Week of Oct. 12, 2010



Kostuch Publications Announces 2010 Pinnacle Award Winners
Kostuch Publications has announced this year’s slate of Pinnacle Award winners for both its publications — Foodservice and Hospitality and Hotelier. Joining the Winner’s Circle in 2010 are Company of the Year: MTY Food Group, Montreal; Regional Company of the Year, Eastern Canada: Murphy Restaurant Group and Regional Company of the Year, Western Canada, Joey Restaurant Group. The Independent Restaurateur of the Year for 2010 is Sal Howell of River Café in Edmonton, while the Supplier of the Year distinction goes to Toronto-based MenuPalace.com. Vancouver-based A&W Food Services is the winner of the Franchise Excellence Award. Rounding out the foodservice category winners is Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall, in Cambridge, Ont. who becomes the first recipient of Chef of the Year honours. Winners in the Hotelier category are: Starwood Hotels & Resorts as Company of the Year; Sawridge Inns and Conference Centres as Regional Company of the Year; Geoff Allan, GM, Hotel Le Crystal in Montreal as Hotelier of the Year and James Lockhart, Group Lockhart as Supplier of the Year.

Maple Leaf Foods to Overhaul Operations
Maple Leaf Foods, Canada’s largest baker and food processor, recently announced plans to make major changes to operations in an effort to adapt to rising commodity prices, according to The Canadian Press. The changes will include plant closures, new investments and increased prices on goods. According to reports, this news comes in response to the climbing price of wheat, flour and deli meat, the rise of the loonie, the aftermath of the listeria outbreak, rising energy and shipping costs, as well as increased competition with U.S. suppliers. The CP reports the company will spend $755 million on restructuring, which begins this year and may continue into 2013. The cost-reduction efforts are projected to bolster profit margins by 75 per cent over the next five years. For the full story, click here.

EI Premium Increase Capped
Restaurateurs nervous about a $0.21 hike in employer EI premiums can breathe a sigh of relief, as Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty recently announced the increase will not be as severe as initially planned. Opting instead for an increase of $0.07 for every $100 of insurable income in 2011, Flaherty says the plan will help keep Canada’s economic recovery on track. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) represented one of the loudest voices of opposition to the original notion of raising the premiums by the full allowable amount and has declared at least a partial victory in the recent decision. “The Minister has heard us, and we’re pleased he is taking steps to bring the runaway EI premium train under control,” said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the CRFA. “In an industry like ours that invests in people, not machinery, payroll taxes are a huge issue. Today we’ve been told the EI hurricane threat has been downgraded from level five to level two.” In all, Canadian restaurants will still contribute about $10 million more in EI premiums for 2011 than they did in 2010, while employees will also see their rate jump by $0.05 for every $100 of insurable income.

Tim Hortons, Imperial Oil Reaffirm Partnership
Building on the popularity of non-traditional foodservice operations, Tim Hortons and Imperial Oil have committed to adding another 175 coffee kiosks at Esso sites across the country over the next 10 years. “Esso is Tim Hortons’ largest non-traditional association, and we couldn’t be happier to announce this renewed agreement,” said Roland Walton, COO of the coffee-shop chain. “This speaks to the successful relationship we’ve shared over the years and the synergies between the two brands. We both offer value, convenience, quick service and more options for busy Canadians.” Tim Hortons opened its first kiosk inside an Esso service station in 1994; today, it operates in 350 of Imperial’s gas stations.

Canadian Beef Gets Recognition Stateside
Beef from the Great White North is getting props south of the border, with its well-advertised appearance on the Stonefire Grill menu. Stonefire Grill, a casual dine-in and take-out restaurant in Southern California, is now using seasoned Canadian AA tri-tip meat. While Canadian beef isn’t a stranger to U.S. restos, Stonefire is the first establishment to market the beef as Canadian to its American consumers. “Canadian beef is a perfect fit for us,” says Kaduri Shemtov of Stonefire Grill. “The quality of beef is fantastic and guests continue to love our tri-tip.”

Kennedy Introduces Signature Fries at ACC
It’s being billed as a partnership between two Toronto icons. Top toque Jamie Kennedy has joined forces with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) to bring his famous frites to sports fans. The partnership launched at the opening game of the hockey season at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) on Thursday, Oct. 7. Kennedy’s signature fries can now be found at a new kiosk sporting the Jamie Kennedy Fries brand. It’s expected the famous chef will go through six bushels of Ontario’s Yukon Gold potatoes for each event held at the ACC. Fried until golden, the spuds are tossed in a combination of fine and coarse sea salt and thyme before being served with a choice of cider of chili mayonnaise or ketchup. Kennedy has created the special sauces exclusively for the ACC kiosk. The fries retail for $6.50. “Partnering with a well-known chef like Jamie Kennedy helps us to continue raising that bar. It’s going to be a home run,” Robert Bartley executive chef and director of Culinary for MLSE, told media prior to the launch last week. For Kennedy, the partnership represents “a vehicle” to extend his brand and to bring good quality food to the masses. “I’m really excited by this since I’m a lifelong fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs,” said Kennedy. The fries will complement other ACC concession offerings, including the popular Burkie’s Dog House kiosk, which offers a slew of new items, including the BLT dog with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise; and Sweet Wally’s, offering a selection of handmade candy apples, floss and team-themed rice crisp treats.       

Longo’s Opens Flagship Store in T.O.’s MLS
Five years after plans were announced to develop and launch a flagship Longo’s grocery store within Maple Leaf Square, the dream has become a reality. The latest unit in the family owned and operated chain of 23 grocery stores opened its doors last week, Oct. 6.

Featuring 48,000 square feet of retail space, the location is more than a grocery store as it boasts a grab-and-go area, a full-service wine and beer bar in a Loft space that will also house cooking demos and wine tastings, a wine retail area where customers can purchase a selection of Peller wines, as well as a pharmacy.

According to Patrick Rodmill, president of Watt International, a retail agency that helps retailers define their brand to increase sales, “this store is the personification of everything Longo stands for. Everything you see, touch and taste is a symphony for the senses,” explained Rodmill at the concept’s media preview. “We wanted to ensure a pleasant aesthetic while creating a value message. We wanted to bring the fresh tradition to the downtown experience.”

Longo’s will cater to the sophisticated urban shopper with the help of an experienced team of food experts. “The Longo kitchen is the heart of the store,” said David Ashley, assistant store manager. “We have the largest selection of prepared foods of any location. It’s chef-prepared, restaurant-quality made in-store. Our meal solutions are 99 per cent preservative-free with vegetarian options and packaging to preserve quality of food.” He added: “There’s something here for every lifestyle. From our hand-stretched pizza and grilled sandwiches to our cooked-to-order panini; our grab-and-go meals are always hot, always ready to eat.”

Priced at $6, $8, or $10, the meals can be taken home or consumed on premise in the Loft, where customers can order a glass of wine or beer while tapping into free Wi-Fi service. “It’s a place to relax, watch the game on TV and learn about Ontario wines,” explains Lesley Martin, the store sommelier who will be in charge of educating Longo customers about Ontario wines and beers. “We will be bringing in winemakers and brewers and pairing our charcuterie boards and cheese plates with flights of wine,” explained Martin.                

The flagship location is in the heart of Toronto’s Lakeshore district, adjacent to the Air Canada Centre. It’s part of the new mixed-use development that features two residential towers, housing 872 condos atop a nine-storey commercial podium that includes a boutique hotel, a daycare and office and retail space as well as the recently opened Real Sports Bar, owned and operated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. The hotel, to be operated by the Germain Group, is set to open its doors in mid-November.

Toronto’s Ame Steps It Up
The owners of the Japanese supper club, Ame, are upping the ante at the Toronto hotspot, building on its cultural theme with more drink, food and entertainment options. “After a phenomenal first year, and as Ame enters its next chapter, we have added some exciting innovative elements to the design, menu, entertainment and overall vibe,” says Charles Khabouth, co-owner of Ame and CEO of Ink Entertainment. “We are taking the Ame experience to the next level as Toronto’s ultimate Japanese supper club, and I promise it will continue to be a must-go-to destination on the Toronto culinary and nightlife map.” The new experience begins with a more open concept in the dining and lounge area so guests can enjoy after-dinner lounging and dancing with the new deejay line-up that has been added to complete the weekend ambiance, from Thursday to Saturday. Late-night revellers can also enjoy an extensive bottle service menu featuring premium liquors, champagnes, imported sakes and shochu. And, for those late-night munchies, executive chef Guy Rubino is offering a medley of Tokyo delights until 11 p.m. and a sushi bar until 2 a.m. For the finishing touch, staff now sport Asian-inspired uniforms designed by Canada’s Anne Hung. Ame is located in Toronto’s entertainment district at 19 Mercer St.

Montreal Prepares for Terra Madre
Delegates from Slow Food Montreal are gearing up for Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy, from Oct. 21 to 25. Five of the chapter’s seven-member leadership team is preparing to attend the biennial meeting of slow-food proponents, from 153 countries and five continents, discussing alternatives to the global food system. A focus of discussion at the fourth annual conference will be cultural and linguistic diversity. The Montreal delegation includes: Bobby Grégoire, specialist in gastronomy, communications and events; Katerine-Lune Rollet, a social media manager and food columnist; Catherine Lefebvre, a nutritionist and food blogger; David Szanto, a PhD student in gastronomy at Concordia University and food studies instructor at Concordia, University of Gastronomic Sciences and UQÀM; and Cédric Fontaine, owner/operator of Terroirs Québec.

B.C. Hospitality Conference Set for Next Month
The largest hospitality industry conference in the Pacific Northwest, The B.C. Hospitality Industry Conference, is set to take place in Vancouver from Nov. 21 to 23. “Hospitality in Transition: Maximizing the Possibilities” will be the theme of the meeting to be hosted at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. It will provide skills and tools for emerging from an economic downturn with a healthy business outlook. Among the conference highlights will be a keynote presentation by Jim Treliving, chairman and owner of Boston Pizza International. Treliving is considered a true visionary entrepreneur and also stars on CBC’s reality TV show, Dragon’s Den. Todd Lucier of Tourism Keys Internet Marketing will facilitate two workshops on Social Media — one for beginners and the other for those who have previous experience and an existing presence online. Lucier will also be presenting a session entitled “Swimming with Sharks,” which will determine the resources hospitality businesses need to have a successful presence online. The B.C. Hospitality Expo, which is held in conjunction with the conference, will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West and is expected to attract more than 4,000 industry professionals and more than 200 exhibitors.

PKF Forecasts Annual Outlook
Cautious optimism was the order of the day at the 11th annual PKF Outlook, held Oct. 7 at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle Hotel. Hotel owners and operators were out in full force, anxious to hear what industry analysts had to say about how the hotel industry fared in 2010 and how it’s projected to do next year.

A panel of PKF analysts took those in attendance on a journey through 2010 to assess indicators and trends. Among the highlights: a total of 7,000 new rooms entered into the hotel system in 2010 with an additional 4,000 expected to come onboard in 2011. The decline in room supply bodes well for the industry, giving it a chance to regain some lost ground. According to David Larone, director, PKF, 5.5-million room nights were lost in the past year. But, it appears the industry is getting back to where it was in 2008. Occupancy is forecast to sit at 60 per cent next year, down by three per cent from 2008, when it sat at 63 per cent. ADR is expected to come in at $131, the same rate as in 2008. Among the cities with the highest RevPAR growth are Halifax, Quebec and Niagara Falls, followed by Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

On the West Coast, the stats show the Olympics helped boost Vancouver to a higher standing. “The bottom line is up by seven per cent because of these events,” said PKF’s Fran Hohol. But now it’s back to reality. “Vancouver is living with a hangover,” quipped Larone.  

The decline in number of U.S. visits to Canada continues to pose challenges for the tourism industry. “Since 9/11 travel has dropped significantly,” explained Hohol. She pointed to stats that showed travel from the U.S. was down by 6.7 per cent in 2009 and 1.9 per cent in 2010; it’s projected to grow by 2.1 per cent in 2011, she added. Overseas travel showed similar patterns, dropping by 12.7 per cent in 2009. But, surprisingly, it was up in 2010 by 5.4 per cent. Hohol noted promise in the Asian market, with travel expected to increase from Japan, Korea and China.

On the investment side, the number of hotels sold in the past year has dropped dramatically. Based on year-to-date June 2010, only 32 hotels have been sold, representing a volume of $270 million. Last year, there were 74 hotels sold, compared to 115 in 2006. “There’s a lot of money out there looking for a home,” said Larone.

So what’s on the horizon? According to Larone, “2010 was a little bit better than we anticipated, and we’re looking at about the same for 2011. I can’t emphasize enough that we’re coming off a low level, but we’re moving in the right direction. If you’re still alive in 2010, you’ve got something to look forward to. But we’re not suggesting a dramatic recovery; it will be a slow process. Everyone’s projections for 2011 are slower than 2010.”


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