Week of Jan. 31, 2011



Cookstown Greens Goes on Block
After much speculation, the news is out — Cookstown Greens is up for sale. David Cohlmeyer, the farmer who revolutionized how chefs view field greens, recently turned 65 and decided it was time to cut business responsibilities and explore other avenues. The $1.2-million asking price will include 95 acres of land; all buildings, including greenhouses and living quarters; a full complement of appropriate farm equipment; an irrigation permit and system; all written procedures, records and contacts and an award-winning business. “Our knowledgeable, motivated and very capable employees are eager to continue operating the business. And, I am willing to remain involved as long as required to bring about a successful transfer of ownership,” writes Cohlmeyer in an open letter. To read the real estate listing, click here.

Taco Bell Responds to “Where’s-the-Beef” Lawsuit
Taco Bell has vehemently denied claims in a class-action lawsuit that suggest the meat used in the fast-food chain’s tacos isn’t in fact the “seasoned ground beef” that’s advertised. “Our seasoned beef recipe contains 88 per cent quality USDA-inspected beef and 12 per cent seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture,” writes Greg Creed, the brand’s president and chief concept officer in a statement on Taco Bell’s site. California’s Amanda Obney filed the suit in federal court, and although she’s not asking for money, she hopes to encourage the company to practice honest advertising. According to a story in Florida’s Sun-Sentinel.com, she asserts much of the beef in the chain’s meat is filler. According to Creed, the allegations are false. “The lawyers got their facts wrong,” he adds in the statement. “We take this attack on our quality very seriously and plan to take legal action against them for making false statements about our products.”

Waitress’s Human Rights Complaint Denied
The Manitoba Human Rights Commission has dismissed the claim of a Winnipeg waitress who was fired for shaving her head. The 21-year-old university student Stephanie Lozinski was told her case was not a human rights matter because she voluntarily shaved her locks while working at Winnipeg’s Sawatdee Thai restaurant. She said she cut her hair to show support for her uncle who was dying of cancer. Linh Bo, the restaurant’s manager told the media the dismissal was justified. “If you go [out for] fine dining, what do you expect from a server? Seriously! You walk into fine dining and you have fine dining,” he’s quoted as saying by the Winnipeg Free Press. According to reports, Bo insists it’s been made clear his staff must wear their hair appropriately and have no visible tattoos. The restaurant owner has since apologized.

Hep A Clinic Set Up for Sierra Grill Patrons
Health officials recently released a statement identifying a case of Hepatitis A in an employee who works at Toronto’s Sierra Grill (2901 Bayview Avenue), following recommendations that anyone who ate at the restaurant on Jan. 23 may have been exposed and should be inoculated. Although the risk of infection is low, anyone who was exposed is being encouraged to get the vaccine within 15 days. With that in mind, Toronto Public Health launched a series of free vaccination clinics, which ran last week at North York Memorial Hall. For more information, click here.

Tsambalieros to Leave Second Cup
Steven Tsambalieros will be leaving his role as COO of Second Cup Ltd. “We would like to thank Steven for his hard work and wish him well in his future endeavours,” said Stacey Mowbray, the company’s president and chief executive officer, who will assume Tsambalieros’s responsibilities with the help of the senior management team. Second Cup has approximately 350 owner-operated café locations across the country.

Canadians’ Confidence Grows
Canadian consumers feel more confident about their future finances and major purchases, according to Ottawa’s Conference Board of Canada. More specifically, the Board’s Index of Consumer Confidence rose 7.1 points in mid-January to 88.1 points. The survey, conducted between Jan. 6 and 17, shows that Ontario and the Prairies lead the increase, while the gains in other regions were “lacklustre.” To read the complete report, click here.

Rising U.S. Food Prices Could Benefit Foodservice
Rising food and grocery prices are sending U.S. diners to restaurants for cheaper meals, according to Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at NPD Group Inc. “Right now, supermarket prices are rising faster than restaurant prices. The advantage is to the restaurant,” the Eating Patterns in America author is quoted as saying by Reuters. “Americans will be making well-thought out choices this year on how they will feed themselves,” adds Balzer in a press release. “They have so much to spend on food, and they will carefully pick-and-choose how they spend it. [This will range from] looking for more coupons and discounts, buying more private label foods, eating more leftovers and generally getting the most bang for their buck.” According to NPD, annual U.S. restaurant visits, which totaled 61.5 billion for the year ended November 2008, fell to 59.1 billion for the year ended November 2010.

Starbucks Quarterly Income Rises
Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. has reported net income of US$346.6 million for its first 2011 fiscal quarter, ended Jan. 2. This represents a 44 per cent increase over the US$241.5 million reported last year. System-wide revenue grew by eight per cent to $3 billion, reflecting a five-per-cent increase in traffic and a two-per-cent increase in average check. Domestic revenues reached a record $2.1 billion for the quarter with an eight-per-cent increase in same-store sales, a six-per-cent traffic increase and an average check increase of two per cent. “Strong momentum in our global business in fiscal 2011 positions us to deliver 15 per cent to 20 per cent EPS growth compared to last year’s results, and to affirm our 2011 guidance, despite dramatically higher coffee costs,” said Troy Alstead, Starbucks’ CFO. “We are on track with our plans to grow and diversify Starbucks and pursue a larger share of global coffee consumption.” For more information, click here.

Clearwater Launches Branding Initiative
As demand for quality seafood continues to climb, the Nova Scotia-based Clearwater Seafoods has stepped into the spotlight, announcing plans to brand its lobster stock. Originally, the seafood supplier wanted to create a way to differentiate its sustainably harvested Nova Scotia lobster. “In today’s crowded global marketplace if you have a superior product, you need to do everything possible to stand apart from the crowd,” explains Ian Smith, Clearwater’s CEO. The answer is a plastic sleeve that will slide over one of the lobster’s banded claws, providing a safe and humane way for Clearwater to mark its live product. Patents are pending, but the designs are complete and the initiative was launched last week. The first branded lobsters are earmarked for China, just in time for Chinese New Year.

Topper’s Pizza Courts Franchisees Online
The Ontario-based Topper’s Pizza is hoping to attract potential franchisees with its upcoming launch of an interactive website geared to franchise development. “We’re literally courting potential partners on the Internet to see if there’s a match between our company and their own personal goals,” says Keith Toppazzini, company president. Split into a public and private space, the first half of the site gives “a 30,000-foot view” of Topper’s Pizza and offers a series of interactive reading materials, videos and callouts. The private portal, which requires a user name and password, is where the franchisee qualification process begins with a virtual brochure that facilitates Topper’s eight-step process. “Whether you go through steps zero to eight in a week or a year is entirely up to you as an individual,” notes Toppazzini. Meanwhile, the company will be leveraging FranConnect’s Captivate Franchise Recruitment platform to automate the process of collecting data from the virtual brochures, generating reports that will allow Topper’s to respond quickly to qualified leads. “If we receive a report that someone just went through 50 per cent of the qualification process in 24 hours, then that’s someone we want to talk to immediately,” says Toppazzini. The dedicated franchise site, toppersfranchise.ca, is expected to go live in April.

A&W’s Urban Concept Debuts in Ontario
After much fanfare surrounding its new urban concept, A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. has opened the doors to its inaugural Ontario location at 496 Yonge Street. This comes after the launch of four urban locations, three in Vancouver and one in Calgary. “We are excited about this new A&W restaurant concept for our urban customers in Toronto,” said Paul Hollands, A&W president and CEO. “We have seen great success with the Vancouver urban locations we opened in the last several months. There has been tremendous growth here in Ontario over the last couple of years with 15 restaurants opening in 2010.” The new sleek-designed concept offers the brand’s traditional fare alongside new urban-focused menu items such as salads and chicken sandwiches. Other store highlights, include free Wi-Fi, self-serve kiosks and an extensive waste reduction plan. This year the concept is expected to expand in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

Ontario Pizzeria Spawns TV Series
Dino Ciccone, a 53-year-old London, Ont., pizzeria owner, is preparing to star and executive produce his own series, dubbed The Pizza Rider, according to Macleans.ca. The proposed series will feature Ciccone riding across North America on a Harley and helping families revive old-fashioned pizzerias. “The show has 30 to 40 million potential viewers. I crunched the numbers. Everyone loves pizza,” the rising star tells Macleans. The pizza owner knows the trade from working in the business since he was a teen, but East Town Pizza was acquired by Ciccone in 1990 with his brother and brother-in-law. In 1995 the family won the award for Best Pizza in Canada, followed by the World’s Best Pizza title in 1996 — the first two of some 20 awards in total. “I’m very spiritual about pizza,” Ciccone tells the magazine. “When I make it, I make it like Jesus would be sitting down and eating it with me. Sometimes it takes me three hours to make a competition pizza.” For the complete Macleans’ story, click here.  

Canadians to Compete in $425,000 Recipe Contest
Amateur chefs have a new outlet to display their creative genius in the Food Network’s new Recipe to Riches series, which is casting in February. “There is a strong appetite among Canadian viewers for this kind of format and no shortage of culinary talent to be showcased,” said Barb Williams, senior vice-president of Content for Shaw Media, parent of Food Network Canada. Each week the show’s contestants will compete in one of the seven pre-determined food categories. The dishes will be judged by a panel that will pick the best recipe in each category, which will then become a President’s Choice product. Each category-winning chef will win $25,000, and a grand prize winner will be chosen and awarded $250,000 on the season finale. There is no news on when the show will air, but open auditions begin in Halifax Feb.5 and end in Toronto Feb. 26. For more details, click here.

OHI Gold Award Winners Announced
The Ontario Hostelry Institute has announced its 2011 Gold awardees who will be honoured April 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. This year’s slate of winners include: Mark Pacinda of Boston Pizza (Foodservice Chain Operator); Armando Mano of Centro Restaurant, Lounge & Catering (Independent Restaurateur); Andy Loges of Toronto Airport Hotel & Suites (Hotelier); Michael Olson of the Niagara Culinary Institute (Educator of the Year) and Karen Gelbart of Food Television (Media/Publishing). Jonathan Gushue, Foodservice and Hospitality magazine’s Pinnacle Award-winning 2010 Chef of the Year, picks up the Gold Award in the Chef category. This year’s Gold-winning supplier is Fatos Pristine of Toronto’s Cheese Boutique and the 2011 Chairman’s OHI Gold Award goes to Kathleen Taylor of the Four Seasons. Capping the evening will be the presentation of the Chairman’s Lifetime Achievement Gold Award, selected by Charles Grieco. This year’s honour goes to renowned chef Jamie Kennedy, the owner of Gilead and recent Order of Canada recipient. The Gold Awards Dinner celebrates the excellence and success of industry and educational leaders in the hospitality industry.

Canada Travel App Offers 5,000 Points of Interest
Go Explore Canada, a free multimedia app from the Apple App Store, which is compatible with the Android market, has been named one of the 10 Best Canadian SmartPhone Apps by Appolicious. Appolicious offers the latest iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android apps through social recommendations as well as reviews from users and its editorial team. Produced by the Halifax-based Go Explore Everywhere Inc., Go Explore Canada can be applied to destinations across Canada — including the Arctic — with some 5,000 points of interest (POI) listed in all 10 provinces and three territories. Each POI has a pin on the map, address, phone number, description and direct link to its website. For more information, click here.  

Toronto Tourism Numbers Rise in 2010
International travel to Canada pushed Toronto hotel occupancy to a record 8.93 million room-nights and an annual occupancy rate of 68.3 per cent, up sharply by 9.7 per cent from 2009. Toronto moved up to sixth place in hotel occupancy among top North American cities, up from 10th a year ago. “This is the kind of barometer that really matters,” David Whitaker, president and CEO of Tourism Toronto, is quoted as saying by the Toronto Star. Despite the rising loonie, the worldwide recession, and the images of protestors and burning police cars on the city’s streets, the figures show the meeting of G20 leaders gave a substantial boost to the city’s tourism numbers, which soared in June to an occupancy rate of 80 per cent, up 12.8 percentage points from 2009. The report shows tourism brought $4.5 billion in revenue to the city last year and that some 33 per cent of all visitors to Toronto in 2010 came from outside Canadian borders, led by visitors from the U.S., United Kingdom and China. For more information, click here.

Canadian Hotels Attract Buyers
The Canadian lodging investment sector may have bottomed out in 2009, but it bounced back in 2010, according to a CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) report. “Well over $1 billion of hotel assets are now, or will shortly be, on the market and are likely to be snatched up by high net worth, private investors, private equity and institutional buyers,” reports Bill Stone, executive vice-president of the Los Angeles-based CBRE Hotels. Estimated hotel investment transactions soared 70 per cent in 2010 year-over-year to approximately $700 million and per-room pricing increased 24 per cent from an average of $69,000 to $86,000, due to more aggressive purchaser underwriting as well as the class of assets being brought to market. “Unlike recent years in which private domestic buyers clearly dominated the investment landscape, there have been an extraordinary number of international investors ready to make Canadian hotel acquisitions,” Stone explains. “Today, we are seeing a noticeable spike in interest by American investors as well as offshore groups, largely from Singapore, Malaysia and China.” For a detailed summary of the report, or to receive a copy, click here.

Hotel Investment Market Looking Up
The global hotel investment market, virtually paralyzed since 2009, has taken a 180-degree turn during the past 24 months, according to the HVS Global Hospitality Report. “Given all the factors currently in play, 2011 has the potential to reach the annual peak sales levels achieved from 2005 through 2007,” HVS concludes. Since late 2008, the market became virtually paralyzed and investor return requirements surged, reflecting high risk in the face of collapsing hotel earnings, a capital freeze and market uncertainty. Capitalization rates jumped to an average of 12.5 per cent as of year-end 2008, but subsequently have declined to 6.5 per cent as of year-end 2009. By year-end 2010 rates had declined to 5.5 per cent, reflecting not only the expectation of a strong rebound in hotel earnings, but also the downward pressure on rates of return due to increasing competition for the acquisition of high-quality hotel assets as well as the greater availability of lost cost debt and equity. The stock market, generally a leading indicator, has recognized the beginnings of a recovery before the hotel investment market at large. To read the complete report, click here.


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