Week of March 1, 2010



Laura Secord Purchased By Canadian Investors for $20 M
Laura Secord, the popular chocolatier named after Canada’s 1812 heroine, is now back in Canadian hands. Jean and Jacques Leclerc, owners of Quebec City-based Nutriart Inc., purchased the century-old brand from a group of U.S. investors for $20 million. The new owners told the Canadian Press that, while they appreciate and respect the company’s national legacy, they intend on making a few changes to modernize the products and brand. As such, customers can look forward to higher ratios of antioxidant-rich cocoa, as well as more treats featuring cranberries and blueberries. “There will be changes, but they will be gradual,” explained Leclerc. Nutriart Inc. is a spinoff of the family’s 105-year-old Biscuits Leclerc, based in Quebec City.   

Hoteliers Believe “Worst of Recession is Over” — Horwath HTL
In the newest edition of Horwath HTL’s Global Hotel Market Sentiment Survey, hotel operators are claiming that the worst of the economic crisis is over and 2010 will see the beginning of a recovery. “It’s too early to say if this feeling will translate into tangible results this year, but if the market feels we are at the bottom and the only way is up, that can only have a positive effect on the industry,” said Robert Hecker who heads up Horwath HTL in Asia. According to the survey results, there’s a change in perception, reversing last year’s outlook that showed that the majority of respondents believed, when asked six-month’s ago, that conditions would get worse than they were at the beginning of last year. Regions exhibiting the most resilience to the global recession came back the strongest, with Asia and Oceania moving from scores of -41 and -48, six months ago, to 47 and 42 today. Europe, the most pessimistic region at the time of the last survey, just entered positive territory and feels 2010 will probably be the same as last year but not worse. Hoteliers in America now feel more positive about the coming year than they did in the middle of 2009. And most respondents feel local markets would stay the same, or slightly improve over the coming year in average room rate and occupancy, and that their own hotel would outperform the market. Participants also see ADR remaining the same in 2010, with weak corporate and leisure group business demand. They also expect a slight improvement in occupancy.

Compass Donates $1M to George Brown’s Chef School
Compass Group Canada has made a $1-million donation to George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. The big cheque was presented to John Walker, dean, last week in support of the Yes Chef! Campaign — a $5-million fundraising project supporting the college’s expansion and revitalization. The original commitment from Compass had been for only $900,000, with the extra $100,000 coming as a surprise to the school at the naming if its new culinary lab, dubbed the “Compass Group Canada Culinary Lab,” and its student café at 300 Adelaide St. E. in Toronto. This is the largest single donation to the campaign to date. Walker commented: “The integrated learning partnership we have created with Compass will significantly impact our Chef School’s ability to continually improve. Most importantly, it will help us prepare more high-quality, work-ready graduates in our expanded facilities.” Brenda Brown, senior vice-president, Human Resources, Compass Group Canada and ESS North America, said, “It is our privilege and pleasure to work together with George Brown graduates, whom we consider to be among the best trained, most creative and definitely service-oriented culinarians that Canada has to offer.”

Tim Hortons Announces Solid 2009 Financial Results
Oakville, Ont.-based Tim Hortons Inc. is reporting positive sales numbers for the fourth quarter and full year, ended Jan. 3. “Our focus on being relevant to our customers and responding to their needs continues to position Tim Hortons among the leaders in the North American restaurant sector,” said Don Schroeder, company president and CEO. “Our record revenue and earnings performance in 2009 once again demonstrated the resiliency of our brand in difficult economic circumstances and we were pleased with the ability of our system to continue to successfully grow in challenging times.” According to the company, fourth quarter system-wide sales grew 13.4 per cent, benefiting from an extra week of sales over the comparable period, and from same-store sales growth and restaurant development. Total revenues were $615.3 million, an increase of 9.2 per cent compared to $563.7 million last year. On a full-year basis, system-wide sales increased 7.9 per cent and total revenues increased by 9.7 per cent to $2.24 billion compared to $2.04 billion in 2008.

The company also provided a look at the Canadian and U.S. markets individually, and stated that, “both operating segments enjoyed strong financial and sales performance in the quarter, benefiting from the strength of our brand position, marketing, promotion and menu activities.” On this side of the border, same-store sales grew 3.4 per cent in the fourth quarter and 2.9 per cent on a full-year basis. Canadian same-store sales accelerated in each consecutive month of the quarter and experienced continued momentum heading into the first quarter. South of the 49th, Tim’s same-store sales increased by 2.1 per cent in the fourth quarter and 3.2 per cent on a full-year basis, outpacing the majority of restaurant companies that have reported U.S. same-store sales for this time period.

Chef’s Challenge Kicks Off Stop for Food Event
Last week, amid the first true winter storm of the season, Toronto’s culinary community gathered for the Stop for Food Chef Challenge at C5 restaurant inside the Royal Ontario Museum. Among the worthy combatants in the modern, open kitchen were Jamie Kennedy, The Roosevelt Room’s Anthony Davis and Amuse-Bouche’s Jason Inniss, who comprised a team that faced off in an Iron Chef-style battle against C5’s Ted Corrado, Torito’s Luis Valenzuela, Amuse-Bouche’s Bertrand Alépée and The Stop’s Chris Brown. Iron Chef America’s own Kevin Brauch emceed the event.

The chefs’ challenge was staged as a lead-in to Stop for Food, a month-long culinary celebration that raises money for The Stop Community Food Centre. The Stop — a non-profit anti-poverty organization in the city’s west end — works to increase access to food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community and challenges inequality.  

As of today, some of Toronto’s best restaurants will join forces once more, offering special prix-fixe menus (for $35 or $50 per person), with $5 or $10 being donated to The Stop for each meal. The menus will feature exclusively Ontario-grown ingredients. Participating restaurants include: 7 Numbers, Amaya the Indian Room, Amaya’s Bread Bar, Amuse-Bouche Restaurant, Blacktree Restaurant, C5, Cowbell, Frank, Frida, Gilead Bistro, Hank’s, Marben, Niagara Street Café, Pangaea, Reds Bistro and Wine Bar, Roosevelt Room, Table 17, The Drake Hotel, The Harbord Room, The Wine Bar, Torito Tapas Bar, Trevor Kitchen and Bar, Universal Grill, Veritas Local Fare, Vertical Restaurant, Via Allegro Ristorante and Zucca Trattoria.

Fairmont to Observe Earth Hour
On Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m., all 60 of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts properties around the globe will go dark for one hour in honour of World Wildlife Fund’s annual Earth Hour that aims to raise awareness about climate change.

“Earth Hour is a unique opportunity for Fairmont colleagues and guests to participate in the world’s largest global climate-change initiative,” said Brian Richardson, vice-president of Brand Marketing and Communications. “It furthers our ongoing support of environmental awareness and demonstrates energy conservation can go beyond turning out the lights for an hour — it’s about promoting a low carbon future.” The events vary across the globe as each Fairmont location puts its own stamp on the global event. At Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg, Germany, the hotel’s restaurants will offer a candlelight dinner, while guests of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, will celebrate with complimentary hot chocolate and s’mores roasted over an ocean-side fire pit. Things will be taken one step further at South Florida’s Fairmont Turnberry Isle, which will play host to a 2.9-mile Earth Hour run benefiting Operation Green Leaves, a Miami-based non-profit organization focused on environmental issues and earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.  

The lights will also dim at Fairmont’s head office, where corporate colleagues will have recently completed a move to LEED-certified offices downtown, furthering the brand’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

The idea for Earth Hour was sparked in Sydney in 2007, when two million turned off their lights. In 2009, hundreds of millions of people in more than 4,000 cities and 88 countries pledged their support.

LCBO to Offer First-Ever Virtual Wine Tasting
Last week, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) announced it will be hosting what it’s calling the “first-ever virtual wine tasting,” featuring one of Argentina’s fastest rising stars, Malbec. The virtual tasting will be webcast on March 18 at 7 p.m. at lcbo.com/malbec. LCBO product consultants Janet Nastamagu and Laura Ruffolo will be leading a tasting on three Argentinean Malbecs — Argento Malbec 2009, Fuzion Alta Malbec 2008 and Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec 2007. “We chose Malbec as the feature wine for our inaugural virtual wine tasting because, as one of the most popular red grape varieties today, it offers quality and value at every price point, particularly at $10 and under,” said Bob Downey, senior vice-president, Sales and Marketing, LCBO. “We also think our customers will enjoy discovering a wine that matches well with many different foods and is suitable for all occasions.” Customers can also get advance information about the virtual tasting by scanning the 2-D code on the in-store signage promoting the event with their cellphones at select LCBO locations. They will be directly linked to the Malbec virtual tasting landing page, where they can receive an overview of the event, submit a question prior to the event, view a short video with the two host product consultants, add the event to their favourite calendar or social-media application and learn about the featured products. For more information, click here

Starwood Lauds Canadian Property
Starwood Hotels & Resorts recently announced the winners of the first annual North America Owner Awards, and a Canadian property was among those fêted. The Four Points by Sheraton Winnipeg South was the recipient of the Conversion of the Year Award for select service. Tom Caramanos, vice-president/general manager of the hotel received the award on behalf of the ownership team, at an event earlier this month in Florida at The Westin Diplomat. The team at Astoria Enterprises, the owners of the Four Points by Sheraton Winnipeg South, added two floors to nearly double the hotel’s size. They built a new saltwater mineral swimming pool, with a hot tub and an adjacent fitness centre overlooking the pool area. The team also created 4,000 square feet of premium and stylish ballroom and meeting space. “Despite the overruns, delays and frustrations our entire team remained more determined and focused than ever,” said Caramanos. “We knew that our unwavering focus to complete this beautiful new hotel with much to offer, in a growing market would benefit all in the future. This honour from Starwood means a great deal.”

Maple Leaf Foods Announces Q4 Results
Toronto-based Maple Leaf Foods Inc.’s fourth quarter results for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009, are out, and the numbers show marked improvement. Highlights of the report include: an adjusted EPS increase to $0.19, compared to $0.12 last year; an adjusted operating earnings increase to $57.8 million from $35.4 million; and net earnings of $21.9 million, compared to a net loss of $14.6 million. “In 2009, we substantially completed the restructuring of our protein operations and focused our company on higher margin consumer packaged goods,” said Michael H. McCain, president and CEO. “Looking ahead, our priority is to increase earnings and margins to levels consistent with our peers. We have work to do on this, goal and it will involve achieving the full potential of our prepared meats business, investing in our plant network to reduce costs and delivering higher levels of organic growth.”

SIAL Coming to Toronto
Since its 2001 inception, foodservice professionals have made the pilgrimage to SIAL, a popular, global tradeshow in Montreal, but that’s going to change in 2011, as the event organizers have Toronto in its sights. “Our objectives are ambitious. We want to make SIAL a memorable experience in the North American food industry and increase our presence in Canada,” said Xavier Poncin, director of SIAL Canada. “We hope to make SIAL a new reference point for the hospitality industry. Moving the show into the Toronto market will really give us an ideal opportunity to be seen and heard as an international venue for the development of new food products, similar to what Montreal has achieved during the previous seven editions of SIAL.”SIAL will debut in its new Hogtown home, May 11 to 13, 2011, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Moving forward, it will alternate between cities, returning to Montreal for the 2012 edition.

Toronto Howard Johnson Announces Phase Two of Reno Project
The Howard Johnson Toronto-East announced the start of the next phase of its three-phase $1.2-million hotel renovation project. Phase two will consist of 50 guest rooms being upgraded as well as a complete upgrade to the properties meeting rooms and public corridors. The project is expected to be completed over the next 10 to 12 weeks and will highlight the new HoJo brand standards. “We will offer contemporary room decor, high-speed Internet access and improved hotel amenities like our indoor pool, free parking, spacious rooms, onsite restaurant, business centre and complimentary Rise ’n’ Dine breakfast,” said Ron Chan, GM of the property. Phase one of the project included the completion of improvements to the exterior, main entrance and public facilities. New energy-efficient laundry equipment and central heating for public areas were also installed along with enhancement and improvements to the facility’s HVAC systems. Phase three will focus on the remaining guest rooms as well as the pool and lobby area.    

Yum! Announces New Advertising Partner
Yum! Restaurants International (Canada) Company, based in Toronto, has enlisted the help of Grip Limited to take on advertising and promotions for its Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC franchises in Canada. “We were looking for a communications partner, who not only share an enthusiasm and passion for our great brands, but could help take us to the next level using an integrated approach,” said Dan Howe, Yum! Canada’s chief marketing officer. “We’ve found this in Grip, as they demonstrated a true understanding of the KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut brands and our customers.” The Toronto-based advertising agency — who lists Labatt Canada and Acura among its clientele — will start work immediately on all creative mass communications for Yum! Canada’s aforementioned brands and 1,278 eateries.

Chris McDonald Brings Sustainability, Spanish Cuisine to Hunger Patrol
On Saturday, Feb. 27, Kids Cook to Care — a non-profit, Toronto-based organization designed to unite children volunteers and chefs to create ethno-centric meals for low-income communities — prepared an organic, Spanish meal at St. Olave’s Anglican Church for its Hunger Patrol program. Toronto-based chef Chris McDonald (Cava, Xococava) and 15 children volunteers cooked for 100 at-risk individuals. Thanks to McDonald, this at-risk community got to enjoy an authentic Spanish meal using mostly local ingredients. The dinner consisted of “conscientious paella,” made with organic chicken, house-made organic pork sausages, P.E.I. mussels and organic Spanish Bomba rice. For the first time in the Hunger Patrol’s history, it was an organic meal. “With children volunteers, not only can we bring Spanish cuisine to those in need but we can do it by using local and organic ingredients,” said McDonald. “Kids Cook to Care unites my myriad interests of bringing my love of Spanish food to everyone.” The Hunger Patrol van is driven by Reverend David Burrows, Rector at St. Olave’s, and two volunteers. “Through Kids Cook to Care, children volunteers are catalysts for healthier communities,” states Jill Lewis, co-founder of the program.

Toronto Celebrates International Pork Day
It may be the Year of the Tiger, but at Buddha Dog’s Toronto and Picton, Ont., restaurants, it has undoubtedly been the week of the pig. After a successful event at the burgeoning chain’s Prince Edward County (PEC) home base, Buddha Dog’s Andrew MacKenzie and Andrew Hunter hosted a like-minded gathering in Toronto to raise pork’s profile and awareness of the pig farmer’s plight.

“Much of the large-scale pig farming has now ceased, with pork prices being too low to justify costs,” said Dan Taylor, economic development officer, for PEC. “We’re in a situation where farmers are basically giving their product away, and that’s a serious problem,” he told those in attendance. As a result, Taylor says its only smaller producers — relying on the slow-food and local-food movement’s fondness for heritage breeds — that keep small-scale, local farmers tenuously afloat. So, piggybacking off an American idea, Taylor contacted the guys at Buddha Dog, about bringing National Pig Day to Ontario. Through the newfangled magic of social media, and a few old-fashioned business connections, the team quickly pulled together the county’s inaugural Pig Day in Picton, Feb. 22 and in Toronto Feb. 25.

After hearing Taylor’s initial idea, MacKenzie contacted PEC pork farmer, Blaine Way and Wellington, Ont., abattoir owner, Ted Aman, about the feasibility of creating a top-notch pork-based hotdog on short notice. After the two agreed, MacKenzie took to Twitter to ask the heritage-breed pork-loving public whether to make the wiener with Tamworth or Berkshire pigs. With the results tabulated, and Tamworth coming out slightly ahead, the team busily set to work creating the company’s first pork-based hotdog, which was met with rave reviews at the official launch in Picton.

Sporting a slightly altered recipe in Toronto, thanks in large part to Hunter’s tendency to toy with sauces, the Hogtown crowd was blown away with the Tamworth dog, served on a sage bun from PEC baker Peter Grendel, with a Waupoos cider-based sauce from the County Cider Company and finished with a slathering of Stratford Ontario’s Montforte Dairy cheese. It was a truly pan-Ontario experience. But while the dogs (and pigs) were the centre of attention, the important message regarding the trials and tribulations of Ontario’s small-scale pork farmers was not lost on those in attendance in Picton or Toronto. In fact, at the PEC event, Oliver Haan, director of the Ontario Pork Board, explained that support from local food initiatives, coupled with direct marketing and sales is what keeps pig farms afloat. In Toronto, Taylor framed the situation similarly, but with an encouraging spin, at least for those committed to building PEC as a gastronomic destination. “Fortunately there is this local movement and, low and behold, we found some people that didn’t think pork farming was doomed,” he said. “Value-added, experiential gastronomic tourism is where the future is.”

With those motivators in mind, there is little doubt that PEC, with the help of local food devotees, is building itself into a model for agri-tourism in Ontario. What’s more, if the food continues to be as fun and tasty as the pork-dogs, this summer’s road-trippers will find it Tam-worth the drive to Picton.


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