have not received a $524-million debt payment, which was due late last year, have set a deadline of Feb. 19 — midway through the Games — to foreclose on Intrawest, unless they get more money.

Compass Group Canada Acquires Hurley Group
Toronto-based Compass Group Canada has completed the acquisition of The Hurley Group, a provider of cleaning and facility management services in North America, operating mainly in business and industry, as well as in airports and cultural venues. The Hurley Group, based in Toronto, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Compass Group Canada.
“Named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies in each of the last eight years, The Hurley Group’s entrepreneurial culture and goal of attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce and a prestigious customer base fits very well with Compass Canada’s operating philosophy as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2009 and 2010,” said Jack MacDonald, CEO, Compass Group Canada and ESS North America. “The Hurley Group acquisition enables us to deliver additional services to their market, and the acquisition positions Compass Group Canada for continued growth.”
The Hurley Group comprises 3,500 employees providing cleaning and facility management services across Canada. The company’s business model will be maintained and it will run as a separate entity under Compass Group Canada’s organizational structure. As the newly appointed chairman of the Board of The Hurley Group, J. Michael Horgan will report to MacDonald. The name of the company will remain The Hurley Group, and its corporate offices will remain in Toronto. Philippe D. Mack, formerly COO of The Hurley Group, has been named as The Hurley Group’s new CEO, reporting to MacDonald. “I am enormously proud of what our team has achieved over the past 50 years,” said Horgan. “We long ago recognized that people are our greatest strength and by working together, we have become one of the best employers in North America. Compass Group is a company with similar core values, sharing a commitment to quality, service and employee development. This bodes well for the continued growth and success of the combined organizations.”

Compass Opens Zinc Restaurant in Art Gallery of Alberta
Zinc, the new 75-seat restaurant in the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) in Edmonton, has a new executive chef as well. Twenty-year culinary veteran David Omar will be leading the show in its brand new kitchen. Omar joined Zinc’s operator, Compass Group Canada, in 2005. Compass operates other popular museum restaurants, including C5 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and Petrie Court Cafe and Wine Bar at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The AGA also offers two other food and beverage choices, a coffee and snack bar for breakfast on the ground floor and the Third Floor Terrace Café, which will offer deli sandwiches, pastries and fresh fruit for lunch, snacks and casual dining.

State of the Industry at HAC Conference
Members of the Canadian hotel industry met at Toronto’s historic Fairmont Royal York, Feb. 3 and 4 for the annual Hotel Association of Canada conference. While the tone of last year’s meeting was decidedly dour, given the economic events of late 2008, one could characterize this edition’s mood as cautiously optimistic.
Getting things underway in the early morning plenary session was CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld who provided attendees with a comprehensive look at what the industry might expect in the coming years, as both the Canadian and U.S. economies lumber out of the recession. And, while Shenfeld foresees strong prospects for rebound, it’s expected that this particular recovery will be more protracted than most recent examples. “Globally, we’re going to see a bit of a slower road back than we’re used to seeing,” he said, chalking it up to a historically strong Canadian dollar and continued sluggishness south of the border.
After dissecting the economic factors, the morning’s second presenter, chairman and CEO of YPartnership, Peter Yesawich discussed the market trend side of the business, particularly as it pertains to the next generation of online-savvy travellers. More importantly, he showed attendees the potentially devastating impact online tools like Meta searches have had, and will continue to have, on overall profitability, due to what he called “a new age of pricing transparency.” And, with nine out of 10 respondents of a YPartnership poll suggesting they look online to find the best rate, the challenge is certainly here to stay.
Fortunately for those worried by the online and economic pitfalls discussed in the morning’s opening session, the ‘chicks’ (Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen of A Couple of Chicks Marketing) were on hand to provide guidance in two separate breakout sessions.
While Brusha handled the difficult question of online discount sites, like Hotwire and Priceline, Whalen moderated a panel discussion focused on how to best leverage social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The conference’s signature Hall of Fame luncheon followed, with a spirited presentation from the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Michele McKenzie who did her part to spread the Olympic spirit. Guests were also granted first impressions of newly minted Minister of State, Small Business and Tourism, Rob Moore, who spoke optimistically about the future of tourism in Canada.
Celebrated at this year’s luncheon were: Fantasy Land Hotel, Edmonton Alta., which earned the award for excellence in human resources; for its work providing accommodation to cancer patients receiving care, the Delta Brunswick in St. John N.B. was presented with the Humanitarian Award; Hotel du Vieux Quebec and the Westin Ottawa shared the energy and environment Award; and, finally, Ecolab was saluted as Supplier of the Year.
Afternoon sessions included insightful presentations and panel discussions on everything from housekeeping and food and beverage, to the hotel design of the future, culminating in a round table featuring hospitality buyers and sellers.

Fairmont Pacific Rim Readies to Open in Vancouver
With unobstructed views of the north Shore Mountains, Stanley Park and Coal Harbour, guests of the new The Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver will soon be enjoying some of the best vistas the city has to offer. But while the 377-room property is slated to debut this March, the hotel is fully booked for the coming 2010 Winter Olympic Games, set to kick off later this week.
The sophisticated, contemporary hotel combines Asian influence with a West Coast feel in its decor and culinary offerings. Modern guest rooms include surround sound, media connectivity, bedside controls and “TV mirrors.” Mascioni linens, Stearns & Foster beds, Nespresso coffee makers, and spa-like bathrooms are standard. The property also features a rooftop swimming pool, meditation pods, outdoor fireplaces, 15,000-square-feet of meeting space and a spa.
In the lobby lounge artisanal teas and cocktails are available, as is a raw bar featuring seasonal seafood and comfort foods. ORU, a pan-Asian bistro offers authentic dishes, and is equipped with a tandoori oven to bake naan, bannock and lavish. Executive chef David Wong will use Ocean Wise-approved seafood, locally sourced and organic ingredients.

Dougiedog – The Modern Dog Opens in Vancouver
Take one Canadian comic and filmmaker, one 1988 Dodge Caravan, 65 restaurants and countless hotdog connoisseurs and celebrities, and you get one documentary and one new restaurant with more than 20 different dog varieties. Dougieluv has opened Granville Street’s Dougiedog – The Modern Dog restaurant in downtown Vancouver after cross-country research to recreate the popular comfort food. Offering fresh, all-natural wieners made with hormone-free, grain-fed meat raised and processed in the Fraser Valley, menu items include the Crif Dog with deep-fried bacon, pineapple and green onions and the Dave Grohl Special with a whisky influsion, coleslaw and hot peppers. Dougieluv has also instituted root beer pairings, with more than 10 varieties of the frothy fizz to complement each variety of meat and selection of sides. In the spring, hot on the heels of the restaurant opening, Dougieluv will also debut Dougiedog: The Documentary, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at his research trip to find America’s favourite comfort dog in the midst of the latest recession.

Starwood Asia Pacific Launches Food and Lifestyle Website
A new website that focuses on the F&B experience at Asia Pacific Starwood Hotels & Resorts properties has been launched at EatDrinkAndMore.com. Directed by Martin B. Jones, vice-president, Food and Beverage, for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Asia Pacific, the site features the branded F&B concepts for its portfolio of brands, including Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton, St. Regis, W hotels and Aloft. “A memorable hotel experience is not complete without an outstanding restaurant and bar experiences,” Jones said. Miguel Ko, chairman and president of Starwood Asia Pacific, added, “Working with various experts in the food and beverage industry, including designers, chefs, food journalists and consultants has provided us with great insights into the creation of an outstanding food and beverage experience.” The new portal also offers other lifestyle options, including spas, fitness, weddings, events and more.

Toronto Resto Welcomes Bathroom Sex; Quickly Backpedals
In a risqué Valentine’s weekend promotion that created such a stir it quickly spread around the world, the popular Mildred’s Temple Restaurant in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighbourhood invited customers to have sex in its unisex bathrooms. A none-too-cryptic message appeared on its website, asking: “Have you given any thought to moving beyond the bedroom? Check out Mildred’s Sexy Bathrooms throughout the weekend of Big Love. You get the picture.”
Amy Pataki, a Toronto Star’s restaurant critic, wrote about the promotion in last Wednesday’s paper, which included quotes from co-owner Donna Dooher about the swingin’ sales pitch, and before long it was airing in news reports in the U.S., France, Turkey and Australia. Thanks to social media sites like Twitter and the abundance of food and celebrity bloggers passing the message along, word of the promotion travelled quickly.  
It seems it may have spread too quickly, as on Friday, another Star story by Pataki revealed the whole thing was a joke that wasn’t intended to be taken seriously. “We were just having a bit of fun and being playful,” said Dooher in the story. “The world is a pretty stressed place.”

IHG Opens Holiday Inn & Suites Surrey
IHG, (InterContinental Hotels Group) has opened the newly built, $15-million Holiday Inn & Suites Surrey in downtown Surrey, B.C., its first property in the community. The hotel’s dining facility features the Holiday Inn Best-4-Breakfast menu, and the hotel’s lounge will offer a pub menu. The property offers some 2,380 square feet of function space for business meetings and banquets. Gina LaBarre, senior vice-president, Brand Delivery, the Americas, IHG, commented, “Development in Surrey is important in expanding our Holiday Inn consumer base and growing an even stronger presence across the Americas.”

Flatiron Resto to Open at Chinook Centre
Calgary-based Lucid Group of Companies has announced plans to open its third Flatiron Restaurant and Bar at Calgary’s Chinook Centre in December. “This is another important step in growing our Flatiron brand in Western Canada,” said Adam Drybrough, a partner with Lucid. “Chinook Centre is an important location for us. This Flatiron restaurant, located on two floors on the Northeast corner of the mall fronting directly onto Macleod Trail, will become our flagship location. High traffic, high visibility and customer access from both the street and mall levels make it a desirable location for showcasing our premium casual restaurant concept.” The 9,500-square-foot space will seat 250 and is expected to employ about 200 full and part-time staff. The food will be created by Flatiron’s executive chef, Michelle Blanchett. This opening is only the beginning, as Lucid Group is keen to grow its Flatiron and Kayne restaurant brands in Western Canada. Plans for a new gourmet coffee concept are also expected to be introduced shortly.

“Optimistic” Industry Gathers for 2010 Foodservice Interchange in Toronto
The annual Foodservice Interchange Conference was held on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., attracting more than 200 professionals from across the foodservice industry. After a year of much fear and cost-cutting, it was reassuring to see that attendees had a generally optimistic outlook for the year ahead.
With the theme, “Navigating Business Through Turbulent Times,” the 2010 event assembled some of the top analysts and experts in the areas of foodservice innovation and trends, in the hope that attendees could glean a better understanding of the state of the economy and the foodservice market and help assist them and their companies with strategies for a profitable future.
The conference, organized by the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors and Food & Consumer Products of Canada, featured top-tier speakers, including Robert Carter from the
NPD Group Canada; Foodservice and Hospitality magazine’s editor/publisher, Rosanna Caira; Cora Tsouflidou, founder of Chez Cora’s; economist and author, Benjamin Tal, of CIBC World Markets; Neil Bearse, manager of web-based Marketing for Queens University’s School of Business; and Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc. Unfortunately, Ailene MacDougall, senior director, Strategic Planning and Consumer/Business Insights for McDonald’s Restaurant of Canada Limited, who was slated as a speaker, missed the event for personal reasons.
Throughout the day, the NPD Group’s Carter, alongside a few of his colleagues, presented in-depth analysis and data surrounding consumer trends in 2009 and what operators and executives can expect in 2010. Not surprisingly, general optimism from both consumers and the industry as a whole was a big focus, seeing as 2009 was such a struggle. “Consumer spending will increase by $1.3 billion in 2010. How will you help capture that share?,” Carter asked. Interestingly, he pegged stealing market share as one of the most important issues operators were going to face this year, with value the big buzzword. Other highlights included Caira’s presentation on the big operator tends of the past year as covered in F&H, with issues like dealing with the downturn, the green movement, sustainable and local food, the revival in butchery and the growing shift toward more casual dining coming to the forefront.
Chez Cora’s Tsouflidou spoke passionately about entrepreneurship and just how she managed to grow her 29-seat snack-bar store into an incredibly popular and profitable breakfast chain, and CIBC’s Tal let attendees know what they can expect from the Canadian and world economies in 2010. “The crisis is over, the recovery has started,” said Tal. “This is forcing changes that are positive for your business. But less spending means the new economy will be less volatile. It will grow, but it will grow slowly. That is a good thing.” Tal also cautioned that rising Obama-led protectionism could have a serious impact on the Canadian markets in the future. Foodservice and Hospitality was a media sponsor of the event.

DiRoNA Conference Coming to Toronto, Sept. 19 to 21
The 2010 Annual Gala and Educational Conference of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) will be held in Toronto, from Sept. 19 to 22, headquartered at The Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Conference chairman, John Arena commented, “We’ll be adding some great new interesting events to this annual reunion.” Vice-chair of the conference is Barry Chaim; Bill Hyde of Dallas is the chairman of DiRoNA.


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