Intrawest News Flies Fast and Furious as Winter Olympics Approach
Just as the clock ticks down to the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, news emerged Wednesday, Jan. 20, that Vancouver-based Intrawest, which owns the Whistler Blackcomb Resort, may be forced into foreclosure. The New York Post reported that Intrawest had missed a large debt payment to its main lender, Fortress Investment Group, which acquired the company in 2006 for US$2.8 billion in cash and debt. The Post also stated the tension between the groups was so high there was the potential of Fortress barring the games from Whistler. The company’s lenders, which include Lehman Brothers, also posted public notices in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Globe and Mail that same day, stating that lenders had seized the assets of Intrawest ULC, including the Whistler resort, and an auction to sell the assets would be held on Feb. 19, right in the midst of the Olympics, which only added to the firestorm of whether or not the Games would be hosted on the property. To meet the loan payments on the deal, Intrawest has already sold off assets, including its resort at Copper Mountain, Colo., and two resorts in France. But soon after those reports surfaced, Intrawest sent out its own press release stating “there have been inaccurate and misleading media reports surrounding Intrawest today. Fortress Investment Group continues to own and control Intrawest and all of its properties. Serious discussions with Intrawest’s lenders are ongoing regarding refinancing and the Company continues to operate ‘business as usual’ at all of its resort properties. Intrawest is looking forward to the success of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.” On Thursday, Intrawest spokesman Ian Galbraith then stressed that reports about its Whistler venue, alongside its other resorts, had been seized by its lenders are untrue. According to a CP story, Galbraith noted that while the downturn in the economy and the subsequent softening of the tourism sector had a significant impact on the business, Intrawest has been generating strong cash flow from its resorts. Of the loan it’s currently struggling to repay, Galbraith added, “It’s been on the books for a while; it’s not something that’s happened because of the recession. It’s strictly a refinancing issue.” Intrawest is hoping to raise the money to settle the dispute before the Feb. 19 auction date. “They’ve put that forward as their tactic in this renegotiating process, that notice they published with the auction date, and it’s not that we don’t ever see the [negotiating] table…we’re still in active discussions with them.” The CP story also noted that the lenders delivered a notice to Intrawest on Jan. 8 to begin the foreclosure process on the equity of the company after it defaulted on its debt that was declared due on Dec. 24.
Joey Restaurants to Add Second Toronto Location
Vancouver-based Joey Restaurants is planning a second Toronto location at the downtown Eaton Centre, to open later this year. Joey successfully entered the Toronto market last September with Joey Don Mills Grill and Lounge in suburban North York. According to Jeff Fuller, Joey Founder, president and CEO, the Don Mills location now exceeds sales at any of the company’s other 19 locations in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Washington State in the U.S. Fuller told the Toronto Star he wants to create restaurants that, “I myself would love to be wined and dined in. The stores all have some unique features but also some common threads.” He added, “We’re really committed to Ontario as an area of expansion for future sites.”
20 U.S. Green Key Pilot Sites Planned by Accor North America
The Canada-developed Green Key Eco-Rating Program for the hotel industry is accelerating its move into the U.S. Accor North America (ANA), a division of Accor Hospitality, is planning to open 20 Green Key pilot sites, including at its Motel 6, Sofitel and Studio 6 brands. ANA operates more than 1,000 upscale and economy properties. “In the course of the pilot, ANA corporate leadership will evaluate the program and decide whether to move forward with a larger rollout throughout the United States,” a company statement said. Accor currently has 21 Green Key rated properties in Canada, among the more than 1,200 Green Key members in Canada.
The move to enter the U.S. market was announced last September by Tony Pollard, managing director of Green Key Global, and president of the Hotel Association of Canada, who welcomed the Accor announcement. “We are confident that Green Key will become an important part of Accor North America’s efforts to protect and preserve the environment,” he said. Renée Swoger, manager of Energy & Environment Services for Accor North America, commented, “Our Green Key properties in Canada have touted the environmental, financial and marketing benefits of the program for several years. We have been waiting for Green Key to migrate to the United States for some time; needless to say, we are eager to launch the pilot.” The Green Key program and audit was developed in 1997 for the Hotel Association of Canada by two leading environmental engineering firms with support from the Canadian Government. In the U.S. Green Key is a joint partnership between the Hotel Association of Canada and research and consulting firm LRA Worldwide Inc., based in Horsham, Pa. For information, click here.
“Surcharge” on Credit/Debit Card Use Demanded by Retailers
Retail groups are insisting that “surcharges” for consumers using credit and debit cards should be permitted for retailers and small businesses and should be included in the federal government’s voluntary code of conduct for the payments industry. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), supported by the Payments Accountability Council of the Retail Council of Canada and the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors made the controversial recommendation in its response to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s draft code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry. Catherine Swift, CEO of CFIB, said in a media interview, “We know there is not an appetite for that in a lot of places, but part of the problem is they [Department of Finance] are permitting discounting [in the draft code].” CFIB notes in its submission, however, that profit margins for smaller transactions “can be so razor thin that a reduction in prices can effectively eliminate any profit.” A Senate committee report has also recommended that retailers be allowed to surcharge to manage their card processing costs.
Local, Sustainable, Nutrition, Top U.S. Menu Trends in 2010 — NRA
Locally sourced ingredients, sustainability and nutrition are the three hottest trends on U.S. restaurant menus in 2010, according to the annual survey of 1,854 professional chef-members of the American Culinary Foundation. The survey was conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) in conjunction with its upcoming Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA Show). Some of the other trends on the “What’s Hot in 2010” list are: nutritious kids’ meals, half-portions, farm-branded ingredients, gluten-free/food-allergy conscious meals and sustainable seafood. The October 2009 survey asked chefs to rate 214 individual food and beverage items, preparation methods and culinary themes divided into categories such as “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favourite.” The results have been incorporated into programming for the NRA Show 2010, May 22 to 25, and the International Wine Spirits & Beer Event, May 23 to 24, at McCormack Place in Chicago.
Canadian Chef Stars Compete at WACS Congress in Santiago, Chile
WACS 2010, the 34th biannual Congress of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) is underway at the Casa Piedra Convention Centre in Santiago, Chile. Led by the Canadian Culinary Federation’s (CCFCC) national secretary, Simon Smotkowicz — executive chef of the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton — some 20 Canadians had registered on the opening day, along with close to 400 other delegates from more than 60 countries. Registration continues through the event’s closing day, Thursday, Jan. 28. Smotkowicz, who is also manager of Culinary Team Canada, was appointed official voting delegate from Canada, replacing CCFCC national president Judson Simpson, who was forced to cancel for personal reasons. The first day of the Congress was highlighted by the enthusiastic reuniting of old friends at the two headquarter hotels, the Sheraton Santiago and the Radisson Vitacura, and at the convention hall. Behind the scenes, WACS National Board held meetings as Congress delegates took advantage of three-hour bus and walking tours of Santiago, a city of some six million residents. The gala opening cocktail reception and dinner on Sunday was highlighted by a special President’s Award and 10 Honorary Membership awards. Presented by WACS president Gissur Gudmundsson of Iceland, the President’s Award went to WACS’ long-time treasurer (26 years) and 47-year member, Norbert Schmidiger of Switzerland.
Canadian culinary stars hard at work at the congress include: Canada’s candidate for WACS continental director – Americas, Claude Buzon, president of Chef’s Hat Inc. in Edmonton; “The America’s” competitor for the WACS Global Chef Challenge, Chris Thomson, executive sous-chef of The Banff Centre in Banff, Alta., supported by junior chef Myles Fedun of Jacks Grill Restaurant in Edmonton; and Canada’s competitor in the Hans Bueschkens Junior Culinary Challenge, Trevor Ritchie, a student at the Niagara Culinary Institute in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., supported by Niagara College chef and mentor James Olberg. The worldwide Hans Bueschkens Junior Culinary Challenge is named in honour of former eight-year world president Hans Bueschkens of Windsor, Ont. (now deceased). Thomson finished first in a competition against chefs from the U.S., Chile, and Brazil at the WACS Global Chefs Challenge Continental final for the Americas, held in Sao Paul, Brazil, in September 2009. He will now compete against continental winners from Africa/Middle East, Asia, Europe Central, Europe North, Europe South and the Pacific Region. Other Canadians attending WACS 2010 include: Christophe Luzeux, executive chef of the Halifax Trade Centre and Culinary Team Canada Team Member in 2004; Sara Harrel, president and culinary explorer, The Veg Company Inc. and vice-president, Escoffier Society of Toronto; Mitch Kostuch, group publisher, Foodservice and Hospitality magazine, Toronto; and junior chefs Melissa Hryb of Winnipeg, Ashley Stenabaugh of Muskoka, Ont. and Brooke Winters of Victoria.
OHRMA: Liquor Prices to Rise with HST
There’s been a great deal of talk about the blended HST tax lately, but in a recent Ontario Restaurant, Motel, & Hotel Association (OHRMA) newsletter, the organization explained how the new levy will affect what the province’s restaurateurs pay for liquor. When Harmonized Sales Tax — which combines provincial and federal taxes — is introduced in July, the tax charged on liquor will decrease in Ontario. The news sounds promising, but it’s not. Here’s why: right now bars and restaurants add 10 per cent retail sales tax (RST) and five per cent GST to all liquor sales, but with HST the provincial portion of tax will decrease from 10 per cent to eight per cent, while HST will add 13 per cent to liquor sales. Here’s the caveat: since the government expects to lose money when the provincial portion of taxes decreases, the levies built into the base price operators pay for beverage alcohol will increase. ORHMA has had little luck affecting change in this area but encourage concerned parties to contact local MPPs and Premier McGuinty to voice their concern. For more details, click here.
Tim Hortons Raises Money for Haiti
Canada’s largest foodservice chain is lending a helping hand to those in need in the earthquake-ravaged isle of Haiti. On Monday, Jan. 18, the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation coin boxes, located on every Tim Hortons counter and in every drive-thru in its more than 3,500 stores across Canada and the U.S., were put into play for UNICEF’s Haitian earthquake relief efforts. Moreover, a donation of $100,000 is also being made to UNICEF on behalf of Tim Hortons store owners and corporate offices. “The magnitude of this disaster is exacerbated by the lack of resources and poverty in Haiti,” said Don Schroeder, the company’s president & CEO. “Our store owners and corporate staff immediately wanted to help. Our hearts go out to our many staff and customers, particularly in Quebec, who have family and friends in Haiti. The coin-box collection allows people to make even the smallest contribution, because as we know, every penny adds up.”
Pizza Pizza Adds Pasta to Ontario Menu
Pizza Pizza, the company that made 967-1111 one of the most popular Ontario jingles of all time, has officially added family sized delivery pasta to its menu. The three new dishes will be available in all Ontario stores. Featured pastas include: tortelloni alfredo, tortellini’s jumbo cousin, filled with a blend of mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and romano cheese and baked in a creamy alfredo sauce; penne bolognese baked in a rich meat sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes; and macaroni and cheese baked in a creamy blend of aged cheddar, romano and parmesan cheeses. “We conducted thorough taste testing,” said Pat Finelli, chief marketing officer for Pizza Pizza. “After a one-month test period, we are now ready to launch the new pasta dishes across Ontario. We always seek our customers’ support before adding a new item to our menu. We are confident this latest addition will add variety and convenience to the menu.” The new pasta dishes will include free garlic bread.
East Side Mario’s Launches Massive Contest
Prime Restaurants, Mississauga, Ont., has announced that East Side Mario’s, its popular Italian-cuisine restaurant chain, will be conducting “one of the biggest contests in Canadian casual-dining history,” from Jan. 18 to March 28. Dubbed “Budda Boom Budda Ching,” some $10 million in prizes will be up for grabs during the three-month-long contest. The family oriented prizes include 25 trips, three Dodge Caravans, 100 Sony TVs and gift cards and rewards from partners such as Cineplex, HBC and iCoke. When the check comes at the end of the meal, guests discover what they have won. Every customer check comes with a prize (the minimum being a free appetizer or dessert). “With Budda Boom Budda Ching, we’ve added some ‘Cha-Ching’ to the East Side Mario’s experience,” says Dan Benoit, director of Marketing for East Side Mario’s. “Along with the great food and value our guests enjoy each time they visit East Side Mario’s, while the contest is running, they will also be rewarded with some fantastic prizes.” Customers will also have the opportunity to play through East Side Mario’s Facebook page. In addition to a prize, each check includes a bonus pin that guests can use to play online. Every guest who plays will be invited to become a fan of East Side Mario’s Facebook page. New fans will also be given a bonus pin giving them yet another chance to win.
Foodies Support Screaming Avocado Project at Hart House
It was a rare scene at the University of Toronto’s Hart House recently when foodies turned out in droves to enjoy an ambitious meal prepared by high-school students — fortunately for everyone’s palate, these were no ordinary 12th graders.
The event, in support of Paul Finkelstein’s Screaming Avocado project at Stratford, Ont.’s Northwestern Secondary School, was headlined by Food Network celebrity chef Michael Smith and featured students from the revolutionary program manning the stoves.
By the time the last plate was picked clean, the young protégés had served four courses, including charcuterie, black cod, local pork with quince and rosemary-scented panna cotta — all under towering chef Smith’s watchful eye.
Not only was the evening an opportunity to show off the skill and professionalism of Finkelstein’s rookie toques, but it was also a chance to talk about the importance of quality food in our homes and our schools, particularly for the development of young people. “We currently have the cheapest food in the history of mankind, and we’re getting what we pay for,” said Smith. “We’re basically taking all of the money out of our food and putting it into our healthcare system. We need nutritional literacy for every student across the country, starting in kindergarten. As it stands now, we’ve already lost one generation of cooks, and we’re on the verge of loosing another one,” he added.
In the end, while discussion tended towards the negative consequences of a poorly conceived food program and the dire state of affairs in most high-school cafeteria settings across the country, Smith concluded the evening with a trademark positive flourish. “No matter how bad the news gets, just remember, that in Stratford, we’ve got high schoolers preparing braised rabbit with figs and olives for lunch and selling it to eighth graders. There is hope.”
Initially designed as a fundraising event for the Screaming Avocado project, Finkelstein was quick to point out that sometimes when you teach your students that good food is a right, and not a privilege, world events conspire to change the game plan. As a result, Finkelstein announced that half of the money raised during the night’s festivities would be donated to the Red Cross in support of ongoing disaster relief in Haiti.
Inspiration and Innovation the Theme for Terroir IV at U of T’s Hart House, March 2
On March 2, hospitality professionals from across Ontario will convene once more at Hart House on the campus of the University of Toronto for the Terroir Hospitality Industry Symposium. This marks the fourth anniversary of the event. Included among the speakers is: James Beard Award winner and two-Michelin-Starred chef David Kinch from Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, Calif., as keynote. Kinch co-owns Love Apple Farm, located near his restaurant, and all of the fruits and vegetables served at Manresa are grown on the biodynamic farm, creating a closed-loop system that is a true model of sustainability. Winemaker Norm Hardie, New York City restaurateur Paul Grieco and top sommelier Jamie Drummond are leading an exciting discussion about oak-aged wine and Jen Agg of The Black Hoof and City Bites’ Dick Snyder are leading a demonstration on compelling cocktails. There is also a breakout session planned on the issue of tipping, featuring two sides debating the merit of the time-honoured convention of remuneration.
Overseeing the F&B at Terroir is Jonathan Gushue, executive chef of Langdon Hall, a Relais and Chateaux property in Cambridge, Ont. Gushue will be leading 12 Savour Ontario member chefs through lunch and breakfast service. Tawse, Henry of Pelham and Charles Baker are pouring wine for lunch. Pastry chefs include Chrystal Porter of Chocosol, Rachelle Cadwell of The Wine Bar, Bertrand Alepee of Amuse Bouche, Bettina Schormann of the Ancaster Old Mill and Sarah Villamere of Palais Royale. Afrim Pristine of the Cheese Boutique will be providing cheeses. “We are exploring the themes of mentorship and leadership, local food procurement and ensuring it works with your bottom line,” said committee chair Arlene Stein. “We have a restaurant panel of top international critics along with another panel of Toronto’s own experts, geared to inform us what we can look for in long-term restaurant stability.”
Terroir is a non-profit one-day symposium designed to celebrate the diverse culture of professionals in the hospitality industry by building a strong and accessible collective. Terroir creates a forum where industry members can come together to support, educate, inform, invest in, and recognize individuals and teams within this professional environment. For more info, click here; to purchase tickets, click here.
Laurel Point Makes Grade
The Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria has announced a partnership that makes it the only B.C. hotel to offer carbon-neutral facilities to its guests. Offsetters, Canada’s leading carbon-management provider and Inn at Laurel Point have entered an agreement that offsets the hotel’s greenhouse gas emissions. “We are proud to be the only carbon neutral hotel in British Columbia, and one of a handful in Canada,” says the Inn’s general manager, Ian Powell. “In addition to our Four Green Key Eco-Rating, we are demonstrating our commitment and core beliefs.” After months of research, Inn at Laurel Point selected Offsetters, which has a proven track record of developing carbon offset projects using the highest quality standards and focusing on permanent reductions from energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. With this initiative, Inn at Laurel Point and Offsetters have addressed the resort’s carbon footprint. Offsetters will validate these numbers in March and move forward with the next phase of the hotel’s greenhouse gas emissions strategy. “Victoria, B.C. is becoming increasingly known as a destination for the eco-conscious traveller,” says Powell. “Buying offsets for transportation is becoming common, and B.C.’s hotels are sure to follow suit. We are happy to provide leadership to other hotels.”
Kellogg Canada Inc. Appoints New President
Kellogg Canada Inc. has announced the appointment of its new president, Carol Stewart. Beginning her career at Kellogg Canada in 1989, Stewart most recently held the position of senior vice-president, Sales. In addition to her new role, Stewart will serve as a member of the Kellogg North America Leadership Team.