Bid Placed on Taco Del Mar
Franchise Brands, LLC, is preparing to purchase Taco Del Mar. The Milford, Conn., company that already owns Mama De Luca’s Pizza Now!, has successfully placed a bid to purchase the rights to the Seattle-based 200-unit Mexican quick-service concept. The bid came through a recent bankruptcy auction and a bankruptcy judge has approved the sale. “Franchise Brands is a company with an interest in acquiring businesses to create a diverse portfolio ready for expansion through franchising. Taco Del Mar is an established brand with name recognition. The concept fits our preferred business model with its ease of operation, relatively low investment and presence in a popular foodservice category,” said franchise brands managing director, Lisa Oak. Franchise Brands, LLC, which also owns Personal Training Institute and HomeVestors of America, Inc., was created in 2005 with the support of the co-founders of the Subway restaurant chain.
KFC’s Double Down Sandwich Debuts in Canada
Canadians can now buy the infamous KFC Double Down sandwich on their own soil where it will be available until Nov. 14. The Double Down features two pieces of bacon and two pieces of processed Pepper Jack cheese, wrapped in two chicken breasts. Dubbed KFC’s most successful sandwich, more than 10 million were reportedly sold in less than a month in the U.S., when it first appeared on the scene in May. Bashed by U.S. health critics for its 540 calories (fried) or 460 calories (grilled), its success is attributed to its targeted market of working class consumers who want more value for their dollar. “It’s about quantity,” Darren Tristano of Technomic Inc., Chicago, Ill., told salon.com in April. “Whether we like it or not, this product will appeal to a significant portion of the consumer base.”
Tim Hortons Scores in Pittsburgh and Long Island
NHL fans in American cities, such as Pittsburgh and Long Island, N.Y., can now enjoy what Canucks have been enjoying for years — Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts. Tim Hortons has signed agreements to bring its coffee, cappuccino and Timbits to Consol Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Nassau Coliseum, home of the New York Islanders. Although, already a mainstay at the home stadiums of the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, it will be the first time Tim’s has opened in Pittsburgh and Long Island. “Serving Penguins and Islanders fans is a natural fit, considering our heritage and ongoing connection with hockey. We’ll look for similar business development opportunities and continue our franchising expansion in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest,” said David Clanachan, COO, U.S. and International for the doughnut chain. The Oakville, Ont.-based chain has more than 3,600 locations in North America, including nearly 600 in the U.S., with the American head office in Dublin, Ohio.
Canadian Concept Lands in Lone Star State
A fresh alternative to fast food has arrived in the Lone Star State. The Toronto-based Freshii team recently celebrated the grand opening of its newest unit in Houston’s Energy Corridor District. “I’m so excited to bring the Freshii philosophy to the growing Energy Corridor District, because it’s a fresh and healthy alternative to traditional fast food,” said Javier Bueno, Freshii development partner. “With the thriving business market, opening of great shops and blossoming residential population, I’m excited to call this diverse neighbourhood Freshii’s first Houston home.” The Houston store isn’t the first Freshii in the U.S.; units are also open in Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. Freshii has been featuring sustainable ingredients in quick and nutrient-packed breakfasts, lunches and dinners in a “build-your-own” format, since opening in Toronto in 2005.
Worldwide Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Launched
The Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, a new professional school for culinary arts in the U.S. and internationally, officially launched this summer with a reception at the Alliance Francaise de Chicago, which was hosted by Paul Ryan, president of the Hoffman Estates and the Illinois-based Triumph Higher Education Group (Triumph HEG).
“The Foundation is dedicated to preserving the legacy of my great-grandfather as the ‘chef of kings and king of chefs,’” Michel Escoffier, Auguste Escoffier’s great-grandson and president of the Auguste Escoffier Foundation and Museum of Villeneuve-Loubet, France said. “What better way to extend Escoffier’s legacy and advance the profession than by providing innovative training that cultivates our future culinary leaders? I am confident the program model and outstanding team will set a new standard of excellence in culinary education.”
Jack Larson, executive chairman of Triumph HEG, commented, “[The schools] are truly the next generation of culinary education and will combine interactive delivery, world-class instructors, an emphasis on sustainable cuisine and affordable tuition.”
To inaugurate the Auguste Escoffier Schools, Triumph HEG has acquired the Culinary Academy of Austin (June 2010) and The Culinary School of the Rockies in Boulder (July 2010), both of which will be converted to the new curriculum. Additional U.S. and international locations are under active negotiation, Ryan said.
Ryan, a 30-year hospitality industry veteran, previously headed up the Le Cordon Bleu North America culinary schools for eight years, growing it to include 19 schools. Triumph Capital, LLC is led by John Larson, founder and former president, CEO and chairman of Career Education Corporation.
The Auguste Escoffier Foundation was founded in 1966 by Joseph Donen and other friends and colleagues who worked with Escoffier in London at the Savoy and Carlton hotels.
For more information, click here.
Niagara Winery Earns Top Honours
Niagara’s Tawse Winery, established a mere 10 years ago, has taken top honours at the Canadian Wine Awards. It won 18 medals and has become the first Ontario winery to be awarded the coveted designation of Canada’s Winery of the Year. Tawse, which is located in Vineland, along Ontario’s popular Wine Route, won five gold, three silver and 10 bronze medals, making it the first winery to win as many gold medals in a single year during the awards’ 10-year history. In addition, Tawse won the White Wine of the Year Award for its 2008 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay. The chardonnay received a score of 93 out of 100 — the highest ever achieved by a table wine in this competition. The Canadian Wine Awards have been held annually since 2000 by Wine Access magazine and involve strict, international-calibre competition with blind tasting by wine experts. Tawse Winery submitted 25 wines for judging. “We’re extremely pleased and honoured to be named Canada’s Winery of the Year,” says Moray Tawse, Toronto financier and owner of the winery he started in 2001. “Our goal is to make great wine and it’s a good feeling to have our efforts recognized. I think the recognition is also good for our entire region and will encourage people to try Niagara wines.” The complete list of award winners will be published in the December/January issue of Wine Access magazine.
Denmark’s Top Toque Visits Toronto
Rene Redzepi, the inventive chef behind the top-rated Noma restaurant in Denmark, was in Toronto recently as part of the Cookbook Store-organized tour for his collection of recipes called Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine.
Speaking to a crowd of foodies at the Isabel Bader Theatre at the University of Toronto as part of a Q&A with the store’s Alison Fryer, Redezpi provided an overview of his philosophical views about food and what he is trying to accomplish at Noma, which was recently voted the number 1 restaurant at San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2010.
Born in 1977, the 32-year-old Redzepi opened the 40-seat restaurant in Copenhagen in 2003. By 2006, it had received its first Michelin star, followed by a two-star rating in 2007. The young chef, who began cooking at the age of 15, found critical acclaim by promoting indigenous food from Denmark in a simplified and unstructured manner. “I started this journey of self discovery in the Faroe Islands,” recounted Redzepi, pointing to products he found there such as seal, whale and sea urchins. “I was used to cooking with a few ingredients, but suddenly you step into nature and find out we have 59 edible berries, 150 types of horseradish, 1,000 types of mushrooms.”
His love affair with nature continues daily. For example, he infuses tree bark into stocks and uses items like birch sap in the restaurant’s original crafted beers. “We consider ourselves as a restaurant that has a pact with nature,” he said. “This is where we source our ingredients, and it’s become our inspiration. In order for us to shape cuisine, we need to explore the diversity.”
Redzepi is a big believer in stripping the food experience of all pretension. “I was getting very tired of the act of dining,” he told the crowd. “You enter a restaurant and it becomes theatre — the waiters act in a certain way, and the diners are expected to be formal and very correct. The food is highlighted on a table with gold and silverware. It [feels] like that’s what you [are] supposed to be impressed by. By stripping it [down] you get to the raw [essence] and you focus on the food. You fill the customer with the knowledge of the ingredients.”
Ultimately, says Redzepi, “We’re trying to shape a cuisine. There’s more meaning to it than making a profit.”
“Coffee Cup” Competition New at SIAL Canada
The first “SIAL Coffee Cup” competition, recognizing the best coffees from around the world, will be held at SIAL Canada, a tradeshow which will take place at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, from May 11 to 13, 2011. The competition will be chaired by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, headquartered in Long Beach, Calif. The tradeshow, which will be held in Toronto for the first time, is expected to attract more than 600 exhibitors, 13,000 attendees and products from more than 40 countries. SET Canada’s new expert Pathways program will highlight the latest equipment and solutions in technology, sustainability, traceability and security. For more information, click here.
Michael Minor Named Grand Commander at Golden Toque Reunion
Dr. Michael Minor, chef and director of Culinary Services, Custom Culinary, Inc., was elected Grand Commander of The Honorable Order of the Golden Toque at the organization’s 48th Annual Meeting and Reunion, held in Providence, R.I., earlier this month. Other officers elected were: Jim Miller as commander secretary; Joel Tanner as commander treasurer; and John Bogacki and Lee Conway as directors.
The reunion was held at the Radisson Hotel Providence Airport, which is a practicum site where culinary and hospitality students from Johnson & Wales University are required to participate in the internship program. The three-day event included an extensive tour of the school’s new facilities, including the newly named Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence, designed to be the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) culinary lab facility in the U.S. The school also hosts the Culinary Arts Museum dedicated to the historical preservation of the U.S. culinary and hospitality worlds at home and abroad.
Founded in the U.S. in 1961 as an independent honour society, the Order is the highest acclaimed recognition a chef can receive in America, recognizing professional attainment of high estate, abiding interest in professional progress and devotion and distinguished service to the culinary profession and arts. Lifetime membership is restricted to 100 chef members and 15 honourable members. Members must be nominated and pass through a rigorous screening process. Mitch Kostuch, president Kostuch Publications Limited, is the only Canadian member and the second Canadian to be so honoured. For more information, click here.
Whistler Blackcomb IPO to Raise $300M, Closing In November
An initial public offering for shares in North America’s largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb in Whistler, B.C., is expected to raise $300 million with shares valued between $14 and $15, according to a summary of the offering sent to Scotia iTrade customers last Friday. The offering is expected to close in November. The IPO by Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. is expected to raise $300 million, which will be used to pay down some of the money owed to Intrawest ULC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group LLC, New York, the current owner of Whistler Blackcomb. After the offering, Intrawest expects to continue to own up to 45 per cent of the new company. Fortress purchased Intrawest in 2006 for US$2.8 billion, including US$950 million in debt. Fortress estimated Intrawest lost $6.2 million in revenue as people stayed away from Whistler-Blackcomb leading up to and during the February 2010 Winter Olympics.
CRDA Hosts Annual Conference
The Canadian Resort Development Association held its annual conference last week, from Oct. 13 to 15 at Toronto’s Radisson Admiral Hotel.
The conference, billed by the association as the only conference in Canada exclusively dedicated to shared ownership, fractional and strata segments, featured 30 speakers from across the industry, sharing insights with some 200 attendees.
“As CRDA moves towards its third decade of existence, Canadian and world tourism continues to grow and flourish, and we look forward to operating in these exciting times,” said association president and CEO, Ross Perlmutter.
Attendees were given a solid overview on a number of key areas, from a consumer snapshot, provided by Jason Allsop of Ipsos Reid, to the keynote address by Howard C. Nusbaum, president and CEO of the American Resort and Development Association (ARDA).
In his presentation, Nusbaum reminded delegates of the financial realities for the shared ownership market and of its highly desirable clientele, particularly in times of economic difficulty. “I’ve always seen timeshare as the little train that could,” he started. “We had continued growth every year from 1978 to 2007, until the credit crisis humbled all of us. But, it’s not all bad. Looking at 2008 and 2009, that’s when the industry really got smart. Velocity is no longer the benchmark of success, profitability is. As a result, total sales are down, but price per interval still went up steadily, occupancy stayed stable as did average resort size,” he said.
Because of these factors, combined with the fact that, according to Nusbaum, timeshare owners are seen as very low-risk investors, even that industry’s securitization market is bouncing back. “We have very stable customers,” he said. “[Wall]street likes our paper, because nine out of 10 of our customers are current on their mortgage. Sure, gross defaults spiked in 2008 and 2009, but we’re now down to a touch below average,” he added.
The conference also featured smaller breakout seminars on topics like the fundamentals of finance, resort management and timeshare technology. Of these breakout sessions, the topic that seemed to create the most debate was the resale forum, featuring Rob Webb of Baker Hospitality; Jason Tremblay of SellMyTimeshareNOW; Jason Clowrey from Visions of the World, UK; and Chris Thompson of Club Intrawest.
Centered on the controversial practice of reselling timeshare intervals on the secondary market, a forum rife with what the panel called outright fraud, the discussion boiled down to the notion that developers and legitimate resellers do in fact need to address the problem of resale fraud by some unscrupulous relief agencies and work together to stamp out the practice.
The day-long group of seminars ended with an “all-star” roundtable discussion session, featuring prominent industry insiders like CRDA’s Perlmutter and ARDA’s Nusbaum, who were joined by Shari Levitin of The Levitin Group; David Gilbert of Interval International; Jorge Boone of RCI and Rob Webb of Baker Hospitality.
Ontario Tourism Summit to be Held at Deerhurst Resort
More than 400 delegates are expected to attend the 6th annual Ontario Tourism Summit from Nov. 7 to 9 at the Deerhurst Resort, Muskoka, Ont., hosted by the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO). The 2010 theme is “Taking it to the Next Level” and will focus on strategies to help the industry reach its future potential, based on economic predictions that strong tourism growth is expected for Ontario in 2010. Speakers will include: Scotiabank’s chief economist, Warren Jestin; trends experts Darrell Bricker and John Wright of Ipsos Reid Public Affairs; OTMPC president and CEO, Robin Garrett; TIAO president, Bill Allen; and David Goldstein, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. The Nov. 9 Ontario Tourism Awards gala will honour 14 tourism leaders for their innovation and excellence. For more information, click here.