Week of July 19, 2010

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Mucho Burrito Opens 28th Unit, Plans 200 More
Executives of the upscale quick-service Mexican food franchisor Mucho Burrito, Mississauga, Ont., have accelerated store openings, adding the 28th in Calgary — the first unit in the company to offer drive-thru service. Meanwhile, online ordering is also being tested on the company website and plans have been announced to add 200 more national locations during the next five years. The new Calgary site is the seventh store opening since December 2009, and the fifth of 15 locations planned for the area. “We’re incredibly excited about expanding the Mucho Burrito brand in the Calgary marketplace and launching our new drive-thru service option in Country Hills,” said Alex Rechichi, co-founder and president. “As the lifestyles of today’s consumers become more demanding, we are ready to provide a convenient, efficient and quality solution to satisfy the needs and appetites of their fast-paced lives.”

David Harris to Leave CRFA
David Harris announced last week that he is leaving the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA). The 31-year CRFA veteran, who is currently senior executive vice-president, will remain in his current position until Sept. 3. No decision has been made on his replacement. Harris joined CRFA as director of Communications in 1979, subsequently overseeing CRFA operations, including membership, tradeshows, finance and IT. Harris’ departure comes just weeks after vice-president of Expositions, Steve Barber, left the association and former president and CEO, Doug Needham, stepped down last year. “David’s dedication to the CRFA and the foodservice industry during the past 31 years is truly commendable,” said the association’s president and CEO, Garth Whyte. “Under his stewardship, the CRFA was able to significantly expand and strengthen its work on behalf of foodservice operators from coast to coast. On a personal note, I am grateful for the knowledge he has shared and the support he has provided during my first year with the association.” Harris noted that leaving was “a difficult decision. But having reached a certain age, needing to address some family issues, needing a break and not wanting to leave part way through the tradeshow cycle, I determined the time was right for me to depart.”

New Chipotle Location Opens in T.O.
Toronto’s second Chipotle Mexican Grill is set to open at 2323 Yonge Street next week, July 28. The Denver-based chain, of 1,000-plus units is home to signature burritos, tacos, salads and bowls made with sustainable local food with fresh, premium-quality ingredients. For instance, the meat is naturally raised in a humane way, without antibiotics or hormones and fed a pure vegetarian diet. Its pork is sourced from DuBreton farm in Quebec, and the beef and chicken are from Beretta Farms, located north of Toronto. “We are changing the way the world thinks about and eats fast food,” said Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, chairman and CEO, in a press release. “There was a time when only the most demanding chefs in the best restaurants were using the same quality of food we are using, but we’re committed to making better food affordable and accessible so everyone can eat better.”

Senior VP Leaves Sportscene Group Inc.
Sportscene Group Inc., operator of the La Cage Aux Sports chain of resto-bars, has announced the departure of vice-president, Finance and Administration, Gilles Lacombe, who has left to pursue new interests. Josée Pépin, manager, Accounting and Disclosure of Groupe Sportscene, will temporarily assume Lacombe’s previous duties. In business since 1984, Sportscene Group Inc. operates the Que.-based chain of sports-themed resto-bars. As of May 30, the chain had 49 units, 34 of which are wholly or jointly owned by the company — 15 are franchises.

Salsa and Guacamole Dips Pose Poisoning Risk
U.S. restaurateurs are being warned that contaminated salsa and guacamole dips are common causes of food poisoning in restaurants, according to research reports directed to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 10-year study, from 1998 to 2008, lead by researcher Magdalena Kendall of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, found that one of every 25 traceable outbreaks (3.9 per cent) of foodborne illness from restaurants was traced to dips made with onions, tomatoes, peppers, avocados, herbs and other ingredients. Improper refrigeration of the products, which are usually made in large quantities, is the biggest problem.

Prepared Grocery Foods Threaten Restaurant Sales
More U.S. consumers are buying prepared meals from grocery stores and supermarkets, according to the study “Prepared Foods and Ready-to-Eat Foods at Retail: The New Competition to Foodservice,” from food- and market-research company, Packaged Facts. The report estimates the supermarket prepared foods segment will grow to $14 billion by 2011, a dramatic seven-per-cent increase over the current year. A news release on the report states that the availability of more ready-to-eat foods at retail outlets is attracting consumers and threatening to put a dent in quick-service business. The report surveyed 1,881 U.S. adult consumers and found half of the respondents were more likely to eat dinner at home now compared to three months ago, while 64 per cent reported purchasing ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat food from a grocery store within the last month. According to David Morris, the report’s chief analyst, “We see a lot of momentum here…largely motivated by consumers moving away from restaurants during the recession in search of value and one-stop-shop convenience. The study found two groups were leading the trend: those who seek low-cost, quick alternatives out of necessity or convenience, and those who see the prepared foods as an alternative to home cooking.

ACF National Convention, Aug. 2- 5
The National Convention of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) will be held from Aug. 2 to 5 at the Anaheim Marriott, Anaheim, Calif. The tradeshow portion of the convention will take place from Aug. 3 to 4. The 39th annual Academy Induction Reception and Dinner of the American Academy of Chefs, the honour society of ACF, will be held Aug. 3. For more information, click here.

DIRONA’s 20th Reunion, Sept. 19-22
Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DIRONA) will be returning to Toronto for the DIRONA Annual Conference, from Sept. 19 to 22. The host hotel of the 20th anniversary reunion is the Fairmont Royal York. The founding meeting of DIRONA was held in Toronto. Highlights of this year’s conference will include a reception at the CN Tower, a culinary and wine excursion to the Niagara region and a Grand Gala Dinner, prepared by the 2002 winner of Iron Chef Japan.

AGCO Launches Seminar Program for Licensees, Employees
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) kicked off a series of free educational seminars for liquor licensees and their employees, last week, in a bid to increase awareness and understanding of alcohol laws. More than 50 seminars are scheduled through to June 2011 in some 30 different communities. The two-part program, which runs for three hours, was tested at seven pilot seminars, held in the Ottawa-area. Eighty-five per cent of the more than 300 participants attending said the information helped them in their jobs. For more information, click here.

Sodexo’s Employees Provide Food to Fight Hunger
France-based foodservice giant Sodexo’s employees in 28 countries, including Canada, collected more than 175,000 kilos of food to fight hunger and malnutrition this spring. The annual Servathon campaign, launched in Canada in 2000, saw employees providing hunger relief efforts in their local communities by serving food, fundraising, holding food drives and giving free nutrition and food-safety workshops at hunger relief organizations. The 2010 total is a 50 per cent increase over last year’s campaign result, attributed in part to 10 more countries participating. According to Michel Landel, CEO and president of Sodexo’s Stop Hunger Association, “I am proud of our employees’ commitment to the fight against hunger and malnutrition and very pleased to see the ever-growing number of employees who respond each year to our call for involvement. Servathon and our overall Stop Hunger initiative are tangible expressions of Sodexo’s values and founding principles in action.”

Starbucks Reaches 10-Million Fans on Facebook
Starbucks is the first brand to attract 10-million fans on Facebook, placing it well ahead of other brands, such as Coke and Skittles, which both trail with about 6.5 million, reports MediaPost. According to Michael Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media, which oversees the brands’ social media efforts, special offers, coupons and discounts distributed via Facebook seem to be at the heart of Starbucks’ magnetic appeal on the social network. Reggie Bradford, CEO of social-media management firm ViTrue, has noted that Starbucks has the advantage of owning all of its stores, making it easier to run uniform marketing programs that can be tied to Facebook. “Where if you have a franchise model, you can’t do that,” he is quoted as saying by MediaPost.

$16M in Staff Cuts, Office Closings Announced by CTC
Staff reductions and the closing of some international offices have been announced by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), Vancouver. In a letter to industry partners last Friday, July 16, president Michele McKenzie explained the move as a “primary business shift to focus investments where the Canada brand leads and where Canada will be resourced to compete meaningfully in high-value international markets.” The changes are expected to, “free up [as much as] $16M by 2012,” McKenzie’s letter states. She adds, “CTC overheads, complexity and costs have, over the years, eroded other funding available for marketing programs.” Now with operating offices in 12 countries, regional office changes include: consolidating services in London, England for the markets in Europe and Australia, and in Vancouver for the emerging markets of Asia, Mexico and Brazil.

The announcement comes just one day after the release of CTC’s Global Tourism Watch (GTW) study that shows, that out of the CTC’s top 10 target markets, only China increased its tourism travel to Canada. Set up in 2007, the GTW was established by CTC in partnership with Ontario, B.C., Manitoba, the Atlantic and the North and uses Harris/Decima to conduct the GTW tracking research. For more information, click here.

Hilton Worldwide to Focus on F&B Sales
McLean, Va.-based Hilton Worldwide is refocusing its brands worldwide on food and beverage sales, according to Beth Scott, vice-president of restaurant concepts for full-service and luxury brands, as reported by The Washington Post. Speaking at a private screening of Bravo’s Top Chef D.C., Scott said, “For so long, we, as a hotel industry, had given up [on food and beverage]. We want to recognize and celebrate the talent we have and get all of our stakeholders on board with [food and beverage] being a main focus.” It’s a massive project with 530 hotels and resorts in 76 countries. In addition, “we are opening a total of 350 restaurants in three years [in new hotel properties]. There is no possible way we can take a very linear approach to that process. We have to create some concepts that have legs beyond one hotel.” According to the Post, Scott said food and beverage represented one-third of the company’s property revenue. Hilton recently completed a global survey of approximately 22,000 guests and employees about food operations and found authenticity, healthy options and convenience were most important. To test the new concepts, Scott is using the Hilton McLean, which adjoins the company’s headquarters. “If we are going to do an American steakhouse oversees, we don’t need to reinvent it over and over again,” said Scott. She noted that the steakhouse, along with a 24-hour bistro and hibachi-style restaurant, are among the top concepts being explored.

Food and beverage sales represented 25.6 per cent of hotel revenue in 2009, according to PKF Hospitality Research, but F&B revenue declined by 19.5 per cent in 2009 due to the recession. Operators are asking, “How can we get guests to spend more money? And, one way is through food and beverage,” Reginald Foucar-Szocki, professor of hospitality and tourism management at James Madison University told the Post. He noted the proliferation of operators teaming with specialty chains and celebrity chefs to keep guests at the hotel.

Deerhurst Resort Up For Sale
The 400-room Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ont., site of the recent G8 Summit of world leaders, has been put up for sale by its U.S.-based owners, Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers, LLC, Mass Mutual Financial Group and an institutional company. “This is a strategic sale. They didn’t have to sell at this point,” Bill Stone, executive vice-president of CB Richard Ellis Hotels, is quoted as saying in the Toronto Star. No selling price has been disclosed. The resort includes two 18-hole golf courses, a 40,000-square-foot meeting and exhibition space and its own 3,000-foot-long airstrip. “We feel the asset will attract considerable interest from worldwide equity sources,” Gary Lloyd, vice-president of Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors, is quoted as saying in the Star. “This historic landmark property is the epitome of a classic Muskoka resort.”

Built in 1896, the resort originated as a tourist camp with a lodge and two cabins. It subsequently became a major tourist destination. It was sold to its present owners in 1998 for $21.2 million by Toronto-based generic drug-maker and entrepreneur Barry Sherman. Subsequently more than $60 million was spent in upgrading the property, and, most recently, it benefited from more than $50-million worth of infrastructure improvements in the area to prepare for the G8 meetings.

Hotel Branding Growing in Canada — HLT Advisory
The group branding of Canadian hotels has increased — according to Toronto-based HLT Advisory Inc. — rising from 39.6 per cent of hotels affiliated with lodging brands (55.1 per cent of hotel rooms) in 2003 to 1,725 hotels (43.7 per cent) and 217,409 rooms (58.0 per cent) associated with a regional, national or international hotel brand in 2010. This represents an annual growth rate of two per cent for hotel properties and 2.1 per cent for hotel rooms. The Hotel Branding in Canada analysis reports that branded properties in Canada average 126 rooms. Canada’s hotel inventory stands at 3,952 hotels (30 rooms or more) with 374,968 hotel rooms as of June 30. This represents an increase of 495 properties (up from 3,457) and 48,094 hotel rooms (up from 326,874) since 2003. For more information, contact Eric Malcolmson at ericmalcolmson@hlta.ca or Lyle Hall at lylehall@hlta.ca.

Concierge Service by Smartphone
Launched last year, a unique smartphone concierge service for hotel guests already has 24 hotel clients, 60 per cent Canadian and 40 per cent U.S.-based. Named MConcierge, the Montreal-based service is available as an iPhone or BlackBerry application, or through a phone’s mobile web browser. It will help guests check-in and -out, order room service, make restaurant reservations, schedule spa treatments or other services and get a city guide customized by the hotel. Future applications of the software could even allow guests to open their hotel room doors with their phones

“We’re the only full-service concierge system for hotels,” co-founder Joel Yaffe, who started the service with friends, Marco De Stefani and Mihai Frimu, told the Montreal Gazette. Subsequently they received venture capital funding from Montreal Startup, Palos Management and Positron. John Stokes, founding partner of Montreal Startup, explained the company’s appeal in the newspaper. “They showed the product increased the guest satisfaction rate and the revenue that hotels can get for guest services, and they are able to measure everything. The ability to measure and track services also helps the hotels use the information to improve their services,” While the company is currently targeting boutique hotels whose affluent guests are more likely to have smartphones, it expects to broaden its service to all hotels within the next year. For more information, click here.

N.S. Trout Point Lodge Earns Accolades
Trout Point Lodge, East Kemptville, N.S. was featured in a recent report in USA Today entitled, “Foodies Flock to Culinary Mini-breaks.” The report featured Trout Point’s Nova Scotia Seafood Cooking School’s sustainable seafood program, available for $1,000 or more per couple for a weekend. This is just the most recent accolade for co-owner Vaughn Perret, whose seasonal operation (May to October) located “in wilderness about three hours southwest of Halifax,” was accepted into the Relais & Châteaux collection of the world’s finest charming hotels and gourmet restaurants last December, according to USA Today. Trout Point also earned a rare Five Green Key rating from the Hotel Association of Canada last year, and, last November, it won the inaugural Green Restaurant Award from the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. For more information, click here.

 

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