Week of May 25, 2010

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NRA Show Offers Brighter Outlook for U.S. Foodservice
The 91st annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA Show), which wrapped Tuesday in McCormick Place, Chicago, presented suppliers and foodservice operators with a more positive outlook of the industry and the economy than last year. According to show officials, visitor registrations and floor traffic improved, as suppliers offered the latest technologies, products and programs to help operators increase efficiencies and satisfy more discriminating consumer palates.

“The American palate has become much more sophisticated,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president responsible for research and knowledge management at the National Restaurant Association. Pointing out that the proliferation of cooking shows and celebrity chefs “has pushed food and the restaurant business to the forefront of U.S. culture,” he also acknowledged consumer pressure has changed restaurant offerings at every level, from fine-dining to quick-service. “If you look at traditional quick-service offerings compared to 10 to 20 years ago, there’s a greater variety,” said Riehle, noting the differences in portion size, beverage offerings and expanded menus to appeal to different demographic groups.

Commenting on a recent NRA survey of U.S. chefs, which put local-sourcing of food high on their priority list, Riehle said “there’s heightened interest now in knowing not only the sourcing, but also preparation and a lot of this information is available on restaurant websites and communicated on menus. As consumer knowledge has been heightened, common sense is they’sre also interested in knowing more.”

U.S. Yogurt Chain Menchie’s to Open 10 Units in Canada in 2010
The fastest-growing, self-service frozen yogurt chain in North America has announced it’s heading to Canada. Menchie’s, an Encino, Calif.-based frozen yogurt chain, has officially signed its first franchise agreement in Canada. The Canadian store, which will be located in Vaughan, Ont., marks Menchie’s first expansion into an international market — Menchie’s currently has locations in more than 11 U.S. states. “As the demand for self-serve frozen yogurt continues to rise throughout North America, the potential for success with Menchie’s has never been better,” says Amit Kleinberger, CEO of Menchie’s Group, Inc. Kleinberger says the company is planning further expansion into the Canadian market, with the development of 10 new locations in 2010 and more than 100 new units in the next four years. Menchie’s also intends to open units in Japan, China and Australia this year.

Unlike other frozen yogurt chains, which have set sizes and prices, and charge for additional toppings, Menchie’s self-serve model allows customers to create exactly what they want. They can choose from more than 100 rotating yogurt flavours, from cake batter and pomegranate tart to chocolate and vanilla, and add more than 60 rotating toppings, including fresh fruits, granola, nuts and an assortment of candy and hot sauces. Afterward, the yogurt is weighed and paid for by the ounce. “Menchie’s upbeat crowds bring new energy that rejuvenates retail centers, boosts foot traffic, and helps increase revenue for adjacent businesses all across the United States,” Kleinberger added. “We plan to bring that same energy to communities all across Canada.” For more info, visit menchies.com.

Crescent Hotels to Expand Across Canada
After operating in the Great White North for the past year, executives at Toronto-based Crescent Hotels & Resorts Canada say the company is planning significant national expansion during the next 12 months. With 14 hotels operating in the full-service, branded and independent segments, Crescent hopes to add another six to 10 management contracts in the next year in response to signs of a recovery in the hotel industry, as well as a growing demand for Crescent’s operating expertise. “It has always been part of the company’s strategy to have a solid base of operation in Canada,” said Michael George, president and CEO, Crescent Hotels & Resorts, in a press release. “The senior management team has in-depth experience in Canadian markets. We have a full operating company infrastructure in place in Toronto and the field, supported by corporate leaders and resources at the parent company’s headquarters office outside of Washington, D.C. This allows us to achieve significant economies of scale. We see growing interest in our services from both publicly and privately held institutional grade hotel ownership groups.”

“The Canadian hotel industry, like most parts of the world has had a difficult time with the worldwide economic downturn,” says Tony Cohen, senior vice-president of Development, Crescent Hotels. “In this challenging environment, hotel owners seek a high-impact, proven operator who can positively influence revenues while holding down costs, while preparing to take full advantage of the opportunities available as the economy and industry recover. Crescent fills that need and void in Canada and can bring fresh equity to transactions, when appropriate.”

21-Unit Freshii Expected to Boast 60 Locations by Year End
The 21-unit Freshii chain, based in Toronto and Chicago, is expected to grow to 60 stores by the end of 2010, with locations around the world from Los Angeles to Vienna and $50 million in sales. Matthew Corrin, the 28-year-old founder and CEO of Freshii, featured in the May issue of Foodservice and Hospitality magazine, expects to add about one location per week and have some 1,000 new Freshii stores open by 2015. Freshii currently owns nine locations in Toronto and one in Chicago, the balance of the portfolio are franchises. Instead of one-store deals, Corrin has been targeting multi-unit deals with well-capitalized partners who would open anywhere from three to 40 units in a particular area. He claims that Freshii has already signed franchise deals with 20 partners in 20 cities, from Philadelphia to Calgary, New York and Dubai.

The Winnipeg-native opened his first fresh-food restaurant in Toronto’s TD Centre in 2005, originally naming it Lettuce Eatery before realizing it was an inappropriate name if he wanted to expand into breakfast and dinner dayparts.

Canadian Corporate Profitability Growth Expected to Slow in Second Half of 2010
A new study by the Ottawa-based Conference Board of Canada is projecting that corporate profitability growth will be “moderate” in the second half of this year. This news comes on the heels of a strong post-recession rebound for many industries in the country. The Leading Indicator of Industry Profitability, which is part of the Conference Board’s Industrial Economic Trends service, is designed to predict future movements in corporate profitability.

A leading indicator is created for the economy as a whole, as well as for 49 sectors within the economy — including food and beverage stores, service and manufacturing — covering most of the private business activity that takes place in Canada. External factors such as the fiscal problems in the eurozone or the state of the U.S. housing market are embedded into the analysis.

“Corporate profitability growth is now stabilizing following a sharp decline during the recession and a strong recovery coming out of the downturn,” said Michael Burt, associate director, Industrial Economic Trends. “After falling by 37 per cent, between the second half of 2008 and the first half of 2009, profits had increased by 28 per cent by the end of last year.” Burt added that because “profitability is approaching more normal levels for many industries, the indicator suggests there will be a significant slowdown in the rate of growth, reflecting the transition to a period of weak or no profit growth.” To read or purchase the report, click here.

Printed Calorie Counts on Customer Bills Launched by Burgerville in the U.S.
Following a successful pilot program, the 39-store Burgerville quick-service chain, in Washington and Oregon, started giving printed calorie counts of all food ordered on its customer receipts last week, along with other nutritional information and suggestions for cutting calories and fat from meals. According to a story on FastCompany.com, Burgerville is the first U.S. chain to adopt the Nutricate “SmartReceipt” system, which was developed for use in hospitals and corporate cafeterias.

At the launch, Burgerville CEO Jeff Harvey commented, “Most of the feedback [in our test] was positive, and no guests were shocked by the info.” He added, “One of our signatures is a real ice-cream milkshake with seasonal fruit — it has the best quality ingredients, coming straight from the farms, but the calorie count could be as high as 800. So, for example, guests will get a recommendation saying if you like the blueberry shake, you might consider getting a blueberry smoothie next time.”

Toronto Earns Best Convention City Designation — Watkins Study
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Tourism Toronto has been awarded the Best Convention City Designation, in a ranking of 46 cities across North America. A survey of 673 meeting planners from across North America, put together by the Kansas City-based Watkins Research Group Inc., looked at eight important characteristics, including the quality of convention centre and tourism bureau services, hotel size and safety and accessibility within the city. Conducted every two years, the Watkins study is considered the most prominent, comprehensive and authoritative product of its kind being used by meeting planners to schedule future events. The 2010 survey placed Toronto first in the convention and visitors bureau category, up from number eight in the 2008 survey. In the convention facilities category, Toronto earned the fifth spot, up from number 21 in 2008.

George Brown College Marks Successful $5M-Fundraiser
In a gathering described as a “celebration of vision,” more than 150 foodservice industry executives congregated in the foyer of George Brown College’s downtown Toronto campus on May 18 to mark the culmination of the “Say, Yes!” fundraising initiative. The campaign, which has spanned three years, and raised more than $5 million in the process, has helped transform GBC into one of the most important and influential culinary learning centres in the country. Speaking to a crowd of well wishers, many of whom supported the campaign, John Walker, dean of Hospitality, thanked the community for helping fund the landmark expansion project, especially in light of the difficult economic times during which much of the campaign took place. “We’re thrilled that we’ve achieved our goal and could not have done it without the significant and continued support from our friends and industry partners,” Walker said.

To mark the occasion, Walker unveiled a Donor Wall, which acknowledged the contributions of several foodservice and hospitality corporations, including Kostuch Publications Limited.    

When the fundraising drive began in earnest back in 2007, the hospitality industry was enjoying the fruits of heady days, but a year later, the economy plummeted and securing donors committed to the project became more challenging. Still, the team, led by Michael Beckley, vice-president of Marriott Hotels & Resorts Canada and Donna Dooher, owner of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, persevered and, three years later, the benefits of that influx of capital is clearly evident at George Brown. The revamped school boasts a mix of innovative culinary, mixology and sommelier labs, simulation and project rooms, an e-learning centre and state-of-the-art bake labs. Additionally, the funds helped the school showcase a unique student-training restaurant called the Chef’s House, which places students front-and-centre by providing them with important hands-on experience.

Toronto Region ORHMA Elects Officers, Jason Cheskes Chair
The Toronto Region of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA) has elected Jason Cheskes, president of Above the Line Solutions, as chairman for a two-year term. Cheskes is replacing Jost Rittershaus of F.A.B. Concepts. The annual general meeting, held at Tom Jones Steakhouse in downtown Toronto, also saw the appointment of five new directors — Paul Boehmer, Bohmer Restaurant; Tim Kennelly, Diageo; Joe Marques, Cara Operations; Al Stuart, The Pilot; and Hans Sturzenbecher, Macy’s Diner. The Toronto region executive committee of Mark TenEycke, Todd Sherman and Robbie Stewart will continue for a second year.

De Dutch Opens New Location in Vancouver
Coinciding with the company’s 35th anniversary, De Dutch Pannekoek House Restaurants Inc. has opened a new location at 410 West 2nd Avenue (at Yukon Street) in Vancouver. The restaurant is the second new De Dutch location to open this year and the chain’s first new restaurant to open in Vancouver in 15 years. “We are so pleased with our newest restaurant,” said Bill Waring, president, De Dutch. “We had been looking for the perfect location on the west side of Vancouver for our award-winning franchisees Alan and Delene George for a long time and we finally found it. We are thrilled.”

Sales for the De Dutch system have grown in B.C. since the franchise was founded in 1975. The next, new De Dutch restaurant to enter the system will be located in Columbia Square in New Westminster, B.C. It is scheduled to open next month by new De Dutch franchisees, Marie and Tandrea Jang. The 35-year-old De Dutch franchise has 19 locations in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan Valley and Cariboo. For more information, click here.

Online Database Greenbeltfresh.ca Officially Launches
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, in tandem with the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance and the Greater Toronto Area Agricultural Action Committee, hosted a launch party on Tuesday, May 18 for its new online database at Hart House on the campus of the University of Toronto. The new website — greenbeltfresh.ca — will help growers and producers in Ontario’s Greenbelt region find new avenues to sell their goods as well as allow consumers, chefs and restaurateurs to know exactly where they can find the freshest, in-season Ontario product. “Greenbeltfresh.ca is an online dating service,” said Burkhard Mausberg, president of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, to the large gathering in attendance. “It helps farmers find markets and it helps chefs and consumers find farmers. And, those farmers get to tell their own stories. They can personalize their own pages on this website, and tell people what they grow, how they grow it and where they can buy their products.”

More than 600 farms are currently listed on the database, which has a similar interface to Facebook. It offers users detailed information on where to find everything from free-range chicken to fresh vegetables and fruit. Individual consumers can enter their postal codes to see exactly what local foods are available to them, whether it’s at a farmer’s market or an on-farm market. Foodservice professionals can also search the site to see what’s being grown in the Greenbelt and find out exact specifications on farm practices, volume, pack sizes and modes of distribution. “I will definitely use the new online market,” says Robin Pradhan, chef/owner of Rocky Raccoon Cafés in Owen Sound, Ont., and on Manitoulin Island. “It will help me source local food, especially items that I might not be able to get in the Grey Bruce region. Chefs want products that are grown from our own soil.”

The Greenbelt region collars the Golden Horseshoe and also stretches north through Collingwood, Owen Sound and up the Bruce Trail to Tobermory. At 1.8-million hectares, it is the largest Greenbelt in the world, and it’s a diverse area that provides $2.6 billion in goods and services. But development pressures are eating it away. That urban sprawl is what spurred the Foundation to start developing this new initiative two years ago. “Eating local food is a powerful way to support family farms, to improve our regional economy and to strengthen the Greenbelt,” said Mausberg. The database is also available on smartphones.

Ontario Food Protection Golf Event, June 23, Hornby, Ont.
The Ontario Food Protection Association Inc., based in Guelph, Ont., will hold its 2010 OFPA Golf Tournament on Wed., June 23 at the prestigious Pipe Sheath Gold Club in Hornby, Ont. Paid registration is $150 per person until June 7, when it will increase to $175. For more information, click here.

Women Chefs Unveil New Website
Madison, Ala..-based Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR) has rebuilt its website, WomenChefs.org. “We’ve added some exciting new features that women in the culinary and hospitality fields won’t find all in one place anywhere else,” says chef Jamie Leeds, WCR’s president, co-owner of CommonWealth Gastropub and owner of Hank’s Oyster Bar in Washington, D.C. “Now, WCR members can scan for relevant news, industry resources, job openings and professional-development scholarships and internships more conveniently than ever. And culinary students can interact with other students and women professionals throughout the foodservice industry, giving them access to a world of answers to their questions.”

WCR’s 2010 National Conference will be held Nov. 6 to 9 in Pasadena, Calif. For information, call (877) 927-7787 or email admin@womenchefs.org.

Bill Stone Joins CB Richard Ellis Ltd.
CB Richard Ellis Limited has announced Bill Stone, one of Canada’s most accomplished hotel and resort specialty real-estate professionals, has joined the company as executive vice-president to lead CBRE Hotels’ Canadian Hotel practice. Stone joins CBRE from Colliers International, where he was an executive managing director of the Hotel group. “Bill is an industry leader whose experience and success in the sale and financing of hotel and resort properties, and the provision of financial and structuring advisory services will benefit our hotel clients from coast to coast,” said John O’Bryan, vice-chairman, CB Richard Ellis Limited.

 

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