Canadian Restaurant Traffic Increases in 1st Quarter — NPD Group
Canadian restaurant traffic increased 2.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2010, the first gain after four weak quarters, according to industry market researcher The NPD Group. Consumer spending edged up one per cent in the quarter, the second-consecutive quarter with a gain. “Performance for Canada is rebounding more quickly than in the U.S., where traffic declined for the seventh-consecutive quarter — the most prolonged period of weakness since monitoring began in the late 1970s,” NPD stated in its CREST consumer tracking service report. The current study shows that all segments of the industry experienced traffic growth in the quarter, led by QSR with a three-per-cent gain, casual dining and retail up two per cent and family/midscale up one per cent.
NPD’s restaurant industry analyst, Linda Strachan, commented, “Overall, it was an encouraging quarter, with signs emerging that the Canadian restaurant industry is poised for recovery. As the economy continues to strengthen and consumers return to more typical behaviour, operators will be looking for ways to move beyond discounting to deliver value that resonates with customers. Price aside, it is critical to understand which areas need more emphasis when marketing to consumers, whether that means emphasizing the food itself, the service, the atmosphere or a combination of all three.” For more information, click here.
Tim Hortons Testing Café-Bakery Concept in Ohio
Two prototype Tim Hortons café-bakeries have been opened in recent weeks in Troy and Bellefontaine, Ohio, according to the business print and digital publications Columbus Business First. The stores, which are the first of 12 planned prototypes, have a completely new look and are testing new products designed to get customers to sit and relax. “It looks more like the mom-and-pop-type bakeries,” said David Clanachan, CEO of Tim Hortons U.S. and non-Canadian international operations. “You can talk to the baker. Kids can stand there and watch the doughnuts being made.” Drinks are also prepared in front of customers, taking a page from Starbucks, and the prototype stores include sandwich-building lines like at Subway, where customers can pick toppings as a sandwich is being made. Furniture is comfier, with armchairs and a fireplace, instead of tables and chairs bolted to the floor. Some shops will include patios.
While Tim Hortons has 567 U.S. stores in 12 states, the bulk of them are in Ohio, New York and Michigan, with 68 Tim Hortons shops in the Columbus, Ohio, area alone. Ohio has also been used as a proven ground for the growing partnership with Cold Stone Creamery, combining ice- cream sales with doughnuts under one roof. The U.S. is believed to be where Tim Hortons best growth prospects are, Clanachan said, explaining that there are plans for 300 new restaurants in the next four years. “We’re not the 800-pound gorilla in the U.S.,” he told the business paper. “We’re seen as a challenger brand.”
Wendy’s/Arby’s Becomes Takeover Target — SEC
Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc., the third-largest U.S. fast-food company, has become a stock takeover target, according to a filing made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Chairman Nelson Peltz advised the SEC that he had received an inquiry from an unidentified party expressing interest in such an acquisition, and he indicated that he is considering the matter as well as alternatives. Publicly traded Wendy’s/Arby’s principal shareholder is Peltz’s Trian Fund Management LP, which owns about 23.5 per cent. The company’s present market value is about US$2 billion. In his filing, Peltz indicated that he “expects to contact and discuss a possible transaction involving [Wendy’s/Arby’s] with potential debt and/or equity financing sources, other shareholders of the company and other interested third parties.” The Atlanta-based Wendy’s/Arby’s operates and franchises more than 10,000 restaurants worldwide under the Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers and Arby’s brands.
Takeover activity in foodservice companies has soared this year. The most recent takeover came in April, with the acquisition of CKE Restaurants Inc. (Carl’s Jr. and Hardees chains) by Apollo Management LP. Nation’s Restaurant News adds, “Other deals so far this year, pending or otherwise, have included transactions for Papa Murphy’s, Wingstop, Captain D’s, Del Taco and Rubio’s. NRN reports that speculation has also sprung up around California Pizza Kitchen, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Bob Evans.
Fired Subway Employee, “Hoagie Hero,” Hired by Quiznos
A lesson in both employee and media relations has emerged from last week’s abrupt firing of an employee, Heidi Heise, by a Dartmouth, N.S.-based Subway restaurant, for giving away food to victims of an apartment fire. Two of Heise’s neighbours were each given a free six-inch sub when she was told, following the fire, that they couldn’t afford to pay for food. Without verbal notice, Heise was fired mid-week by the franchisee. Her experience became a nationwide media story, with writers calling her a “Hoagie Hero” or “Sub-Samaritan. In many cases, media reports stated that Subway’s policies allow for each employee to have two six-inch sandwiches for free, and Heise decided to forego hers and give them to her friends instead. She was supposed to record the sub used for her lunch but forgot to do so. “I was going to do it before I left and I forgot, and that’s why they fired me,” she told CTV News.
Today, Heise starts a new job with a Subway competitor, Quiznos, thanks to Halifax franchisee Steve Weber, who contacted her following the media stories and did a pre-employment interview on Friday. Quiznos put out a news release announcing it was hiring Heise as reported on the front page of the Halifax Chronicle Herald, and Weber also announced on Saturday that he would contribute $1 to the victims of the fire from every sub sold at his Dresden Row store from June 12 until June 20, which he said will be matched by the Toronto-based franchisor Quiznos Canada Restaurant Corporation.
McDonald’s Global and U.S. Sales Up in May
Oakbrook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corporation has reported a 4.8 per cent increase in global same-store sales for the month of May, led by a 5.7 per cent gain in McDonald’s European division, attributed to the availability of new products and value-offerings. U.S. same-store sales increased 3.4 per cent in May, attributed to a $1 beverage program in some markets and the addition of the Frappe to the McCafe line-up of hot beverages now available in most U.S. stores. McDonald’s also cited the success of its “Shrek Forever After” program that was selling Chicken McNuggets and Happy Meals, although the effect of the June 4 recall of Shrek promotional glassware won’t be known for some weeks. (See below.) CEO Jim Skinner commented, “Our focus on enhancing the McDonald’s experience through affordable food choices, modernized restaurants and relevant marketing is giving customers even more reasons to visit McDonald’s.”
A massive recall of “Shrek Forever After” promotional glassware is underway with an estimated 7.5 million of the glasses sold in the U.S. and Canada. The recall relates to the use of cadmium in the paint on the glasses, which could come off on children’s hands. McDonald’s Canada has established a dedicated, bilingual customer service centre at 1-877-495-5502. Glasses can be returned for a full cash refund to any McDonald’s Canada restaurant. In the U.S., McDonald’s has taken the unusual step of paying customers a premium of US$3 to return Shrek drinking glasses that sold for $1.99 with a food purchase and $2.49 without food. McDonald’s spokeswoman Ashlee Yingling explained that the premium was meant to account partly for taxes that customers may have paid. The recalled glassware was manufactured in the U.S. by Arc International.
Boston Pizza Rolls Out Healthier Menu
Boston Pizza International Inc., Richmond, B.C., has 10 new dishes, including gluten-free pizza, and it has reduced the sodium in 75 per cent of its 100 menu items in support of the healthier eating trend. “We are listening to our guests and responding to what they want when it comes to variety, taste and nutritional profile,” said Matthew Hoag, the chain’s corporate chef. “That’s why we’ve added the new gluten-free pizza crust and why our signature, fresh daily, hand-pressed dough is now available in original, thin crust and multigrain formats.” Other new menu items include: pastas, chicken wings, salad dressings, pizza sauces and ham with reduced sodium, as well as baked chipotle bacon penne, BP sliders, three thin-crust pizzas, chopped chicken salad and fettuccini carbonara. The family casual chain has 341 locations across the country
More News from CCFCC Windsor 2010
Further to last week’s report on CCFCC Windsor 2010, the 47th National Conference of the Canadian Culinary Federation award winners have been announced for the culinary events held at St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology, in Windsor, Ont. These events and their winners included:
* The Youth Team Canada selection from Vancouver Community College, will represent Canada at the IKA (World Culinary Olympics) in Erfurt, Germany, in 2012. The other colleges in the competition were: Culinary Institute of Canada — Holland College from P.E.I., Nova Scotia Community College – Akerley Campus from Halifax, and Jacques-Rousseau Culinary Institute, from Montreal.
* The National Chefs Challenge competition saw Clement Chan of Vancouver emerge as the winner in a competition that included Philip Leach of Muskoka, Ont., Mark Steele of Ottawa, and Todd Smith of St. John’s.
* The Junior Culinary Challenge competition winner was Steve Kuan of Vancouver, after competing with eight provincial finalists, including Matthew Parker (Ontario); Taszia Fenton (P.E.I.); Brenan Madill (Nova Scotia); Chantel Vance (Saskatchewan); Martine Donaghy (Quebec); Tara Nicholls (Newfoundland); Joseph Rainer Cruz Regalado (Manitoba); and Colleen Erker (Alberta).
* While not a cooking competition, the Chef of the Year recognition for outstanding contributions to the CCFCC was awarded to John-Carlo Felicella of Vancouver. The other regional finalists considered were: Allan Williams of Charlottetown, Luc Boissy of Montreal and Roary Golden of Muskoka.
A significant gender milestone was also established at the Windsor CCFCC event, with a unanimous vote in favour of a new CCFCC bylaw to establish a Women in CCFCC committee, mirroring a Women in WACS initiative, launched by the World Association of Chefs Societies last year at its conference in Dubai. The motion was put forward by Sara Harrel, vice-president, Escoffier Society of Toronto.
Ladner, B.C.-based chef Bruno Martin, who was named chairman of the newly formed CCFCC Honour Society and is chairman of CCFCC, had another reason to be proud — his 30-year-old restaurant, La Belle Auberge was Top Listed by the 2010 Zagat Guide in three categories — Food, French and Service. Located in a 1905 Victorian heritage house tucked away in the Ladner countryside some 25 miles from downtown Vancouver, La Belle Auberge beat out such big-city favourites as Vij’s, Cioppino’s, Le Crocodil and Georges.
Governor General’s Awards Honour Field-to-Fork Sector
A new Governor General’s award honouring the food and wine industry will be presented for the first time on Wednesday, June 23 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The inaugural dinner, dubbed The Governor General’s Awards in Celebration of the Nation’s Table, is a black-tie affair, which will be hosted by the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, and His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond. First proposed in 2006 by Lafond at Cuvée, in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ont., the award will recognize people working in all aspects of the field-to-fork chain: farmers, chefs, cheese makers, researchers, culinary festival organizers, tea makers, teachers, students, hospitality professionals, writers, sommeliers, fishers, hunters and winemakers. The nomination and adjudication process is overseen by an advisory committee of experts from across the country. There are five award categories that recognize achievement in: creativity and innovation, education and awareness, leadership, mentorship and inspiration, as well as stewardship and sustainability. A sixth category, Youth, is awarded to a young person with potential to inspire peers to become contributors to the nation’s table. Each award recipient receives a lapel pin and a framed certificate.
Major Shareholder Selling Maple Leaf Foods Shares
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, a major, 15-year shareholder in Maple Leaf Foods, has announced that it will be selling its 35.3 per cent holdings — in partnership with the McCain family — valued at some $450 million. The Teachers and the family owned McCain Capital Corp. have owned a controlling share of Maple Leaf since 1995, when the pension fund backed the family’s takeover bid for the food company. The announcement reflects a decision by Teachers to reduce its ownership of Canadian stocks, which currently represent only nine per cent of its $96 million portfolio. Maple Leaf is Teachers’ largest public-company investment and was its largest single holding of a listed company in Canada as of December 31. A spokesman for McCain Capital, which holds more than one-third of Maple Leaf stock, said it has no plans to acquire Teachers’ stake.
Chef Edward Leonard New VP at Le Cordon Bleu
Master chef Edward Leonard has been named the vice-president and corporate chef for the 17-location Le Cordon Bleu Schools in North America. One of only 72 master chefs in the U.S., Leonard brings 25 years of experience in the culinary arts. Formerly the assistant general manager and director of Culinary Operations at the Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York, he is also the immediate past president of the American Culinary Federation. “In bringing on a chef of the calibre of master chef Edward Leonard, we are continuing to deepen our commitment to provide an extraordinary culinary education to our students,” said Brian Williams, senior vice-president responsible for the Le Cordon Bleu Schools in North America. The new hire will oversee faculty training and development while also providing hands-on leadership at all of the school’s 17 campuses in North America.
Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Goating the Competition
Local food is an important trend in Canadian restaurant cuisine today, but the culinary team at Montreal’s Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel has taken it to a new level, recently adopting a goat, affectionately named Blanche Neige (Snow White), to make the hotel’s signature cheeses for its restaurant The Beaver Club. A registered “show goat” with an impressive pedigree, Snow White was adopted from the local Fromagerie du Vieux St-François as part of the hotel’s ongoing commitment to support local cuisine and small artisan producers. While living at the fromagerie, Snow White will produce cheese for The Beaver Club and the Fairmont Store. “Before adopting Snow White, our culinary team decided that we wanted to create a unique and exclusive experience for our guests, while also promoting local, artisan cuisine,” says Michel Busch, director of Food and Beverage. “With Quebec’s reputation for award-winning cheese and the growing demand for locally produced food, working with an artisan fromagerie here in Montreal was a natural choice.” The Beaver Club’s chef, Martin Paquet, will be using the goat cheese in a variety of dishes from entrées to desserts, including asparagus bundles with goat cheese and confited cherry tomatoes, Snow White iced nougat and Snow White cheesecake with red berries. And, Snow White will not be the lone goat. She will be joined by a goat-in-training, also named Snow White.
Fraudulent Restaurant Inspectors Surface in Toronto
Toronto Public Health (TPH) has issued a warning about individuals fraudulently posing as restaurant inspectors. Over the past two weeks, numerous complaints and inquiries have been received at the TPH offices from more than 30 foodservice operators, indicating they’ve been contacted by people posing as health inspectors interested in conducting onsite inspections. As part of those inspections, they are requesting business and personal info from the operator. “If you’re contacted by someone attempting to schedule an inspection and asking for personal information, contact your local police department,” said Jim Chan, healthy environments manager for TPH, in a press release. “Legitimate public health inspectors do not call ahead to schedule inspections. In most cases, inspections are unannounced.” Reports of similar incidents have occurred across Ontario and British Columbia. Operators can also contact TPH at (416) 338-7600 to verify the identity of an inspector. TPH Inspectors carry a badge and photo identification card.