Different menu prices from one outlet to another "common" in the industry
WindsorOntarioNews.com May 5 2022
If you buy your meal at one Wendy’s outlet in Windsor you’re likely to pay more than at another of the chain's city outlets. A WON.com reader priced combo meals at the two outlets and was shocked by the price differences. “I recently
ordered a meal off of the Wendy's Restaurant app,” the Windsor resident said. “While using it, I
noticed that the price for the exact same combo at one location was different than another one,” the professional and Wendy’s regular added. “When using the app, I tried different combos to see if it was just the one, but most are different with approximately $1-2 variance.” Sure enough, when WON.com did an online price comparison all the combo meals had a price variation with the one Wendy’s always being more expensive than the other. A Dave’s Single Combo was $11.29 at the first store, $9.89 at the second. The Asiago Ranch Chicken Club was $12.69 at one store and $10.99 at the second. A Taco Salad was $9.59 at the first and $9.39 at the second. Even the price of Coke varied: $2.69-$3.29 at the first and $2.49-$3.09 at the second. One item that was priced the same was coffee: $1.79-2.09. Wendy’s media relations responded that price differentials between same chain outlets are not unusual. “Wendy's restaurants in Canada are franchise owned and operated. Franchisees determine menu pricing for their restaurants based on multiple factors which is common in the industry.” Jeff Dover, a Toronto-based restaurant analyst with fsSTRATEGY, said pricing can vary widely. “Some franchisors manage pricing on a regional basis so there is consistency in each region,” he said. “Others allow franchisees full discretion when it comes to pricing.” Dover said pricing is set out in the franchise agreement and “the policy varies from chain to chain depending on the type of products served, supply chain arrangements, the services provided by franchisors and the extent to which pricing is integral to brand management.” Dover said chains operate on small margins with pre-tax profit in Ontario in 2019 (latest data) being 3.5 per cent of sales. He said his firm’s research found that restaurants' food can come from different distribution centres “which can be in the same city.” Dover said most franchisees “are small business owners, not large corporate entities.”
Sexual harassment in restaurants just got worse during pandemic - report
WindsorOntarioNews.com April 21 2022
Even before the pandemic the restaurant industry “had the highest rates” of sexual harassment, says a new report. That only increased over the past two years. The study, by the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, surveyed American restaurant workers on their experiences of wages, tips and harassment by supervisors and customers. Seventy-one per cent reported they’d been harassed at least once. And tipped workers experienced it “far higher” than non-tipped ones. And those who reported it had been the “target of significantly and substantially more retaliatory responses than those who did not.” Ninety-eight per cent reported one incident of retaliation, mainly “economic retribution.” The report says Covid “compounded” harassment. “The reduction in customers and tips gave individual customers more power over individual women workers, and also gave more power to supervisors who control which shifts these workers work,” it said. “Since tips vary with shifts, supervisors control workers’ tip income by giving them better or worse shifts.” This was exacerbated by having wait staff enforce Covid rules on “often unwilling” customers, resulting in less tips. And Black workers reported getting even less tips than Whites – 73 to 62 per cent. The type of harassment also changed. Many reported “being regularly asked to remove their masks so that men could judge their looks and their tips on that basis,” creating a health risk. The fact that two-thirds of women are single moms “makes them uniquely vulnerable,” because tips “are the only income” for their household. In the US there are more than 800,000 single mothers in the industry and 425,000 in front-of-house “largely tipped” positions. This makes the industry “the sector with the highest concentration” of single mothers (nine per cent). And single moms are “particularly burdened” because they are less able, due to lack of child care, to work weekend and night shifts “which offer better tips.”
Photo: One Fair Wage report
Resto association blames protesters and authorities for eatery closures
WindsorOntarioNews.com February 22 2022
Restaurants Canada blames both protesters and government authorities for not letting restaurants in the nation's capital get back into full business. The reference was to the three weeks of blockades in downtown Ottawa which were cleared on the weekend by combined police forces with hundreds of arrests. While there are no or few restaurants along Wellington St. across from the parliament buildings - the epicenter of the parked truck convoy protest against pandemic mandates - there are a multitude of restaurants on side streets and "down the hill" along Rideau Street and into the Byward Market, the most trendy eating district in the city. The City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency Feb. 6 and closed streets in the downtown core. The closure ironically followed the "green light" given to restaurants by the province to reopen from Covid restrictions Jan. 31. The industry association said the dispute meant "their right to reopen has now been delayed." Restaurateurs "have been instructed to remain closed to avoid threatening behaviour from demonstrators, dashing their hopes of reopening and recovering from the devastating losses they’ve endured over the past month," the association said. While the association says businesses were ordered closed restos in the Byward Market were reported open though reportedly saw a major drop in business as residents shunned the area. The massive Rideau Centre indoor mall closed on its own. The protests only added to "unprecedented challenges of the city’s hardest-hit businesses, depriving restaurants of their freedom to welcome back their customers and adding to the massive debt they’ve been accumulating," Restaurants Canada said. The association called on "protest organizers and public officials "to let food service workers get back to their jobs and allow businesses to begin to recover from this unnecessary attack on their freedoms."
Expect price jumps as restos hit with as much as 19.5% min wage increase
WindsorOntarioNews.com January 25 2022
Directly as a result of the pandemic the Ontario government has increased the minimum wage for restaurant staff serving alcohol from 12.55 per hour to a “harmonized” $15 with other minimum wage workers. “Ontario’s workers have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic, as they’ve stocked shelves, kept our supply chain moving and helped so many of us enjoy a meal among family and friends at a local restaurant,” Premier Doug Ford said in November. “When we asked labour leaders what their priorities were, increasing the minimum wage was at the top of the list.” The government admits such an increase is “unprecedented” and as a result liquor servers will be “treated more fairly.” That hasn’t sat well with restaurant owners, who say they weren’t consulted. “There was no consultation whatsoever,” Restaurants Canada Central VP James Rilett (pictured) said. “Back when they were courting the labour vote they decided to do this. And we found out about it at the same time that everybody else did in the press release.” While the government has cited hard times during the pandemic as a reason for the wage increase Rilett said “I don’t think that’s justification – every study I’ve seen has servers, even in family-style restaurants, making $30 to $40 an hour just in tips.” In the overwhelming number of cases those tips are pooled with other restaurant staff. And since the general minimum wage also increased from $14.35 to $15 an hour restaurants “ought to relook at that and say do we need to put more in the back of the house.” Asked the greater implication for restaurants, Rilett said restaurateurs have two choices: lay off staff or increase menu prices “and nobody wants to reduce staff because it hurts production and hospitality so in the end it’s usually menu prices that are affected.” And with restaurants walloped by government Covid restrictions “ restaurants really don’t have the ability to delay menu increases."
Photo: Restaurants Canada
The Twisted Apron moving up and across the street in Olde Walkerville
WindsorOntarioNews.com January 6 2022
The Twisted Apron, an 11-year-old popular mainstay in Walkerville, is moving up and across the street to spiffy new premises remodeled by Windsor’s Rosati Group. (See also REAL ESTATE). The move into the 1907 Albert Kahn designed two storey building at Wyandotte St. E. and Devonshire Rd. will see the resto occupy most of the first floor with full street frontage. There will also be a side patio accommodating at least 30. Owner Kate Robinson said the location will be slightly smaller than her current 5000 sq. ft. but there will be more seating and a bigger kitchen. Rosati has gutted the entire building to make way for more than 11,000 sq. ft. of commercial space over two floors as the developer continues to make inroads into the Olde Walkerville community, reconditioning historic older buildings. Robinson said her rent remains the same. “Less square footage but a better design,” she says, noting the new interior look (by Windsor’s Architecturra) will soon be revealed. “It’s a surprise but it’s going to be something very different from where we are right now." The floor can accommodate 90 diners though Robinson says seating will likely max out at 70 for ease of movement. Robinson is changing locations partly because her current building has a small kitchen. “I feel like honestly in the long run it’s going to be cheaper to be there because the building that we’re in right now is extremely old,” she says. “We do a lot of repairs each month that are very costly.” The Twisted Apron has a breakfast and lunch menu and is licensed. Its cuisine puts a “twist” on comfort food. Chicken and waffles is a big seller. “Smashed toast”, a spin on avocado toast with crispy poached egg with mushrooms and chili sauce, is another. “Definitely our mac and cheese is a good seller and our eggs benedict is probably our best-selling item,” she says. Look for an expanded menu at the new locale. Making the move is taking longer than expected because of supply chain delays but Robinson is looking at a late Spring opening.
Photo: Rosati Group
One of a kind website promotes Kingsville's unique culinary scene
WindsorOntarioNews.com December 21 2021
Eat, Drink, Dine, Kingsville is a unique website promoting arguably the most vibrant dining scene of any small town in southwestern Ontario. The almost decade old organization represents restaurants, breweries, a butcher and produce markets, drawing dues from members and receiving no government funding. Heather Brown, VP and co-owner of the Main Grill and Ale House, says the group - she says there is no other of its kind in southwestern Ontario or perhaps the province - started when three local restaurateurs were asked to provide hot chocolate for a Christmas celebration. Now the organization is a showcase for the town’s very diverse dining scene, from long time comfort food mainstays to cutting edge gourmet dining. Brown said the group stays viable because those in it are largely of the same point of view. “We’re a group of people that are very like-minded and we see the better good in making Kingsville a destination,” she said. Membership requires businesses to be local. “We don’t do franchise,” she says. Among members are Koi Sushi, Colasantis, Banded Goose Brewing, The Butcher of Kingsville, Kingsville Brewing Co. Taphouse, Green Heart Lunch Club, Jack’s Gastropub, Mettawas Station and Lee & Maria’s. Brown attributes the town’s dining array to its location along Lake Erie’s north shore, in the middle of the county’s wine region. A website video is worth watching simply because it shows the wonderful cuisine available in this pretty town by the lake, which has in recent years also become a retirement community. The organization doesn’t have money to advertise but does team with the municipality and local and southwestern Ontario tourism authorities. And Eat, Drink, Dine Kingsville returns the flavour. For the last five years it has supported area schools by donating almost $100,000, almost $26,000 this year. “Those are feel good stories,” Brown says.
Artisan Grill opens at Devonshire Mall
WindsorOntarioNews.com Nov 15 2021
The Artisan Grill has upped its game in a big way, opening in the former Moxie’s location (closed last year) at Devonshire Mall. For almost two decades the resto, probably Amherstburg’s only fine dining eatery was one of the first businesses to revive an historic but moribund Dalhousie Street, an effort now gaining traction. Owner and chef Matthew Johnson has overseen the venture all these years. The resto’s emphasis has always been on fresh ingredients and an upscale menu that combines newer cuisine and traditional in a casual dining atmosphere. “Our menu offers unique dishes that will satisfy all palates. Outstanding service, a warm ambience, and an extensive wine menu all add to your dining experience at both of our locations,” the restaurant says on its website. The Amherstburg location continues to operate along with the new Devonshire site. The mall site has a stylish exterior by the south side patio and an extensive menu is encased in glass outside the eatery in the mall's hall itself. Among the menu’s standouts: handmade artisan bread, mini stuffed Yorkshire puddings with shaved Angus beef, wine demi-glaze and horse radish aioli and baked brie and tuna tartare with mango and avocado. You’ll also find a variety of sandwiches including a surf and turf burger and roasted chicken and wild mushroom panini. There are also cooked bowl dishes such as Asian stir fry, mushroom ravioli and pollo alfredo (sauteed chicken breast with garlic, cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce tossed with handmade fresh Pappardelle noodles). The restaurant specializes in a variety of steaks and meats including 16 oz. Porterhouse and New Zealand spring lamb. And it has always taken pride in its wine selection including those from numerous local producers.
Comment: Ontario's war on restos
WindsorOntarioNews.com October 13, 2021
The Ford government has much explaining to do. That’s in light of its Covid announcement last Friday allowing full capacity at theatres and stadiums for the fully vaxxed. But there was no mention of easing restrictions on restaurants, the hardest hit sector during the entire pandemic. That restriction is two metres physical distancing from other tables. Adding insult to injury no government ministers were on a conference call yesterday organized by the province to discuss the changes. The industry thought Minister Lisa MacLeod would be on the call. (Her office organized it.) Even worse, a government official, Carlo Oliviero, asked those participating not to speak to the media. Fat chance. The restaurant industry has been extremely patient throughout the pandemic with government policies, even though there is little evidence to show that Covid spreads in the restaurant and retail sectors (certainly not among big boxes which were open throughout). Many have gone out of business or have been hanging by the skin of their teeth. And overwhelmingly they have complied with every government restriction. Industry organization Restaurants Canada issued a tepid response to last week’s announcement, saying it was “extremely disappointed.” It says it has never received data showing why restaurants are harmful. “It is beyond comprehension that 20,000 people can cram into an arena, scream, and closely congregate without masks, while restaurants must adhere to strict distancing regulations which severely restrict the number of customers that can be served,” it said. One wonders why the industry hasn’t been more vociferous or launched lawsuits. But now, if the government doesn’t act quickly to amend last week’s decision, some restaurateurs are talking civil disobedience. Just what is it that the Ford government has against the restaurant sector?
From vitriol to happy diners, restos greet first day of vax passport regime
WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 22 2021
From vitriolic threats to smooth sailing, local restaurants on the first day of Ontario’s new vax passport regime had different customer reactions. One owner said she had received calls calling her a “bootlicking Nazi” and a “commie bitch.” She said a lot of callers have been asking if her restaurant will enforce the passport, ordered by the provincial government. “It hasn’t been fun,” she said. The owner, who spoke anonymously, said staff have been stressed and she even considered “closing down during the passport time.” But having opened, business so far has been great. “I will tell you today, the customers were amazing, nobody had a problem, people were happy.” She said there have even been waits. “I do feel like a lot of customers let us know they were nervous to go out, they’ve haven’t been out in a year but they’re out today.” The one hiccup? Some patrons thought the passport phone app was up and running. That only begins Oct. 22. Vax certificates and personal IDs are currently required. Filip Rocca, co-owner of Mezzo, said he’d had “no problems at all.” He said he’s getting a “tonne of reservations” for the weekend though admitted business is down overall. By how much? “We just don’t know at the moment.” Rocca said he’s heard other restaurants are getting hate calls. Uzair Sharif, owner of Smokies BBQ, said he has not received any negative feedback but “we’ve told our employees to be careful.” A supervisor of an east side Asian restaurant said he’s received some negative responses and had to turn one man away. “They just don’t like it and it’s sometimes hard for us, especially explaining it to them." Trevor Loop, owner of the Banded Goose Brewing Co. and Jack’s Gastropub, said with almost 80 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, “I think our customers understand the situation and certainly understand these aren’t our rules.” He said staff have been designated to ask customers proof of vaccination but this isn’t much different from how the restos have been operating throughout the pandemic. “We have to seat all guests because guests aren’t allowed into any facility and certainly can’t take their masks off without having a chair, without being seated at a table,” Loop said. “So really, it’s going to be the same as it has been. The only thing is we have to require proof of double vaccination upon entering. Those who don’t have it obviously we’re welcoming to our patio area weather-permitting.”
Local Brian Bates is Mcdonald's 2021 Outstanding Manager of the Year
WindsorOntarioNews.com Sept. 8 2021
Mcdonald’s Canada’s 2021 Outstanding Manager of the Year goes to Windsor’s Brian Bates, who runs the chain’s Walker Road location. The award recognizes top performing managers and like many others in this elite category, Bates started off as a regular crew member, first on the drive-thru line in 2011. He’s since worked at seven locations. "Brian has excelled in delivering great quality service and cleanliness to our guests at our Walker Road location while also having a strong focus on taking care of our people,” Jason Trussell, the outlet’s Windsor franchise owner-operator says in a news release. "Brian's passion and commitment shine through every day and I am extremely proud to see Brian receive this award for his outstanding results." Bates himself tipped his hat to his fellow colleagues. “This award is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of my outstanding crew and I am grateful to work with and lead each and every day," he said. Every year the chain looks for managers whose dedication and hard work embody Mcdonald's desire for top service. According to the chain, Bates’s “passionate management style” also saw his outlet get through some of the restaurant’s “most challenging times” due to the Covid pandemic. Bates has aspirations to become a Mcdonald’s Operations Consultant and wants to get more involved in training and development. He’s already received “top marks” for training classes but this is his first recognition as Manager of the Year. Not incidentally Bates has finally defined what Mickie D’s portly purple mascot Grimace is all about. According to the Toronto Sun by way of CBC News, Bates says Grimace may be a fun and pal to Ronald Mcdonald but is a “tastebud nonetheless.” He says Grimace's purpose in life is to demonstrate that the fast-food restaurant chain’s food is tasty indeed. (see also NOTED & FILED).
More Taters Please aims for 95 stores
WindsorOntarioNews.com August 16 2021
More Taters Pleas is expanding with a second store, taking over the former KFC location on Tecumseh Rd. E. at Bernard Rd. This is just the first of what owner Chris Bernauer projects will be 95 stores, the vast majority franchises, as he expands through southern Ontario and perhaps beyond. Why 95? That’s the year his daughter, Emily, was born. Emily died in a car accident in Amherstburg in 2014. She died driving home after staffing the Sobeys booth at the now defunct Shores of Erie International Wine Festival. Everything about More Taters Please is a tribute to Emily. The store name reflects her last text to Chris: “Taters?” There are 18 sauces because she was 18 at time of her death. Bernauer created the restaurant to turn her death ”into life basically.” Bernauer had no background in restaurants when he created the concept in 2017, opening in the Ferrari Plaza on Walker Rd. The store name reflects lots of menu items with imaginative variations of potatoes - from Loaded Taters like Nacho Fries and Triple Cheesy Bacon Fries to six different types of baked potatoes. For example, the Steak'n Bake has baked potato, gravy, cheddar cheese, steak, honey mustard sauce, fried onions, mixed peppers, "delight sauce" and scallions. About half the store’s menu are potato dishes. The other half are a myriad poutines, wraps, chicken, wings and salad bowls. Bernauer said the menu reflects today’s family tastes. “Twenty-five years go everyone wanted a burger and fries, today everybody wants something different.” For now, the family will manage the first five stores alone, ensuring they’re successful before selling them off. Bernauer says he already has had at least 50 inquiries from people asking to be franchisees. “They love the concept,” he said. “It’s not like a complicated operation, it’s very quick simple and great food.”
Photo: More Taters Please
Resto adds second patio across alley
WindsorOntarioNews.com July 30 2021
The city has given its blessing for an unorthodox plan for a second patio by a Walkerville restaurant to accommodate outdoor diners. The decision was made despite a recommendation from planning staff not to allow it. The applicant was Vito Maggio, owner of Vito’s Pizzeria, to allow a temporary patio across an alleyway from his existing Wyandotte St. E. resto's outdoor patio. The applicant asked for the second patio to provide adequate "social distancing” during the Covid pandemic, according to a city report. The area, though, is behind 642 Windermere, which Vito Maggio Holdings Inc. owns and uses as an office around the corner from the restaurant. However, said city staff, the “parking pad” (left area of photo) abuts east-west and north-south alleys. It’s also located on the “periphery of an established residential neighbourhood.” Planning staff had qualms about the “safety and security” of the area. Adjacent alleys provide vehicle access, parking, loading and refuse facilities for businesses along Wyandotte Street. They also provide access to garage and parking for residences east of Windermere and west of Chilver. “Having customers and staff cross the alley increases the potential for conflict between motor vehicles and customers and staff,” the report said. Staff also called this “a form of commercial creep” into a residential area. Other patios approved during the pandemic have been located within mixed use and commercial corridors. Maggio’s lawyer Jeffrey Nanson in a letter stated Vito’s had been using the area “creatively” to expand outdoor seating but received an Order to Comply, necessitating the application. He noted that under the Reopening Ontario Act the objective is “one of extending and easing access” to patios. As well, the “intent” is to spur the economy by creating jobs. Nanson pointed to municipalities like Tecumseh and Toronto where restaurants “are encouraged to provide patios wherever feasible.” And the City of Windsor itself has indicated a desire “to help small businesses and restaurants” including “extending patios.”
Photo: City of Windsor
Tim Hortons led corporate 2020 sales drop while Popeyes picked up the pace
WindsorOntarioNews.com July 7 2021
Tim Hortons led the sales decline in 2020 for Canadian-based Restaurant Brands International (RBI) due to Covid-19. The corporate giant is also owner of Burger King and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Tims’ sales were off 15.7 per cent or $308 million, Burger King saw a 7.9 per cent drop. But Popeyes sales were up 13.8 per cent. That compared to pre-pandemic 2019 when RBI’s sales were “driven” by an increase of $47 million at Tims, according to the corporation’s annual report. RBI told shareholders the company has eliminated the vast majority of artificial ingredients in products. “At Burger King in the U.S., the Whopper sandwich and 90% of the permanent food menu are now free of colors, flavors, and preservatives from artificial sources,” the report says. At Tims, freshly cracked eggs were introduced and the chain removed artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from the English muffin and biscuit. At Popeyes “we are working to do the same with our fried chicken offerings…..by the end of 2022.” As well, RBI will eliminate this year “antibiotics important to human medicine” from chickens. Despite expanding online ordering, in-store kiosks and mobile apps “such deployment also means that we are collecting and responsible for additional personal information about our customers,” the report says. Government privacy officials are “investigating the use of certain geolocation data for TH mobile app users.” As well, RBI has been “served with several purported class action lawsuits in Canada alleging we violated mobile app users’ privacy rights.” Toronto HQ’s 65,000 sq. ft. but Miami (US HQ) has 150,000 sq. ft. RBI was created by the merger of Tim Hortons and Miami-based Burger Kng in 2014. The firm has two Canadian manufacturing plants. Throughout the pandemic “substantially all” North American restaurants remained open. Relief packages were offered to “eligible franchisees.” RBI is one of the world’s largest quick service restaurant businesses with approximately $31 billion in system-wide sales and approximately 27,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries as of December 31.
Ontario’s largest employer goes begging for well-paying jobs
WindsorOntarioNews.com June 16 2021
It’s ironic that when people think about getting a well-paying job or even a career they tend not to think of Ontario’s largest employer – the food processing industry. Which, after the auto industry, is the second biggest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Ontario, as well, also has North America’s third most important food sector. But the industry, which is made up of a variety of companies including well known local names like Bonduelle, Dainty Rice and Highbury Canco, is trying to change that. It has launched its CareersNOW! portal to acquaint people with the types of jobs and opportunities available across a swath of businesses, from fruit and vegetable to meat, cheese, beverages, pasta and sweets. Chris Conroy, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario, said the Ontario industry will be short 25,000 jobs in the next few years. The problem is that the industry, large and important as it is – and surely otherwise top of mind in southwestern Ontario – is under the radar when people think of careers. Or it has an image problem. “I think awareness is a good part of it,” Conroy said. Food processing may conjure minimum wage or seasonal jobs. But there are many that are year-round and pay well above the minimum wage with the average being $21.76 an hour. Plus, there are skilled trades – repairing machinery – and administrative jobs. “People just aren’t aware that the opportunity’s there,” Conroy says. And, while four high schools have programs specializing in training for the sector as well as community colleges like Conestoga and the University of Guelph, a benefit is that people can enter the industry unskilled and train on the job. Such as becoming a butcher. “That’s the preferred way to do it in the industry,” Conway said. In another ironic twist, those jobs might not be there if people don’t apply. Conroy says employers look at “potentially automating some of these roles if you can’t get people in them.” Food and Beverage Ontario’s portal will soon become a clearing house for connecting applicants directly with dozens of companies. Meanwhile, people can get introduced to the industry and its benefits by going to www.foodandbeverageontario.ca/careersnow
Mexicantown waiting for Canadians
WindsorOntarioNews.com June 1 2021
Southwestern Detroit’s Mexicantown Restaurant was a favourite of Canadians. As many as fifty per cent of owner Bob DiMattia’s clientele were Canadians, mainly crossing the bridge for dinner time meals in what had been a well-worn Canadian tradition of frequenting his and other area Mexican style restos. DiMattia saw lunchtime customers as well. All that of course ended when discretionary cross border traffic was frozen in March 2020. “Oh absolutely,” DiMattia says about the heavy impact of the loss of Canadians. The restaurant is one of at least half a dozen such restaurants on Bagley Street alone, just on the other side of the Ambassador Bridge. Michigan restaurants have slowly been emerging from Covid restrictions and compared to Ontario, have been reopening to more and more indoor and outdoor customers. (During the pandemic the state's restaurants saw 159 days of full closure and 16 months of various restrictions.) DiMattia said Canadians would come to the restaurant for its Monday Canadian dollar at par meals. “We were very known for our Canadian customers,” he said. “So, when the bridge shut down for non-essential workers, we got hit pretty hard.” DiMattia fondly remembers days when both of his restaurant’s floors – the restaurant seats 400 – were bustling. The upstairs bar, where people would wait for tables, would be packed with customers nursing their margaritas. And while his restaurant recently has been open for indoor dining at 50 per cent capacity (all state restrictions will be removed July 1) DiMattia has limited his guests to 100 with the second floor and patio closed. The owner admits it has been difficult finding staff; he normally employs 40. “But I think in the next two weeks we’ll start seeing them come back." DiMattia said he still gets the odd Canadian customer. DiMattia, who is married to a Canadian, well knows the dilemma Canadians have had getting vaccines and hence in part the continued border shutdown. But, he said, “I’m hoping especially with the states opening up your side kind of catches up.”
Windsor Tea Emporium is expanding with its second shop on Walker Road
WindsorOntarioNews.com May 16 2021
The Windsor Tea Emporium, a unique tearoom, bakery and casual eats venue in central Windsor, will be opening its new satellite store in June. It will be called the Windsor Cake Emporium at 3244 Walker Rd., to take advantage of the business’ expanding bakery side. The tea emporium has actually been in business since 2012 selling at first retail. Then a couple of years ago it moved to a takeout site on Ottawa St. But last summer Serge Carvalho and his wife Mary Christine Smith – the woman behind the business - moved across the street to a larger indoor sit-down space. Serge admits it was “risky” during the pandemic, but they had the outdoor patio last summer before the series of lockdowns began in the new year. “We thought at that time the pandemic would ease up,” he said. Still, the venue is airy and inviting. Customers can walk in and order from an attractive bar. On one wall is a custom packaged assortment of teas. The counter includes in-house cupcakes. Coffee and specialty drinks are on tap. And you can order sandwiches and salads, even tea-infused gelatos. The combo of small meals and beverage is “kind of our little niche,” Serge said. One of the most popular drinks is Matcha tea from Japan known for its health benefits. But the business orders in bulk from brokers worldwide and tastes and packages its more than 100 teas. The décor, designed by Serge, is also attractive. A combination of Edison lights and wisteria hang from the ceiling and one corner has a green wall. Serge calls it “an outdoor garden theme.” Serge says the lockdowns have been tough. Yes, he said, they are open. “But when you tell your population to stay home you can stay open all you want but if nobody’s coming out.” Meanwhile with the expanding bakery component the owners are prepping the Walker location mainly as a takeout. Expect a focus on beverages and baked goods like bagels and croissants. “We want to have a morning crowd for coffee,” he said. The soft opening is June 4th.
Just another lunchtime at Leamington’s - defiant - Family Kitchen restaurant
WindsorOntarioNews.com April 30 2021
A bright sunny noontime in Leamington on Erie St. just north of the Highbury Canco plant. And at the Family Kitchen restaurant, it’s just a regular lunchtime. People, many regulars, have come in for their midday meals. The restaurant, reflective of its diverse ethic and religious town community, serves Canadian, Mennonite (including Glums Wrenikje – a perogie dish and Kieljke – a pasta) and Mexican foods. But since early April the restaurant – the only one in southwestern Ontario and one of the very few anywhere in Canada – has defied the latest government shutdown which has been extended to May 20. It’s open for indoor dining rather than just curbside pickup or delivery. Owner Kristy Leathem (who declined an interview) has said she had no choice but to continue to open to secure an income. The atmosphere Friday felt almost pre-pandemic with many tables full of families and workers enjoying their meals, kibbitzing the staff. WON.com’s order, appropriately enough, was a quesadilla which came with refined beans and rice. Guys at nearby tables were talking politics, quite knowledgeable about Covid issues and beyond. One joked about Coca Cola’s criticism of Georgia’s controversial new voting law calling the product “Woke Coke.” A sign at the front of the restaurant, also posted online, lists Leatham’s reasons for staying open. “Before you judge….This is how I solely support my 3 children to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.” Her monthly expenses come to over $11,000 not including food and payroll. She employs as many as 16. There have been a couple of public rallies to support the restaurant. Other than having her liquor licence suspended April 17, “for reasons of public interest and safety,” the restaurant apparently has suffered little or no harassment. WON.com spoke to several of the diners outside the eatery. Dave praised Leathem for defying the lockdown. “It’s about time people started standing up. We have a God given right to be free I thought in this country but apparently it seems that other people don’t think so.” Another man said he wanted to dine in at a restaurant when virtually no other options existed. “I have co concern about (the defiance), I find the lockdown to be a little overreaching.” Another said the health threat was overblown. “I’ve studied the human body, I know what our immune system is capable of doing.” Another person called the pandemic a “SCAMdemic. People are losing their businesses and losing more than just having to be worried about Covid.”
Lockdowns gut punch to area restos
WindsorOntarioNews.com April 14 2021
Filip Rocca, owner of Mezzo Ristorante on Via Italia, attended last week’s defiant opening of Leamington’s Family Kitchen restaurant, even after the province ordered closure of indoor dining as the latest bid to stem an increase in provincial Covid cases. This despite cases in Windsor-Essex (including variants) being relatively low (today’s increase is 31 of Ontario’s 3542). “I was going to go there for lunch with a friend but obviously we couldn’t get in because there was a crazy amount of people,” he said. He estimated 300-400 people crowded in front of the restaurant. “I didn’t expect that many people to be honest with you,” he said. But he and an associate, after keeping their distance, decided to leave after 15 minutes. Rocca was crestfallen after the latest provincial lockdown taking effect Easter weekend, after Windsor-Essex restaurants had just been permitted to allow 50 per cent capacity indoor dining two weekends earlier. He said he was “absolutely” able to fill the restaurant continually, so customers obviously are supporting the restaurant while acknowledging health protocols. Meanwhile, India Paradise’s Harish Gudavalli also said that on weekends he had been filling the resto at 50 per cent capacity. And during the week “we’d get most of them (tables) filled at one point in time.” He says his Ottawa St. restaurant is “breaking even” but “forget about profit.” He’s had to cut five staff or call in on an as-needed basis. He said indoor dining makes a big difference compared to pick-up and delivery. “The whole point is if you have people coming in for dining everyone wins. The servers get tips. And most people they tend to order a little more.” Marco Maggio, manager of his company’s four restaurants including Vito’s Pizzeria and Factory House, has managed to keep all chefs on duty despite many layoffs among the 160 staff. Of the three Covid lockdowns “this one I think stings the most." That’s because spring was coming on. “I just thought we would be able to do some outdoor dining which would have been at least nice enough to keep people working,” he said. Trevor Loop, owner of Jack’s GastroPub in Kingsville, called the lockdown “hypocrisy” because of “two sets of rules” between restaurants and small businesses and larger retail. “We are doing our best to pivot, stay safe, try to keep as many of our staff in a position to try to make a living and keep moving forward,” Loop said.
(WON.com was declined an interview with Family Kitchen owner Kirsty Leathem, citing previous unfair coverage by other media outlets.)
Social causes, “geofencing” on restaurants’ menus for 2021
WindsorOntarioNews.com March 26 2021
Restaurants and social action don’t seem to go together. But a US-based food service consultancy is predicting more Canadian restaurants will take “stronger stands” this year on causes from the environment to local charities. “Although social and environmental progress paused when the pandemic hit, the degree to which these calls to action have become louder and more urgent means we’ll see operators double down on efforts over the coming year,” Technomic says in its 2021 Canadian outlook. It says restaurateurs will pay greater heed to the climate “by menuing more plant-based substitutes, marketing carbon footprint levels of items and restaurants, and supporting suppliers who implement environmentally friendly practices.” And expect local eateries to pay a far greater role in their communities, such as donations “to fight food insecurity and support minority organizations.” They will also make more efforts to hire and promote minorities. Look for “inclusive tipping” to ensure all employees are getting fairly paid. Meanwhile, the continuing pandemic will see owners moving to an “off-premise” model. So smaller dining rooms but more walk-up ordering windows and multiple drive-thru lanes, dedicated curbside and instore pickup and grab-and-go stations. There will be expansion of mobile ordering, more home delivery and offsite “ghost kitchens” to better fulfill delivery and take out. Restos will also make use of “geofencing.” That’s the use of GPS or RFID to create a virtual geographic boundary and enable very focused marketing. Eateries could offer specials for those in certain neighbourhoods or target those attending a nearby event.
Chatham - the origin of pineapple pizza
WindsorOntarioNews.com March 4 2021
Who knew that pineapple on pizza all started at a family-owned restaurant way back in 1962 in Chatham, Ontario? But Sam Panopoulos, a newly arrived immigrant from Greece, opened the Satellite Family Restaurant - Chatham's oldest - at 145 King St W. downtown. According to legend, Sam had a passion for experimenting with different ethic flavors, in particular the sweet, sour and savory flavors of Asia. He decided to add sweet – in this case, pineapple – to savory, or the rest of the pizza. And, presto! A new taste sensation was born. And now featured on pizza menus worldwide. But a type of pizza, after all, subject to much controversy. Is pineapple ever appropriate on pizza?. A few years ago the president of Iceland even wanted to ban the topping. The Satellite's website says: “In 1962 the original owner of The Satellite invented Hawaiian Pizza. Today the restaurant remains family owned, and the Hawaiian Pizza, along with other favourites remain on the menu. Stop in today and eat at a place proud to be a part of Canadian & Chatham History.” Normally Hawaiian pizza goes by the name “Angry Hawaiian.” But Windsor’s Riviera Pizza and Spaghetti House recently renamed the pie the Angry Chatham, part of its new lineup of gourmet pizzas. Co-owner Renee Mazza, whose family hails from Chatham, said they renamed it “because that’s where the Hawaiian pizza came from!” So no one's actually angry at Chatham. “I’m from Chatham, my whole family’s from Chatham,” Mazza said. Mazza says she personally likes pineapple on pizza. “I don’t eat it all the time, but I like it as one of the varieties." Mazza says some customers question it while other embrace it. “People are pretty wide open now,” she said. Asked if she thinks the Angry Chatham name will catch on, she said, “We’ll see, right? We’ll see.”
Pandemic, ironically, breathed new life into downtown Windsor last summer
WindsorOntarioNews.com February 19 2021
Ironically, the Covid-19 pandemic enlivened downtown and created an entirely new dimension, something lacking in the pre-Covid era. That’s the consensus of downtown bar and restaurant owners who responded to a survey by the Downtown Windsor BIA about the City of Windsor’s pilot project last year allowing so-called “parklets” and “curbside” patios to alleviate concerns about Covid-19 spread from indoor dining. That’s on top of the fact that without the new style patios, some businesses may not have stayed alive at all. “The sidewalk cafe and road closures are the only reason I haven’t had to shut down my business,” said the owner of Lefty’s on the O on Ouellette Ave. If not for the patio, “it would had been another empty store front in downtown Windsor,” said the owners of Panache on Pitt St. “We are forever grateful” to the city with hopes of repeating “every year,” said La Guardia, also on Pitt. The parklets and curbside patios added a distinct new vibe, pandemic or no pandemic. “It has been so nice to offer residents what they enjoy in other cities,” said management of Sidebar on Pelissier. “I’ve noticed the parklets have helped clean downtown up a little bit, with all the eyes around, I’ve seen less drug use, and users around. Also, I’ve noticed it has enticed older people, who haven’t been downtown in years come see what it’s like.” “People are saying that the City of Windsor downtown is coming alive, and feel that downtown is new and different. Almost European,” said Villains Bistro also on Pelissier. “I haven’t seen the downtown fill up like that in years!” said Eastwood’s Grill and Lounge on Riverside Dr. Fourteen businesses participated in the program with thousands of dollars waived so businesses could get set up and running at a time when Covid-based losses were soaring. Normally there would be a $212 city permit, an annual fee of $2.00 p/sf and $1000 indemnity fee. Altogether these amounted to $26,450.50 revenue loss to the city. Of the 14, nine chose a parklet, built on the parking space in front of the bar/resto. Five chose the curbside style, with the patio flush with the business and a built public walkway detouring pedestrians around. City Council will consider approving the program for a second year from May 1 to Nov. 1.
Photo: La Guardia
Single use plastic ban couldn't come at a worse time, says restaurant industry
WindsorOntarioNews.com February 4 2021
A ban on single use plastics couldn’t come at a worse time, says industry lobby group Restaurants Canada. Ottawa announced last fall it wants to ban stir sticks, plastic cutlery, six pack rings, packaging made from polystyrene and plastic bags. Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson made the announcement in October. A government paper says while plastic “plays an important part” in everyday life “3 million tonnes of plastics were discarded as waste in Canada in 2016, and only 9% was recycled.” In December Restaurants Canada published its response. It says eliminating plastic items by the end of 2021 would be an extreme economic burden for an industry already reeling from reduced sales and closures due to Covid-19 restrictions. The trade group says that while the industry has “demonstrated a willingness to adapt” to a “zero plastic waste” strategy, the fact restaurants have had to pivot to take out/delivery “in an effort to survive” has made this problematic. Moreover, plastic items have gained popularity expressly because of Covid health protocols. “This pandemic has demonstrated the role single-use items play in the health and well-being of Canadians.” The group says five of the six proposed banned items are used in the industry “including straws, cutlery, stir sticks, food service ware made from problematic plastics and plastic checkout bags.” Some restaurants have tried alternatives such as wood and bamboo utensils but have “found challenges.” In the case of wood, splintering and changing food's “taste profile.” And bamboo “may only serve to increase the overall environmental footprint as compared to plastics.” Restaurants Canada says the cost of the new initiatives would be “cost-prohibitive.” Restaurants already operate on a “razon thin” 4.2 per cent margin. Some environmentally alternative products may represent a 150 per cent cost increase. “Under current circumstances, the foodservice industry cannot bear additional costs that may impede their very ability to keep their doors open,” the paper says.
Michigan, Ontario, study in contrasts on opening indoor restaurant dining
WindsorOntarioNews.com January 14 2021
[UPDATE JAN 26: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced that restaurants can reopen indoor dining Feb. 1 with 25 percent capacity and a 10 p.m. closing.]
While Ontario began a second state of emergency today to fight the coronavirus – and restaurants locally continue to be closed from a previous lockdown for indoor dining – Michigan, with 2964 new Covid cases yesterday, is considering re-opening dining indoors. Ontario actually had less cases yesterday - 2903. It’s obviously all relative and Michigan’s state government and industry officials seem to almost be breathing a sigh of relief that the pandemic in the state is actually lessening. Michigan, one of the hardest hit states for Covid over the past 10 months, had 4992 new cases Jan. 4 and on its peak Nov. 28, 8080 new cases. The state government this week said it now has a “working plan” to reopen indoor dining as early as Feb. 1 but there are no guarantees. Michigan restaurants have been closed longer than in any other state and it remains the only state prohibiting indoor dining, says Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. He says there are more than 100,000 laid off restaurant and bar workers. But the state government wants to wait for numbers to come down even more before making a decision to re-open, according to The Detroit News. “Now is not the time to let down our guard,” Robert Gordon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. “Our actions on Feb. 1 will depend on what happens with the pandemic between now and then.” But Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, said by setting the Feb. 1 plan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (pictured) has realized “she cannot sustain this continued abuse of families and their livelihoods.”