September 2020


September 2020 issue of Foodservice and Hospitality magazine.















The pizza and pasta

segments are being

driven by demand for

convenience and quality



How cleaning practices

look in the new normal



Equipment is key to

prepping the perfect





COVID-19 forces leaders to re-examine

COVID-19 forces leaders to re-examine

how they manage their brands

SEPTEMBER 2020 $4.00



Consumers are looking for great tasting

products in protective packaging.

Conagra Foodservice offers a wide range of

delicious pre-packaged foods to fit these needs.

For more information visit






What consumers are looking for as

they return to restaurants


The chef/owner of Toronto’s Beast

Restaurant talks pandemic challenges




Operators need to know the legal

aspects of running ghost kitchens


Restaurant brands must determine

if they’re essential in the new normal


The pizza and pasta segments

are driven by demand for

convenience and quality


Industry leaders share strategies for

thriving in a COVID-19 world


Independent restaurants are facing

a unique set of challenges

51 PIE-OLOGY 101

Making the perfect pizza starts with

choosing the right equipment


Operators are elevating their

sanitation practices like never before


New trends are brewing as operators

pivot to meet changing demand

















Like everything else these days, the notion of leadership

is undergoing a radical transformation.

At its core, leadership is fluid and evolving, but

leading through a crisis requires an entirely different

mindset and approach — not to mention intestinal

fortitude. There’s no playbook for leading through an

unprecedented crisis and many of the prescribed notions

of what works are subject to change on a daily basis.

Just ask any leader of any company that has had to deal

with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Between keeping their

company afloat; caring for their staff and assuaging their fear

and anxiety — and ensuring guests remain safe through the

turbulent days of this pandemic — today’s leaders have been

tested in ways no one could have imagined.

Leaders will also admit that, at the best of times, leading

is challenging. As leadership guru Peter Drucker once said,

“Leadership is an achievement of trust. You know what to

expect, and you see performance and achievement…Leadership

means getting the right things done.”

But getting things done through a pandemic means something

quite different. In fact, in recent months, most leaders have

become acutely focused on just keeping their

business afloat.

Through it all, leaders have been forced to

keep the lines of communication open. In

this month’s profiles of seven industry leaders

(starting on p. 23), the common thread was

the need to keep staff apprised of what was

happening, which meant leaders turned to

regular meetings to check the pulse of their

team, keep them motivated and ensure everyone

felt heard.

Similarly, leaders have been required to react

more quickly to make decisions, pivot in new

areas and tackle challenges with calm, certainty

and confidence.

While we may not know how long this crisis

will last, what we do know for certain is that this

period has forced every leader to re-examine

their business in an entirely different light

and to realize pivoting to new areas and being

nimble were not only necessary but vital. As

Drucker stated, “The most effective way to manage change

successfully is to create it. One cannot manage change, one can

only be ahead of it. In a period of upheavals… change is the

norm. To be sure, it is painful and risky, and, above all, it requires

a great deal of very hard work. But, unless it is seen as the task of

the organization to lead change, the organization will not survive.”

Though Drucker’s comments were made years ago, and he

was clearly not talking about the pandemic, his comments still

ring true all these years later — especially as we move into

month six of this world-wide turbulence.





EST. 1968 | VOLUME 54, NO. 8 | SEPTEMBER 2020


























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Sysco is Canada’s largest foodservice distributor and we

know how important food is to communities from coastto-coast.

So, whether you’re looking for operational advice

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Sysco has all the essentials you need to navigate along the

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Learn More at:





Terroir Symposium goes virtual for 2020

After 14 years of bringing

food, tourism and


partners together to

share ideas, make

connections and

create change, the annual Terroir

Symposium is going virtual September

13 to 15, 2020 in response to publicgathering

restrictions as a result of


“We know this means the symposium

will be a little different and some of

the things you loved about it may not

be able to happen in the same way,

but we think that’s okay,” states the

event’s website. “We’re really excited

about the possibilities of a virtual

Terroir, not just this year but in years

to come. We believe we’ll be able to

reach more people with our call for

collaboration and provide access to

the resources we provide for more of

those who didn’t have it before.”





The “Taste of

Terroir Box” includes

innovative products

from Terroir partners,

as well as a second

ticket to this years’

event for someone

in need — be it

junior staff, new

farmers, students

or the unemployed.

These ‘Solidarity

Tickets’ will be

assigned on a

first-come, firstserve

basis in early

September through

a portal on the

Terroir website.

The theme of this year’s

symposium is “The Power of

Partnerships” and sessions will

explore the unexpected partner-

ships that make the collective

industries so unique. “Together,

we’ll look at how collaboration

can support stronger, sustainable,

vibrant food systems across

the globe.”

Over three days, the Terroir

Symposium will offer more than

a dozen virtual Terroir Talks

— a series of concurrently run

interactive workshops — and

host a number of dynamic

networking spaces designed to

help participants create lasting

relationships in the food, tourism

and hospitality space.

“Ours is an organization built

by the support of the hospitality

and travel industries — the two

industries hit hardest during this

time of crisis. Thank you for

continuing to support our work.”

We think this is an opPortunity for our network to grow. It’s an opPortunity to reach

more people on the frontlines of our industry and supPort inNovation





In August, KFC Canada made its Plant-Based

KFC sandwich available permanently coastto-coast

following a successful pilot with

plant-based partner Lightlife in 2019. Plant-

Based KFC Popcorn remained available for a

limited time while quantities lasted. “When

we tested Plant-Based KFC by Lightlife late

last year, we sold more than a month’s worth

of sandwiches in six hours,” says Samantha

Redman, Chief Marketing Officer, KFC

Canada. “Seeing the extraordinary demand

for Plant-Based KFC, we worked quickly to

bring these menu items to our restaurants

across Canada.”



Earlier this Summer, DoorDash and Tim Hortons announced a new, nationwide

partnership, which allows customers to order menu items from nearly 500 Tim

Hortons locations from the comfort of their homes, delivered through DoorDash.

“We’re excited to announce this new partnership with DoorDash to provide our

guests with even more ways to enjoy their Tim Hortons favourites,” says Hope

Bagozzi, Chief Marketing Officer for Tim Hortons. “During this unprecedented time,

DoorDash can provide a new, convenient and accessible way to enjoy Tim Hortons

staples from the comfort of your home,” adds Ryan Freeman, head of Canadian

Enterprise Partnerships at DoorDash.



A recent Technomic survey

found mobile ordering at fastfood

outlets is an expectation or

could encourage more frequent

visits for 64 per cent of Canadian

adults — up from 44 per cent

in 2018.



Earlier this year, John Bishop announced he was

closing Bishop’s on August 1 after 35 years as one

of Vancouver’s most popular restaurants. But, as

a result of COVID-19, plans have changed and

Bishop’s will now remain open until the end of the

year. “Just before COVID-19 arrived, we announced

we were closing and I wanted to give our customers

the chance to dine with us one last time,” says

Bishop. “We were even going to organize special

theme nights as a way to celebrate and thank our

customers. Then along came COVID-19 and,

suddenly, like everyone else, we were closed. Now

that we’re open again, albeit with social distancing,

we want to give our customers the chance to join us

and say good-bye.”








Burnaby, B.C.’s The PearTree Restaurant, closed its doors on August 15

after 23 years of providing award-winning cuisine and service, due to

irreconcilable lease negotiations. The PearTree’s owners, Scott and Stephanie

Jaeger, indicated that lease negotiations on their Burnaby-Heights location had

been ongoing well before the pandemic. The PearTree Restaurant has been a

fixture on the B.C. restaurant scene, known for bringing together world-class

cuisine and downtown elegance with approachability and a sense of community.

The Jaegers opened the doors to The PearTree Restaurant in January of 1998 and,

in April of the following year, the restaurant was awarded Best New Restaurant

from both Vancouver magazine and the B.C. Restaurant Association.



Famoso Pronto, a contemporary fast-casual pizzeria concept,

opened its first location in Nisku, Alta. The new Famoso concept

offers high-quality, authentic Italian cuisine — such as its handtossed

authentic Neapolitan pizza — in a fast-paced atmosphere.

The concept focuses on flexible service styles that work with a

customer’s schedule. Guests can choose from a casual dine-in

area with fast, efficient counter service, takeout, online ordering

and pickup or delivery. Famoso Pronto also offers catering.

“We’re excited to launch Famoso Pronto, an evolution from our

current Famoso Pizzeria,” says Frank Di Benedetto, CEO/owner

of FDF Brandz. “This model of Famoso Pronto is a great fit for the

[Edmonton International Airport] location, attracting busy shoppers

who are looking for a quick dining solution that does not sacrifice

food quality.”


Food Solutions




Contact your ARYZTA Representative or visit us online at www.ARYZTAFOODSERVICE.CA or call 1-800-580-6796

Copyright © 2020, ARYZTA LLC • All Rights Reserved



In July, Paramount Fine Foods launched its first

combination restaurant, Box‘d with Paramount,

based out of its Toronto location on Spadina

Avenue. The new combination restaurant uses

the same concept as Box’d by Paramount,

where guests order ahead then receive a text

message with a QR code when their order is

ready. By scanning the QR code at the restaurant,

guests will be directed to their individual cubby

where their meal will be waiting. Guests can also

order in-store through a QR code or with a

team member. The location offers Box’d and

Paramount Lebanese Kitchen menus. As part

of Paramount’s pandemic plan, the company

plans to open several Box’d with Paramount

locations in the near future.


Wendy’s expanded its greenhouse-grown freshproduce

portfolio by introducing 100-per-cent

Canadian greenhouse-grown lettuce in its salads

and sandwiches. As with the greenhouse-grown

tomatoes launched in 2018, Wendy’s became the

first national brand in the Canadian QSR industry

to serve greenhouse-grown lettuce in all of its

locations across the country. The new initiative is

part of the brand’s ongoing commitment to

quality, sustainability and food safety. All lettuce

served will be grown in Canadian-sourced peat

with zero pesticides. Whole Leaf, the grower of

Inspired Leaves, will provide the greenhouse-grown

lettuce to all Wendy’s locations in Canada. Located

in Coaldale, Alta., its greenhouse technology allows

Whole Leaf to capture and reduce its water

consumption by more than 90-per-cent compared

to field-grown lettuce. Whole Leaf also has

an onsite process that captures waste heat and

CO2 at the same time, reducing greenhouse-gas

emissions and allowing it to be completely selfsufficient

for electricity and heating.







Starbucks Canada

announced it will invest

in the future of Canada’s

Black Youth, based on

input from its Black

Partner Network, Black

community leaders and

important allies, creating

a mentorship program

together with the Black

Business and Professional

Association (BBPA) and

the Canadian Mentoring

Partnership (CMP).

“This is a pivotal time

in our history,” says Lori

Digulla, general manager,

Starbucks Canada. “We

will take a stand and not

move on until we’ve done

what we can to influence meaningful change for our

Black partners, customers and the Black community.”

With Starbucks’ investment of $100,000, the BBPA will

be able to expand its mentorship program, supported by

the mentorship expertise, tools and resources of the CMP

and make it accessible to 1,000 youth across the country.

Through its partnership with BBPA, Starbucks will also

unlock the potential for employees across Canada to

get involved through community service. The program

launched first in Montreal this summer, followed by

Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton and will expand to

other cities later this year.




A Fix



Canadians continue to consume

coffee, but operators need to fight

for their share of market


Coffee is one of the key segments that

makes the Canadian foodservice

market so unique, but it also makes

it vulnerable during these unusual

times. Canada has the highest foodservice

consumption rate of coffee among the

13 countries where The NPD Group collects

foodservice data. Directly connected with this

coffee consumption is the morning-meal occasion

— where Canada is also a global leader.

Connecting the final dot, we know morning

occasions are linked to workday occasions.

The NPD Group/CREST data reports

workday meals (consumed either on the

way to or from work) accounted for about

20 per cent of the decline in foodservice

visits reported during the second quarter

(April, May, June). Consequently, coffee is the

hardest-hit menu item. Prior to March, hot

coffee was included in 30 per cent of all meals

or snacks (year-ending December 2019). In

the three-month period ending June, just 23

per cent of all meals or snacks included a hot

coffee, representing a decline of more than

200-million hot-coffee servings.

So, is there a fix for the decline in coffee? In

order to answer that question, let’s consider some

of the positive trends around coffee

consumption. Many coffee drinkers are continuing

their foodservice-coffee habits at home.

Prior to the pandemic, 15 per cent of foodservice

coffee was consumed in the home. That

has now jumped to 37 per cent, representing

an additional 35-million servings in the second

quarter. Meanwhile, our NPD Retail Tracking

Service reported the sale of coffee makers was up

by 150,000 units in the first six months of 2020.

If each of these coffee makers was responsible

for just two cups per day during the

last quarter, this would translate into

27-million cups of coffee that were

potentially stolen from foodservice. All of these

home-coffee occasions create opportunities to

upsell customers with items such as at-home

breakfast or brunch combos, take-home packs

of branded coffee beans or even meal kits that

include coffee as a component. Canadians

continue to consume coffee, so it’s important for

foodservice to continue to battle for its fair share.

Another bright spot for coffee is the p.m.-

snack daypart — the slowest-declining

daypart for visits during the second quarter.

One quarter of all hot coffee is served at this

occasion. As Canadians look for a diversion

during the work-from-home-with-the-kids

routine, they’re seeking the small escapes

afternoon or evening breaks can provide. This

is directly related to the growth in ‘cravable’

occasions being tracked in CREST, which are

also on the rise.

The other area of positivity in the coffee

market is in the specialty preparations. In the

past quarter, hot-specialty has declined at half

the rate of hot-brewed coffee, while cold coffee

(cold brew, iced, frozen) has actually risen

by one per cent during the same time. In contrast

to the hot-coffee situation, cold coffee

is the fastest-growing menu item. A number

of factors are contributing to this. First is the

p.m.-snacking situation, mentioned above.

Next is the popularity of these specialty beverages

among the younger cohorts. And third is

the higher menu price these items command,

which serve as a very big motivator for the

operators to innovate around these items.

If there is one theme I have been reporting

on since this pandemic began, it’s that very few

new trends have emerged. Instead, many preexisting

trends have simply accelerated.

In the case of coffee, it’s the flat growth of

brewed coffee in recent years, combined

with the same trend in workday occasions. The

reality is, more people were already transitioning

to working from home. There’s also the consideration

that the under-45 age cohort has been

declining in its brewed-coffee consumption,

which instead skews to a 45-plus age cohort.

This cohort also happens to have declined the

most during this period and is the most hesitant

to resume restaurant visits until they can truly

feel safe again (NPD/COVID-19 Foodservice

Sentiment Study, Canada, May 2020).

Soon after the lockdown began, I visited the

website of my favourite local coffee shop to see if

it was open. I needed to order some coffee beans

and was pleased to learn that not only were

they open for business, they were delivering —

including its famous scones, frozen and ready to

bake at home. Just like that, a $15 order for a bag

of coffee jumped to more than $30. The scones

arrived individually wrapped, with an instructions

card and a supply of parchment paper

required for baking. I would challenge other

coffee operators and processors to learn some

lessons from this small local operator when it

comes to creating their own fixes for coffee. FH

Vince Sgabellone is a foodservice

industry analyst with The NPD

Group. He can be reached at vince.






Operators need to know the legalities involved in running ghost kitchens and virtual restau


The relatively recent phenomena

of “ghost kitchens” and “virtual

restaurants” has flourished during

the current global pandemic.

The notion of creating a “virtual

brand,” which is available only

through proprietary or thirdparty-delivery

apps, provides various benefits

— particularly at a time when governmental

orders have restricted the use of dine-in

restaurants. These virtual brands do not utilize

typical bricks-and-mortar locations featuring

dine-in service, but nevertheless, they still

require physical locations for the production

of their menu items and to serve as pick-up

locations by those making the deliveries.

The main difference between a ghost

kitchen and a virtual restaurant is the latter is

usually associated with a restaurant or franchise

system using existing kitchens in existing

bricks-and-mortar restaurants to produce and

promote products for delivery only through

delivery apps under a brand not associated

with the restaurant itself. By contrast, ghost

kitchens tend to be brands that rent the use

of facilities established for the production of

virtual brands. Ghost kitchens can also be

utilized by more than one organization at

one time in shared facilities.

Ghost kitchens are an excellent way for a

new chef or an existing brand to test out new

concepts or items without making the investment

in a bricks-and-mortar location. They’re

somewhat restrictive in that they can only

offer limited geographical coverage. An

operation may therefore need to utilizes

several ghost kitchens in various locations

to get necessary delivery coverage beyond a

small geographical area.

There are a number of legal considerations

involved in the creation and operation of

ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants, which

are highlighted in this article.


Although ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants

typically have no visible signage and aren’t

promoted in the same way typical restaurants

are, a name is no less important. The same

attention must be paid when selecting a name

as with a full-scale restaurant. Trademarking

considerations, including the trademark rights

of others, must be considered.

A second important consideration for the

brand owner is to ensure it can operate using

its chosen name out of its designated location.

If an existing restaurant is being used as a

virtual restaurant to promote a virtual brand,

the lease must permit the general use of takeout

or delivery and must not be restrictive to a

particular brand. Consideration must also be

given in these circumstances to whether there

are any exclusive-use obligations contained in

a lease that might restrict what products can

be sold out of a virtual restaurant.


If a franchisor or franchisor-related entity is

establishing a ghost kitchen, it must ensure

its rights to operate have been reserved in the

franchise agreements utilized in the franchisor’s

system. Franchisor virtual brands may operate

out of franchised locations in an exclusive or

non-exclusive franchised territory and may

combine menu items from existing concepts

or serve as testing grounds for products which

may, or may not, be introduced into the

mainstream system.

Where such rights may not be expressly

reserved, a franchisor or franchisor-related

entity will need to consider whether the sale of

new items typically sold by its franchisees in

the franchise system may breach its contractual

obligations or offend its statutory fair-dealing

obligations to any affected franchisee.

Care must be taken to ensure the

establishment and operation of ghost

kitchens by franchisors don’t have the effect

of cannibalizing franchisee business, so as to

derail the traditional franchised businesses.

System advertising funds must also not be

improperly used to benefit the franchisor’s

business where no reasonable benefit accrues

to the franchisees. Franchisors may want to

consider offering ghost-kitchen outlets to a

nearest franchisee, similar to the practice of

offering under-developed territories to the

nearest franchisee for use as a satellite store.

Such practices avoid the appearance and





potential fact of the franchisor

competing with its own franchisees.

Where franchisors require franchisees to

utilize their kitchens or ghost kitchens for the

production of new items for a virtual brand,

it’s important that franchisees understand the

limits of what interest they may have in the

brand and menu items themselves. The ability

of a franchisor to require the franchisee to

discontinue the production and sale of the

menu items must be communicated to the

franchisee clearly, as must be the franchisor’s

— or its related entities — ability to offer the

same menu items through an alternative

system at the same time or subsequently.


The existence of such businesses will also

need to be disclosed as a matter of statutory

franchise disclosure where such disclosure

laws exist. This disclosure alerts a prospective

franchisee to the possibility that its menu

items may be sold in non-franchised locations,

either by the franchisor or a franchisorrelated

entity within its trading area or

even more generally.


If any entity related to a franchisor establishes

a virtual brand where it’s intended that such

production will be sold by franchisees out

of their kitchens, they’ll want to ensure the

proper licensing rights exist between the

related entities that wouldpermit the franchisor

to sub-license the right to create the

new items to its franchisees to be sold by the

franchisees under their franchise agreements.


For a ghost-kitchen brand, it’s necessary to

consider liability and insurance issues if kitchens

are being shared by various operators in a

commissary situation. The brand owner

will also want to ensure its new items are

protected from other users of the commissary,

from a trade-secret perspective. Users of ghost

kitchens will also want to ensure the facilities

they’re using are properly zoned and licensed

and adhering to the highest levels of foodsafety



An important initiative in recent years has

been the development of proprietary apps for

takeout and delivery purposes. Many restaurant

concepts were motivated to develop their own

apps for three specific reasons: to reduce the

cost of providing delivery services, which have

produced marginal profitability at best given

the cost of using third-party providers; to allow

for greater uniformity in the pricing of menu

items, which has often had to be higher when

the same items are available through thirdparty

providers; and to permit for the

collection and utilization of

customer data and the development

of loyalty programs.

There’s an opportunity for virtual brands to

share collected information. Users of proprietary

apps will need to agree, through the terms of use

of the apps, to the collection and sharing of any

personal identifying information.

The development of ghost kitchen and

virtual-restaurant businesses have received

a tremendous boost during the current

pandemic. If predictions that the increase in

the use of delivery systems for meals will be

part of the new normal are correct, it can be

expected that these businesses will continue

to develop and flourish. As with all new

businesses, we’re seeing new forms of

agreements and contractual provisions and

the development of insurance products to

address legal issues they raise. FH

Allan D.J. Dick is a partner

with Sotos LLP., Canada’s

largest franchise-law practice.

He can be reached





How Essentia

Walk through this simple exercise w

team to determine how essential yo

how prepared you are to build and

differentiation to win your recovery

success and insulate against the nex

Are you essential? Grade yourself

— A+ to F — for each of the five st



What do restaurant brands looking to win their recovery, re-set for long-term

success and insulate against the next socio-economic disruption need to do?

We have elevated th

customer in making

and brand decisions

activating core insig

relevant customer d

We have seen enough th

the early stages of re-o

new fundamental truths

restaurant customer. Re

re-entering the marketplace more inform

ever and are very specifically voicing their

as they make decisions about the restaur

engage with.

Health and safety are certainly table st

brands differentiate and create long-term

customers by routinely gathering insights

and emotional connection while systemat

analytics to broader decision-making.


With the first wave of COVID-19

seemingly in the rear-view and an

uncertain recovery still ahead,

restaurant leaders are urged to

pause recovery planning and ask

this question instead: how essential are you?

First, here’s a little perspective on the

pandemic. At its core, the “essential” distinction

represents the core frontline public-safety functions

and roles that protect and hold together the

fabric of our society. This top tier of essential

public services,

as we’ve learned, is largely — and rightly so —

determined by the inner workings and decisions

of government and public-health authorities.

So, rather than debate where the restaurant

industry fits inside of this broader interpretation,

we should be embracing “essential” in the

context of what we can control; ensuring restaurant

brands are better prepared and insulated for the

next marketplace disruption.

With this in mind, let’s think of becoming

essential, as an outcome, in this context:

• Our customers will view us as something

more than a business, product or service

• We’ll inspire affinity in our customers.

We remain differentiated and top of

mind because our customers see in us

the best qualities they aspire to see in


• We’ll be hyper-relevant to our customers

and embrace their insights to inform

business decisions, corporate culture

and content

• We’ll cultivate purchase intent by building

frictionless customer engagement through

the customer journey.

Essential brands create unbreakable bonds

with their customers. More than marketing,

more than menu, these bonds enable essential

brands to sustain and even thrive through.

We’re re-allocating traditional

marketing budgets away from

expensive and inefficient awarenes

and sales-promotion tactics to foc

on always-on brand initiatives with

low customer-acquisition costs and

high lifetime-customer value metr

The “buzzword-ization” of restaurant ma

the real problems that plagued the restaur

to the pandemic shutdown. “Price,” “disco

“traffic” are really just traditional boardroo

always thought customers wanted and the

we desired. These buzzwords represent an

playbook that massively overstates the eff

campaigns and price-based promotions an

brand differentiation and long-term custom

Essential brands have evolved towards

broader view of an always-on, data-drive

— building affinity, creating relevance and

through the customer journey and realloc

in the most hyper-engaged customer seg


l Are you?

ith your brand and marketing

u are to your customers and

leverage this significant piece of

, re-set your brand for long-term

t socio-economic disruption.

across a simple academic scale

atements below.

e role of our

important business

by collecting and

hts from reliable and


rough the shutdown and

pening to understand a few

about the post-COVID-19

staurant customers are

ed and empowered than

concerns and priorities

ant brands they want to

akes now, but essential

engagement with

on experience, intent

ically applying customer




rketing has obscured

ant industry even prior

unt,” “value” and

m fixations on what we’ve

superficial outcomes

outdated marketing

ectiveness of awareness

d under-delivers on

er retention.

, and embraced, the

n marketing strategy

driving purchase intent

ating budgets to invest



The pandemic has

inspired our brand to

think bigger and turn

the page on



We know that post-COVID-19

customers are increasingly

drawn to brands that

prioritize health and safety,

as well as inclusion

and diversity in their

cultures. Traditional dayparts

look more and more like a

thing of the past, while

alternative revenue channels

and digital transformation are

rapidly becoming essential

to survival.

Essential brands

choose aggressive brand

re-invention to become more

relevant to today’s demanding

and discerning customers

and create the operational

flexibility to innovate around

the unseen challenges

and demands of tomorrow.

Essential brands are almost

always better positioned for

short-term stability and

long-term growth.

We have re-imagined

our marketing team

to better deliver on real


metrics that reflect high

levels of affinity,

relevance and purchase

intent through the full

customer journey.

Knowing many marketing

teams have been at least

partially dismantled as a result

of the pandemic shutdown, we

must recognize the opportunity

to shift away from the traditional

team structures that are

long on promotion and tactical

execution and short on real

customer-engagement planning.

The problem with traditional

marketing teams — and mediadriven

tactical models — is

they’re entirely driven by the

“what” rather than the “why.”

Essential brands leverage

customer-experience (CX)

metrics to identify specific

customer target points through

the customer journey and more

efficient resource-specific

growth opportunities with the

most effective and efficient mix

of internal and external teams.

We’re re-thinking

our franchisepartnership


to better prepare

and support our

franchisee network

in a forever-changed industry

and disrupted, uncertain

future marketplace.

As franchised brands continue to work

through recovery planning, the timing

couldn’t be better to completely re-think

the existing, flawed franchise model.

An important step towards becoming

essential is to shift away from yesterday’s

conventional, legally bound and operationally

oriented franchise partnerships and

embrace a brand-coalition model that more

formally brings together the voices of the

franchisor, franchisee and customer,

while setting clear expectations on roles,

responsibilities and decision-making.

Franchise brand-coalition models can

build stronger franchised brands by more

formally embracing and leveraging actionable

customer data and customer-engagement

metrics while empowering franchisees to

represent and reinforce their brand inside of

stores and communities.

A franchise brand-coalition framework

should ideally be built into revised

franchise agreements. Franchisees and

franchisors would sign off on an expressed

brand promise from which all actions and

decisions derive.

Now it’s report-card time.

If you graded your brand as an “A” performer, congratulations. If you ended

up with “Cs” and “Ds,” don’t worry, my guess is you have lots of honest

company in the industry. Regardless, we have lots of work ahead of us and

this exercise can be a helpful blueprint as a simple reference or a full strategic-planning

model. Think about the brands you most admire and those

that were best positioned to survive a shutdown, weathered the storm

and are already beginning to thrive through recovery. The common

thread? These brands are almost always obsessed with brand differentiation

and customer engagement. The important thing to understand is not how

these brands acted and reacted to the disruption and adversity caused by the

pandemic, it’s how they were already elevated and embraced by customers as

unique, relevant, engaging and accessible. In other words, essential. FH

Brandon Poole is managing director and Restaurant/Foodservice lead with Cult

Collective Toronto. He has 20 years of progressive cross-functional experience

with Boston Pizza, Canada Bread (Maple Leaf Foods) and Pita Pit Canada.




The pizza and pasta segments

continue to be driven by demand

for convenience and quality







are commonly considered as

comfort-food classics among

Canadians, so it should come as

no surprise that the pre-dominant

trend shaping these categories is

a shift to less guilt-inducing

variations. This includes healthier

versions of items and options

that suit a wide range of dietary




We were really

well positioned

to transition to

strictly pickup and

delivery because

that’s what we’ve

been doing since

day one…We also

consider ourselves

very fortunate. Our

customers have

been extremely

supportive and

to say that we are

thankful would

definitely be

understating it



“In the pizza

category, we’re seeing

growth through what

consumers perceive as

better-for-you diversification

and authenticity,”

says Laurie Scanlin,

R&D Culinary director,

Ardent Mills. “Pizza crusts that

follow clean-label, whole-grain,

plant-based, vegan and/or glutenfree

diets and lifestyles can help

feed some health-minded

consumer demands. In fact,

gluten-free crusts are the

fastest-growing menu mentions

in Canada,” according to the

company’s 2019 Pizza Crust Study.

“There’s been a lot of focus on

the crust,” agrees Alex Rechichi,

president, Crave It Restaurant

Group. “There’s been a huge push

for people to try and identify or

make their own gluten-free crusts.

There’s also been some work done

around Keto and grain-free crusts,”

he adds, pointing to cauliflower

curst as a key offering.

And, closely linked to such

‘better-for-you” items is interest

in vegan-friendly offerings.

“There’s been a lot of interesting

[innovation] done on the topping

front that relates to vegan dining

and flavour profiles — vegan

cheese, dressings, [et cetera,]”

continues Rechichi. “There’s been

some huge advancements there in

terms of the quality of cheese and

how they melt, as well as various

vegan toppings that might profile

and taste similar to proteins.”

In fact, Shlomo Buchler,

owner or Toronto-based Maker

Pizza, identifies gluten-free and

vegan as key menu additions

his concept is looking at. However,

he notes, in order to offer truly

gluten-free items, it would be a

significant undertaking, but one

the Maker team is considering for

the future. “It’s something that

requires a lot of work and would

Via Cibo is known for its classic Italian

favourites, such as gnocchi

have to be a separate project from

Maker,’ he explains. “You basically

have to have a separate kitchen for

it or a separate production line

and, at this point, that would be a

lot of work. We want to do it on a

level that would be comparable to

what we’re offering now.”

Crave It Restaurant Group is

facing similar challenges at its Via

Cibo concept, “We don’t offer a

gluten-free pizza crust because we

haven’t found something we’re

happy with. We tested it, but it’s

still sort of the ‘Holy Grail’ we’re

chasing,” says Rechichi. “When



“Demand for organic flour

has remained strong with

our customers and

consumers and is

projected to continue

to grow over the next

five years,” shares Elaine

O’Doherty, Marketing

manager, Ardent Mills, citing

Ardent Mills’ 2020 proprietary

market study.“For pizza

crusts and pasta, many of

our customers want to offer

whole grain, gluten-free,

non-GMO dishes — organic

flours and specialty grains

are a great way to

satisfy consumers

who prefer ‘cleanerlabel’

ingredients,” adds

O’Doherty. “Add-ins such as

quinoa, chickpea flour and

spelt can also bring more

nutrition, texture and

flavour for healthconscious





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you go to Italy, [specifically] Naples,

you can find gluten-free pizza you

would never know was gluten-free.

That [product] is starting to permeate

our markets now and there will

continue to be development around

healthful dining choices and

[meeting] dietary needs.”

And, given interest in

quality and authentic

products, Michael

Bou-Younes, lead trainer,

Faema Culinary Academy

(Toronto), notes traditional

Italian ingredients

continue to be a key selling

point. “Today’s consumer

is more educated about the

tradition and uniqueness

of heritage Italian products

[and we’re] seeing specialty

items such as Prosciutto and Buffalo

Mozzerella become more commonplace

outside of the ‘Neapolitan’

pizzeria. In turn, specialty meats

such as Sopressata and Cacciatore are

becoming more readily available alternatives

to just pepperoni,” he explains.

“The focus in recent years has

shifted to quality — especially in the

delivery segment of the business,”

says Buchler. “That’s always been our

focus and we work daily to improve

and maintain a high level of quality

and consistency.”

“People have a much higher expectation

now than they did 10 years ago.

And, pizza [may be] a fast food, but

that doesn’t mean it can’t be a quality

food,” Buchler adds.

“[The pizza segment]

seems to be more focused

on health and alternative

products as people become

more health conscious, [as well

as] local products,” agrees Jeff

Kacmarek, V.P. Marketing and

Product Development, Domino’s

Pizza of Canada, noting Domino’s

has been working to provide cleaner

ingredients and has made recent

changes to the formulation of some

products. “Whenever we’re looking at

a new product or a supplier we

definitely want to focus on [ones]

that come from Canada.”

Pasta Perfection

Bou-Younes reports Faema has been

seeing increased demand for freshdaily

handmade pastas. “Traditional,

simple shapes done properly on a daily

basis strike a chord with the artisan

touch people crave,” he explains.

However, there’s also been

significant interest in far less

traditional noodle types. According

to Rechichi, most developments in

the pasta category have to do with

“healthful variations on the noodle.”

“A lot of the same trends we’re

seeing in pizza crusts are moving into

the pasta category,” says Scanlin.

“Consumers are looking for more

variety in terms of pasta colour,

texture and nutrition; that can be

achieved with whole grains and

specialty grains, gluten-free and

plant-protein choices. Here, quinoa

and chickpeas are great options for

offering pastas that contribute plantbased

protein with a more diverse

nutrient profile.”

“Anyone can come into our

restaurant and ask for a vegan [or]

gluten-free pasta,” says Rechichi.

“Gluten-free has been a huge

category for us. We’re [also] looking

at potentially doing things with

various vegan proteins, like Beyond

Meat or the Impossible proteins to



While menu

innovations were

largely put on

hold by the challenges


by the pandemic,

as business begins

to rebound, many

menu trends are

expected to return.

“Consumers are

looking for moreauthentic


style experiences

— food made with

traditional methods

and authenticstyle


They want pizza

with an origin

story, whether it’s

Italian or from a

U.S. region,” says

Laurie Scanlin, R&D

Culinary director,

Ardent Mills,

noting interest

in regional pizza

styles from the

U.S. has recently

been growing in


“Pretzel crusts,

beer or ale in the

dough and infused

flavours are fairly

new trends we

expect to grow,”

Scanlin adds.

“Additionally, white

pizza and buffalo

sauce are appearing

more frequently

on menus. In fact,

heat itself is

making its way to

pizza in the form

of sriracha and







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of select Canadian prairie wheat varieties and delivers the functionality

you need for long fermentations, hand tossing and fast, high-heat baking.

Authentic Italian-style flour, trusted Canadian source. For information

and samples, visit or call 888-295-9470.









© 2020 Ardent Mills ULC

he doesn’t expect these offerings

to become a permanent fixture

for the brand. “We don’t know

where it will go from here,” he

explains. “We’re focused on making

sure our restaurants fit the new

model [emerging as a result of

In the upper tier of pizza, you’re seeing

certain concepts that are fermenting

doughs for longer periods of time and

they’re getting a much airier, much more

flavourful [crust],” says Alex Rechichi,

president, Crave it Restaurant Group. Maker

Pizza is one such brand. And, according to

its owner, Shlomo Buchler, its four-day

process helps decrease the amount of

gluten in the dough. So, he says, “people

who don’t eat a lot of gluten usually make

Maker their cheat meal.

introduce a vegan Bolognese.”

And, with the rise of the Keto

diet and an overall desire to reduce

carbohydrate intake, spiralized

vegetables have begun appearing

on menus as a pasta alternative.

“Vegetable-based noodle offerings

have become more and more

popular,” Rechichi adds. “We tested

zucchini noodles (offering classic

dishes with these noodles) and

it worked out really well for us.”

He also notes Via Cibo has been

exploring offering a lentil- or

quinoa-based pasta. “That was

in the works pre-COVID-19 and

now we’re looking at reigniting

those plans.”



“During COVID-19 shutdowns,

pizza-focused operations were

among those best positioned

to thrive, due to the fact these

concepts have long relied on

pickup and delivery for the

majority of their sales,” shares


“Concepts like Maker Pizza

and, obviously, Domino’s,

which serve a great product that

translates well into off-premise

[dining], have fared quite well in

this environment,” adds Rechichi,

“Because of the current

pandemic, consumers’ purchasing

habits have really changed over the

last couple months,” says Kacmarek.

“Consumers are looking for value

— they’re looking for opportunities

where they could potentially get two

or even three dining experiences out

of one order.”

And, as Rechichi notes, the

circumstances created by the

pandemic have made

brands assess how they

innovate and operate under the

new parameters created by the

pandemic and new ways of

ordering. Many concepts,

including Via Cibo, began

offering make-at-home kits for

both pizza and pasta during the

height of the COVID-19 lockdown

to meet the unique needs

that arose. “[People] were tired

of trying to figure out what to

make,” he explains. “We put those

on our delivery platforms and

they did quite well.”

Via Cibo continues to offer

frozen pizzas because demand has

continued, however Rechichi says



the pandemic] and being able to

deliver on the digital front.”

Additionally, Kacmarek says

Domino’s has put its focus on

incorporating new zero-contact

procedures during this time.

“Whether it’s delivery or carry

out, we’ve done a lot of work in

that area and a lot of changes

have taken place in our operations

as a result.”

Technology is a significant

part of Domino’s overall strategy

and will likely become a greater

focus for many of its competitors

— as well as the larger foodservice

industry — as they set their

Last fall, Little Caesars brought its

award-winning Pizza Portal pickup to Canada. The self-serve

pick-up system features secure heated cubbies accessible

through an order-specific pin or QR code. A similar technology,

offered by Brightloom (formerly Eatsa), was set to be tested in

Pizza Hut locations in the U.S. this year. Given the growth

of digital-ordering platforms, as well as health-and-safety

concerns caused by COVID-19, it’s likely that digital cubby

systems will become increasingly common in the takeoutfocused

pizza category and many others.



Domino’s has made a

significant investment into

technology solutions to meet

customer demand

sights on recovering and thriving

in the ‘new normal.’

“Ordering through apps

continues to grow in popularity,

so everything we do

from a technology perspective

is really focused on simplifying

the order-taking process and

creating a better user experience

for consumers,” says Kacmarek.

“We know that when customers

order through our digital

platforms, their satisfaction

levels are much higher, so we

feel that’s a great opportunity to

continue to grow in and that’s

what we’re going to focus on.”

Despite being a much smaller

business, Maker Pizza is also

investing in technology. “We’ve

been working behind the scenes

and, in September, we’ll be

introducing some new

technology that’ll make the

overall [ordering] experience,

practically seamless. It’ll be very

heavy on customer service, but

in a way that’s not intrusive and

is super convenient,” explains


This includes enhancements

to the brand’s app, “a really

advanced web-ordering system

and a few other things customers

are going to be really excited

about,” says Buchler. “Right now

we’re doing things the traditional

way, where we take the majority

of our orders over the phone

and we have an in-house delivery

team (about 22 drivers).

But, we get really busy and that

becomes a very cumbersome

process, so we’re just looking to

streamline the process.”

“Alternative dining and

delivery in our post-pandemic

world is definitely going to be

a major focus requiring some

outside-the-box thinking,” says

Bou-Younes. FH

Maker Pizza has introduced its own

seamless ordering technology







As COVID-19 rocked the foodservice

landscape, these industry leaders had

to re-examine how they managed

their brand

A good leader creates and nurtures

other leaders and possesses a clear vision for their

brand. But a great leader can pivot during challenging

times and is willing to re-examine their leadership style in

order to help their teams weather the storm. The following

interviews with foodservice leaders share their unique

experiences leading through crisis and strategies for

coming out the other side.












CEO, Recipe Unlimited



When Frank Hennessey

graduated from

Western University in

1985, he applied to

become an OPP

officer. But, on the

way to his part-time

bartending job, he

became involved in a

minor accident. “I was fined for “following too

close” and that ticket, combined with another

speeding ticket — I wasn’t a very good driver

back then — caused me to get bumped from

the program.”

As luck would have it, the following week,

his supervisor at work asked if he would be

interested in restaurant management. The

rest, as they say, is history and 30 years later,

Hennessy leads Canada’s largest and oldest

full-service restaurant chain, Recipe Unlimited,

with purview over 20 restaurant brands

representing 1,350 units and 60,000 associates.

In his role as CEO, Hennessey guides the

team with a healthy dose of integrity peppered

with a focused ability to listen. “Always do

what you say you’re going to do,” he says.

“Having integrity is a must to building trust

with your team. They may not always like

your decisions, but if you always tell them

‘why,’ they know they can count of you to

follow through.”

Hennessey also has a “curious and healthy

imagination,” a quality he believes is particularly

important. “By the time a problem makes

its way up to you, it’s because it couldn’t be

solved at other levels or the options are not

clear cut,” he explains.

While Hennessey is used to leading

through change, the COVID-19 crisis has

been illuminating. “The typical patterns you

normally find in our businesses have been

Frank Hennessey oversees the

Swiss Chalet brand, among

others, in his role as CEO of

Recipe Unlimited

blown up. COVID-19 has accelerated other

processes and innovations: how we work;

remote work; methods of communication;

accelerating tech; floor and kitchen layouts;

ghost kitchens; curbside and frictionless pickup;

and contactless delivery. [Changes] you

thought may not happen for four to six years

are happening now.”

The crisis has also forced him to evolve

his leadership style. “When the crisis was first

starting, the decision-making [process] had to

be centralized. There was a need to be decisive,”

he adds, explaining he made the call to close

the restaurants before being mandated to do

so. “Closing 1,350 restaurants will make anyone

By the time a problem makes

ts way up to you, it’s because it

ouldn’t be solved at other levels

r the options are not clear cut"



pause, but it was the

right thing to do and

there was integrity in the


The chaos fuelled by the

pandemic has forced the respected

leader to “increase the cadence of

communication with our senior leadership

team (SLT) and franchisees — knowing we

would be making rapid decisions, but may

have to change them down the road as the

situation evolved.”

Like a captain steering a ship through

stormy waters, leading through the pandemic

has required Hennessey to “stay calm and

measured. If you, as the leader, panic, there’s a

good chance everyone else will — people are

already scared and there’s enough uncertainty

to create chaos. We still have our daily SLT

calls every day at 11 a.m. — it may be brief,

but it’s a great check in.”

Dealing with COVID-19 and the related

uncertainty and anxiety has required

Hennessey to build muscle around keeping

employees engaged and motivated. “We’ve

tried to keep them as informed as possible

on the state of the business.” That’s required

Hennessey to be honest “about our situation,

including telling them early on that while this

is a survivable event, we’ll have to remain agile

and there will be change.” Among the lessons

learned, he’s quickly realized “In the world of

Zoom or Google Hangouts, you have to take

the time to check in on how your teammate is

doing personally. It’s easy just to jump to the

task at hand — but when you don’t see someone

every day, you miss that personal check-in

so you have to pause and ask them if they’re

okay and how they’re coping.”

While these days the focus is on survival,

Hennessey maintains his own equilibrium

and growth by reading a lot. “I also continually

check in with myself to see if the things I’ve

always believed to be true, are in fact, still

true. I call this my “devil’s-advocate” exercise.

It’s important leaders are not trapped by their

own personal biases. There’s only one thing

that’s an absolute truth — whether it’s the

universe or a business — once they cease to

evolve, they die. If a leader ever says ‘I know

all I need to know’ — go find another leader.”

With a career that spans three decades,

working in companies such as Imvescor,

Bento Sushi, as well as in grocery retail,

Hennessey believes his perseverance has been

his biggest strength. “I never gave up. In 2009

I was ‘re-structured’ out of Cara. There was

a lot going on at that time at Cara and in my

own personal life. After a moment of self-pity,

I picked myself off the metaphorical floor and

made the decision I wouldn’t look back and

just keep going; 10 years later I walked back in

as CEO of Cara, re-branded to Recipe.”

Looking back, would he do anything

differently? “I’ve always been guided by the

principles of acting with integrity, staying

curious, listening and acting decisively. It’s

served me well. But I was probably a bit cocky

early on. I don’t like arrogant people, mainly

because I don’t like that quality in myself

— I’m continually working on this, which

sounds arrogant, even saying that.”

While leadership styles evolve as leaders

grow, Hennessey says he’s always drawn

inspiration from outside the industry.

“Churchill, General Rick Hillier, Barak and

Michelle Obama and FDR are leaders I’ve

studied.” Hennessey says they share common

traits: their communication style, their choice

of words, tone of voice, conveyance of empathy

and use of humour are critical to their

ability to instill confidence and rally people

to an action or a cause.

The Harvey’s brand also falls

under Frank Hennessey’s

leadership umbrella

"I’ve always

been guided by

the principles

of acting with

integrity, staying

curious, listening

and acting


It’s served me

well. But I was

probably a bit

cocky early on.

I don’t like

arrogant people,

mainly because

I don’t like that

quality in myself

— I’m continually

working on this,

which sounds

arrogant, even

saying that"


Connect with KML


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your business offerings or just eager to learn from the industry’s icons and innovators, KML offers compelling and relevant

information that will keep you informed, inspired and educated.







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operators to benchmark and measure

their own success, as well as profiles of

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Hotelier magazine, celebrated its 30th

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Published eight times a year, the

magazine features timely stories on the

trends making the news, highlighting the

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well as regular profiles on the movers

and shakers in the dynamic hotel


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COO, Hy’s of Canada


As COO of Vancouverbased

Hy’s of Canada,

Megan Buckley’s personal

leadership philosophy

hinges largely on

communication, which

has served her, and the

company, well through

the current turmoil

caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve always been a believer in great

communication, so increasing the frequency

of my communication with my teams was

the logical next step to take,” she says of how

she adapted her strategy, noting that staying

in regular touch has been key to keeping

employees engaged and motivated through

this turbulent time.

Under normal circumstances, regular

onsite visits and personal communication

with managers and staff play an important

role in how Buckley engages with Hy’s

restaurant teams. “I find the more I visit [our

restaurants] the more they seem to appreciate

and get from the visits,” she explains. “Sitting

down to talk with the managers and/or the

staff seems to elicit positive results.”

But, in our current situation, “scheduled

phone and Zoom calls have had to suffice,” says

Buckley. “I [also] increased the frequency of

my staff newsletters from once a month

to twice a week and tried to balance the

content between helpful information

and fun, lighthearted news.”


That said, Buckley ultimately credits Hy’s

culture as the glue that’s held the team together

while being physically apart. “We’re a fairly

small executive team and we’re pretty hands

on. Our philosophy is we treat our staff and

our guests like family and we lead accordingly,”

the COO explains. “We’re so fortunate to have

built a culture of family with our employees,

so their loyalty and dedication to our survival

has been extraordinary.”

It’s undeniable that the pandemic has

created an array of unique challenges for

leaders within the industry. And, when tackling

these, Buckley says the big picture is critical —

which may be easier said than done. Even

prior to the pandemic Buckley identified

“staying focused on the big picture” as one

of the biggest challenges facing leaders in

foodservice, given the accelerated change and

disruption within the industry.

As she explains, it’s necessary to be “confident

in the overall vision or, on the other hand,

having the experience and the confidence to

pivot from the vision, if that makes better

sense for the long term.” And, in order to do

that, it’s imperative to understand the core

of your brand, she adds. “In our industry, it’s

increasingly important to just understand

your brand — what is your brand’s DNA?”

Understanding this is especially important

as the industry ponders strategies for success

in the “new normal.”

“We can’t predict when or how this will

end, but assuming we can survive the short

term, we can attack the challenges for the

long term and look at the opportunities

we are presented with — opportunities for

change, for adopting new technologies and

practices and for growing the business in

new directions.”









President, Crave It Restaurant Group




Empathy, perseverance and

authenticity have always

been hallmarks of Alex

Rechichi’s leadership style.

And, when the restaurant

industry was blindsided by

the COVID-19 pandemic,

those qualities took on a

new importance.

“A leader’s biggest

challenge is easing people’s fears and leading

them through the uncertainty, especially

while having to make difficult decisions

surrounding the well-being of the business,”

says Rechichi. “In times like these, leaders

must be even more respectful and attentive

to the needs of employees, customers

and shareholders.”

As president of Oakville, Ont.-based Crave

It Restaurant Group, whose brands include

Via Cibo Italian Street Food, Bangkok Buri

and The Burger’s Priest, Rechichi implemented

specific actions surrounding

increased communication with

all levels of the organization —

especially with the frontline

staff. “I increased my


visibility in the field and took specific action to

ensure I was accessible to the entire team 24/7.”

To keep employees keen and motivated

during a turbulent period, Rechichi says the

company adjusted its goals and re-set targets for

the team with the new environment in mind.

“We’ve all had to endure some pain and

make sacrifices to ensure the sustainability of

the business,” he says. “We took the approach

to identify this as an opportunity to doubledown

on the business and invest in the areas

that presented future growth. Once the team

understood we would not play victim, they

were able to reframe their mindsets and focus

on growing now and in the future.”

Despite the uncertain times, Rechichi is

constantly expanding his network and connecting

with like-minded individuals in order to continue

to grow as a leader. “I’m talking with them about

the challenges we face. I’ve found that connecting

with peers has been instrumental in helping re-set

my personal and professional paradigm.”

Trust is hard to build and to have

t extinguished based on a decision

hat puts the leader first, ahead of

heir team, is a huge mistake"

As the industry continues to change

dramatically, he says empathy in leaders has

become more prevalent. “There’s a greater

understanding amongst leaders that their

values and goals must go beyond profits and

growth. More leaders are focused on doing

what is right for people and the planet and

this needs to be the part of the ethos of any

brand and its leader.”

Rechichi points to his leadership role

models as examples. “Steve Jobs because

he did not accept mediocrity and Danny

Meyers because he truly is an authentic leader

focused on hospitality. He empowers his team

to make the guests feel like they truly are in

their corner.”

For his part, Rechichi strives to make the

best decisions possible for his company, while

balancing those decisions with what is best

for his team. “The most important decisions

revolve around determining what we implement

and how it will impact the team and

their success. If our people are set up for

success, our business will prosper. The most

important thing I can do is ensure people are

engaged and support our cause.”

He says the biggest mistake leaders can

make is to break the trust of their team. “Trust

is hard to build and to have it extinguished

based on a decision that puts the leader first,

ahead of their team, is a huge mistake.”

Although he says he has no regrets about

his career choices, Rechichi does have some

sage advice for other aspiring leaders. “I

try to learn from my mistakes. One lesson

I learned from my early years as a leader is

the importance of listening more. Listening

and asking questions has allowed the team

to work things through on their own, rather

than immediately giving them an answer.”

Most importantly, he says, “Make sure you

make an impact on more than just the business.

Use the business to help others or make the

world a little bit better.”






Founder, Fresh Restaurants


Being thoughtful and nimble

are at the core of Fresh

Restaurants’ strategy as

the brand navigates its

way through the current

COVID-19 crisis.

“In a disruptive crisis

like this, the hardest thing to

do is to balance walking

compassionately in the shoes of our employees,

guests and the wider world, while simultaneously

making expedient, rational decisions to

protect the financial health and survival of the

business,” says the plant-based chain’s founder

Ruth Tal. “Compassionate, effective leadership

is important during the best of times, but,

in these extraordinary times, this trait has

become even more critical for all of us in

the Fresh organization.”

And, given Tal identifies personal responsibility,

active listening and being present

among the most-important qualities for

effective leadership in the foodservice industry,

she and her team have a good base to

start from.

“[In the current environment,] the

biggest challenge is getting ahead of the

changing circumstances and being ready

to adjust course quickly, without

looking back,” explains Tal. “We’re

using this time as an opportunity

for reinvention, improvement and


And, the culture within

the company is one that

supports this. “People who

work with us understand

it’s okay to make

mistakes, but it’s how


you process or course correct those

mistakes that’s really key,” she says. “Fresh

comes from two-and-a-half decades of learning

on our feet and trial and error. As big as we’ve

become, we continue to remain agile.”

She also notes that active listening has long

been applied to the day-to-day operations

of the business, but also serves as a tool for

employee engagement. She explains this as a

process of “listening to people’s motivations,

how they want to contribute and integrating

them into the business.”

Engaging and motivating the brand’s

restaurant teams remains a key focus while

the company navigates the ever-evolving

situation created by the pandemic. “We

quickly recognized that this moment called

for greater emphasis on consistent, reliable,

fact-based communication with our employees,”

Tal shares. “Daily and weekly team meetings

have helped reinforce to our employees that

we have their best interests in mind.”

Tal also explains that supporting the

local community through initiatives, such

as providing meals to those in need and

supporting essential workers, not only put

Fresh’s founding principle — creating

positive change in the world through food

— into action during the crisis, but boosted

employee morale at its locations.

“I’m more thoughtful and deliberate about

what it takes to not only bounce back, but

to actually create a business with even more

value and positive societal impact,” Tal says

of how she’s adapted to the industry’s current

reality. She and her team have been focused

on “putting the mission of stabilizing the

business and finding the opportunities amid

difficult constraints first.”

And, through the ongoing challenges

created by COVID-19, Tal says she’s been

leaning on her team more. “I listen more,

trust more, empower and actively support

my partners, director of Operations and

home-office team, who are on the front

lines facing the day-to-day challenges,” she

explains. “My job is to not get stuck in old

habits, but to embrace the long view; staying

focused on the horizon and the innovations

that will define our tomorrow at Fresh.”







Founder/CEO, Smoke’s Poutinerie


For Ryan Smolkin, being a

good leader means surrounding

himself with great people

— and then listening to what

they have to say.

“It’s not just sitting back

and dictating, telling people

what to do and when to do

it,” says the founder/CEO of

the Toronto-based cult favourite, Smoke’s

Poutinerie. “It’s [listening to] their opinion,

because they’re way better than me in their

areas, and [encouraging them] to bring ideas

to the table.”

But, as COVID-19 forced the closure

of a large chunk of the Smoke’s network,

Smolkin was faced with the hard job of

laying off a large number of those great

people. Maintaining a positive attitude —

without appearing phony — became key

to leading his brand.

“A lot of people would try to be positive

in a fake way or by sharing the [information]

they’re hoping will make people happy,” he

says. “But you have to keep it real — stay

positive and supportive — while balancing

that with the reality of what’s going on in

the world.”

When Coronavirus upended the industry in

early March, Smolkin began holding “stateof-the-union”

meetings to open conversations

with his whole system.

“We got the whole system on board —

headquarters, franchisees and suppliers —


keeping them in the loop. The most important

thing is that it’s consistent, continual and real


He also used this opportunity to keep

his team abreast of what’s happening in the

world and in Canada and how those events

trickle back down to the restaurant industry.

His goal for the empire he built from

scratch is “survive, sustain and succeed so we

can start building again. But you have to be

able to accept the downside first. Make sure

you’re able to weather that storm, keep

people motivated and stay true to our brand.”

Motivation is something the serial

entrepreneur is familiar with. With three

successful multi-million-dollar businesses

under his belt, Smolkin offers advice to other

leaders. “Just because it’s downtime [during

COVID-19], doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use

that time to your advantage and still invest in

the people around you.”

And Smolkin walks the talk. While much

of the industry has ground to a halt, Smoke’s

has continued to plan for a post-pandemic

reality. Its “global domination” remains on

track, with three units set to open in the

UAE and units pre-sold in Hungary and

Czech Republic.

“We’re also looking at the Malaysian

market — it’s going to be huge for us and

we have tons of leads there already. It will get

stalled for a year, maybe two years, but the

exciting part is taking it to true global

domination — it’s not just words.”

He also recommends leaders use this

opportunity to re-evaluate their leadership

styles and strengthen their toolkit.

“You’ve got to make sure you’re staying

strong,” he says. “You have to be able to adapt

and grow.”

He says he hasn’t changed his leadership

style during the last few months, but he has

developed a new set of goals, objectives and a

strategy to get to that [successful] end point

while motivating people though the essence

of leadership — making people want to follow

you. True leaders have to be able to step it

up at a time like this. If you can’t, you’re in

trouble, you’ll go under.”

Smolkin adds a good leader can’t be afraid

to make crucial decisions — especially in

times of crisis.

“[During COVID-19], it was tough, but

hard decisions have to be made and you have

to do it quick and you have to do it decisively

or the whole ship goes down.”









CEO, Redberry Restaurants


You’re not there to be right,”

says Ken Otto. “You’re there

for the team to get to right.”

Strong advice from the

Redberry CEO, who took

on the role in 2019 following

a stint overseeing some of

Canada’s largest restaurant

brands as president of

Recipe Unlimited’s Family-Dining division.

Otto says his biggest leadership mistake was

“thinking I knew it all — I didn’t have a clue.”

The hospitality veteran, known for his

energy, vision and ability to build bridges

between stakeholders, says being a leader

in today’s climate is already wrought with

challenges, but when COVID-19 threw the

foodservice industry into chaos, he had to

re-examine his leadership style.

“[It focused on] communication and team

check-ins. As the team worked remotely and

not face to face, substantially more energy

[had to be] invested in communicating our

action plan more often, as well as

connecting with teammates and

making sure there was alignment

on near- and medium-term

tasks,” he explains. “Equally,

if not more important, is

checking in with the team


to make sure they’re doing okay. This is harder

to do on a video call, versus together, but it’s

so important these days.”

Beyond the obvious financial issues

brought on by the pandemic, Otto says his

biggest challenge as a leader has been keeping

his team engaged in, and working towards, the

long-term vision and goals of the organization

while dealing with near-term uncertainty and

new sources and levels of stress.

“The new normal will be different, but in

many cases, an organization’s DNA remains

the same and a leader needs to understand the

difference and help shine a light on how the

company’s values and long-term mission must

remain its North Star.”

He emphasises that, moving forward,

there will undoubtedly be differences in how

Redberry executes its core proposition and

many of those changes will be operational and

technical in nature.

“However, the core promise, vision, mission,

DNA of great companies have not changed.

The same leadership qualities that

ork today have been passed on from

ther great people"

In fact, many of these things have been amplified.

Restaurants have to be cleaner and the

service team has to deliver even faster service

or greater levels of hospitality (behind a

mask),” he says, adding leaders need to focus

on these things, as well as aspirational longerterm

goals, to keep the team motivated.

As CEO of one of the largest quick-service

restaurant franchisees in North America, Otto

is tasked with making decisions that impact

the entire company. But he says the mostimportant

decision he makes is “choosing and

developing other leaders. People make it

happen, so you need the right people.”

A point of pride for Otto is maintaining a

company culture that allows people to grow,

“letting them do their job [without] micromanaging

— letting them make the decisions.

Nothing is more empowering to high

performers than actually getting to make

decisions and have an impact on the team.”

“Ken has quickly become an inspiring

leader at Redberry,” says Sharron Fry, the

company’s director of Marketing. “He’s

passionate about the vision of our company

and our team. He leads by example, showing

us he values communication, transparency

and accountability, while being positive and

appreciative. He’s created a ‘One Team, One

Dream’ supportive culture, which builds trust

and respect and fuels our passion for success.”

While Otto doesn’t believe the definition of

a good leader has changed over his career, if he

could do one thing differently, he says he would

be more open to new ideas and points of view.

“The same leadership qualities that work

today have be passed on from other great

people,” says Otto, who counts Wayne Holm,

Mark Pacinda, Jim Treliving and George

Melville among his own mentors. “Maybe

styles change, or communication systems

change, but the foundation remains the same.”

His advice to those with an eye on a leadership

role? “Read. Network. Spend time with people

not like yourself. Most importantly, listen to

as many people as possible.”





President, Toptable Group




ichael Doyle is passionate

about growing and

developing people. “I’m

so proud when they

become great leaders and

achieve success,” says the

president of Vancouverbased

Toptable Group.

Ongoing, open communication,

listening to staff and displaying

empathy for others have always been important

leadership qualities Doyle works towards

every day. And, in the last few months, since

COVID-19 began impacting the Canadian

landscape, it has served Doyle and his team

well. “My priority, now more than ever, has

been our people. I’m carving out more time to

listen, collaborate and make decisions together,

because bringing them into the process is

empowering and builds trust in a very uncertain


He adds flexibility is essential during these

trying times and leaders must be open and

willing to adjust their strategy in order to do

what’s best for the health of the overall business.

“Listen to your people and have empathy,

given everyone is going through a very

difficult time,” he says.

Keeping his team motivated and engaged

during the last few months has been one of

Doyle’s biggest challenges. “There’s a sense of

unknown and many people are not comfortable

with that. It’s human nature to create

stability and a routine,” he says, adding he

holds an ongoing weekly/daily team call so

everyone can share their challenges in each

restaurant and their ideas on how to deal

with those challenges. “Since we’ve

re-opened, there’s a feeling that we’ve


gone from zero to 100, so making sure staff

take their days off and have time for friends

and family is essential.”

As the leader of Toptable Group — whose

banners include Araxi, Bar Oso, Il Caminetto,

Blue Water Cafe, CinCin, Elisa, Oceans and

Theirry — Doyle has a lot of responsibilities,

including establishing a clear vision and a

strong set of core values.

“[It’s about] hiring the right people,” he

says. “Just like a hockey team, everyone has a

part to play. Everyone needs to be part of the

solution for a team to be successful.”

He’s also the one making tough decisions.

“This pandemic has put this into overdrive.

Making tough calls across many aspects of

the business has been a daily routine.”

Doyle says his leadership approach is rooted

in great mentors. “I work for the Aquilini

family, who have built an incredible family

business. Luigi Aquilini, who is 87 years old,

is as sharp as a 30-year-old. He still comes to

work every day and works harder than anyone

in the office. I learn so much from him and

my boss Francesco Aquilini (Luigi’s son) every

day. I also worked for Richard Peddie for a

decade at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

He certainly had the biggest impact on my

career, along with Larry Tanenbaum, owner of

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.”

He adds he’s also a big fan of Bill Gates.

“My second love after hockey growing up

was computer science. It’s incredible how he’s

impacted the world and is now focussed on

trying to do good in so many ways.”

But Doyle isn’t resting on his laurels and

continues to work to grow and develop as a

leader. “I read a lot. I like to learn about other

leaders’ perspectives and experiences and to

stay on top of business trends. The Harvard

Business Review is my monthly read that I’m

always learning from. I’ve also volunteered

on several boards, including Green Sports

Alliance, Vancouver Tourism and The NHL

Board of Governors.”

And, though he’s always striving to

become an even better leader, Doyle believes

the definition of a great leader hasn’t really

changed over time. “The core aspects — a

strong vision and core values — have

remained the same. That’s not to say things

haven’t changed over time and certainly in a

time like this.”

He also has some advice for future leaders.

“Don’t compromise your values. It’s very easy

to get distracted or be influenced by your

peers; make sure you have a clear vision and

stay true to that vision; take your time hiring

new people to ensure it’s the right move, but

when people have the wrong toxic attitude,

don’t keep them around. As Peddie always

said to me ‘hire slow and fire fast.’

“Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; we’re

all human — the key is to learn from them.

My “best mistakes” was falling in love with

one of my managers, who is now my wife of

15 years (not a good idea to date staff). When

we knew it was real, we did the right thing

— we let my boss know and my now-wife

decided to take on a new career path that she

had a passion for. [She] is still smarter than

me. She helps me see the light through the

fog and is so supportive of my passion to do

what I love.”

Doyle admits he’s constantly learning

from his past and “try to push myself to

ensure those lessons have a positive impact

going forward.” FH






What consumers are looking for as they return to restaurants


If you’d like some insight

into how the restaurant and

hospitality industry can adjust to

what patrons are now expecting,

you’ve come to the right place.

In support of our hospitality

clients, we fielded research and

the results may be helpful for the

restaurant and hospitality industry.

Our goals for the research were

to discover what frequent restaurant patrons

think and feel about dining out and takeout

after living with the lockdown; uncover

implications for restaurants; and look for

ways restaurants might want to respond in

order to welcome people back in the way

they want to be welcomed.

On May 8 and 9, 2020, we surveyed 600

frequent restaurant patrons living in Canada.

We were able to get an even spread of

incomes and ages, with a 49/49 split between

males and females (the rest identified in other

ways). It’s important to note this doesn’t necessarily

represent all Canadians and the sample

doesn’t fully represent the demographics of

the Canadian population, but the learnings

will be instructive and useful. The findings

can be summarized in six points.


We wanted to find out who was going to be

first out of the gate and found the least cautious

about returning to dine out were the 25-

to 34-year-old respondents. Chalk that up to

the fearlessness of youth or perhaps they were

less concerned about attracting the virus. We

also found those with up to “some university

education,” were going to be most likely to

dine out as soon as possible. Not surprisingly,

when you look at the data from the perspective

of living arrangements, we also found those

living with parents, as well as singles, were

likely to be among the first to dine out once

lockdown ends and you may be seeing that in

your own business, regardless of whether that

was your core market to begin with. Now that

businesses are re-opening you should expect

to see those who were less

initially cautious.


The hospitality industry provides a great deal

of meaning to our society — and never more

so than in difficult times. In order to fully

understand how the industry can, and should,

be of service, we wanted to find out more

specifics about what drives that sense of

meaning for diners. Unsurprisingly, we found

there are two main drivers of meaning for

frequent restaurant patrons. First, escape. In

other words, getting out of the house, being

social and being entertained while doing so.

Second, self-care. Specifically, that means not



Dr. Mark Szabo is the director,

Insights & Engagement at Calgarybased

Anstice. He can be reached




having to cook and getting food they aren’t

able to get at home. These two drivers of

meaning were vital before the lockdown and

are arguably even more important now. As

we look for ways to help our cities and towns

make their way through this, these two factors

are likely to be paramount on the minds of

your patrons. This is important to your

marketing and product teams because, if you

know that’s where the meaning lies, you can

adjust your messaging and planning accordingly.

Even if you don’t change anything operationally,

speaking about it in terms of escape

and self-care is going to have a better chance of

addressing the meaning patrons expect to get.


Of course, your patrons have concerns about

going back out to dine at your restaurant

and it’s obviously critical to address those

concerns from the start in order to provide

the comfort they need. The biggest concerns

we found were around social distancing inside

the restaurant and hygiene. Restaurants will

need to communicate about the layout of the

space, standards of cleanliness, lineup distancing,

patrons’ responsibilities for self-hygiene and

directly address concerns around infected

staff and food. Normally those would be the

last things we’d want to discuss with people

and, certainly, we’d never want to plant those

kinds of ideas in patrons’ minds. But that’s the

world we’re in; safety is a value-added feature

and opportunity to differentiate your offering.


Our female respondents were more likely than

the males to be concerned and cautious about

dining out. The males were much more sanguine

about the risks. We also found females

are more likely to value not having to cook,

having access to ingredients they don’t have at

home and self-care from dining out or getting

takeout. If you find your female patrons are

also the primary decision-makers about dining

out, this is going to be important to know

how to address their concerns and what they

expect to get from their time with you.


Our research shows 37 per cent of our

respondents intend to get takeout more after

lockdown than they did before. The reasons

for takeout are varied, complex and not necessarily

the same as dining out. Restaurants

offering takeout should clearly understand

their target market and focus marketing and

operations on serving their specific needs, not

simply assume the same drivers for dining out

apply to takeout. Our respondents said what

they like most about takeout is better food,

convenience, no cooking, being comfortable at

home and no cleanup. Arguably, those things

haven’t changed since pre-COVID-19.


We found 45 per cent of our respondents

wanted takeout delivered, while 51-percent

prefer to pick it up at the restaurant.

Counterintuitively, the older generation

(55-plus) is more likely to prefer picking up

at the restaurant. If restaurants can create a

compelling pick-up experience, 55-plus diners

may be more likely to come for pick-up and

pay the restaurant directly instead of using

third parties.

While these are the highlights of what we

found in our research, the full study, which

can be accessed here, delves more into

demographic details about who thinks what.

See you on the patio. FH



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Rosanna Caira: When COVID-19

forced the closure of restaurants,

did you pivot to takeout

or did you have to change your


Scott Vivian: It took me about a

month to figure out exactly what

we wanted to do. I didn’t want to

[make decisions] out of desperation

and open up something I would

then have to shut down because

it wasn’t working. I didn’t feel

strongly enough that we could

stay afloat just on takeout food

alone. I’ve always enjoyed visiting

the different family-style neighbourhood

bodegas when I go

to New York and that was what

I was conceptualizing pivoting

to. The Canadian government

announced we would be able to

start selling alcohol to-go out of

Scott Vivian discusses the challenges of

operating an independent restaurant during

the COVID-19 pandemic

Scott Vivian and Nathan Middleton


our restaurants, which was a huge

deciding factor in opening up the

Beast Bodega, because it allowed

us not only to be a bottle shop

with unique [offerings] — craft

beer from around Ontario and

wines you couldn’t get in the

LCBO — but also products we

have access to, through our suppliers,

that you can’t necessarily

get at the grocery store. And then

components of takeout food, as

well as prepared foods — [dishes]

we make at the restaurant that

can be packaged and sold.

RC: How many staff were you

able to retain?

SV: Before COVID, in the

restaurant working, we had 12

total employees. To start, I was

able to bring back one cook in



kitchen and it was just myself

out front. As we’ve grown in the

last eight weeks or so, I’ve made

a few changes based on being

able to grow organically and allow

for changes to be made along

the way. I’ve brought on a new

chef named Nathan Middleton,

formerly of Petty Cash, and he’ll

be running the kitchen starting

this week. He’s also going to

be a partner in the business. I

brought back one of our servers

to work the front (because we’re

just doing counter service) to

explain what [products] are to

customers, ring them up and

create that whole experience.

That allows me to concentrate

on the business side of things

and help out in the kitchen [or]

wherever I’m needed.

RC: Can you give us more

details about the concept?

SV: The bottle shop is in the

front of the restaurant as you

walk in. We’ve used the tables

where people would normally

be sitting as display counters for

the products [we’re] offering. We

have a lot of [items] — 100km

Foods has always been one of our

suppliers, so we’re getting a lot

of local [products] from them

and also trying to concentrate

on non-perishable items, such as

locally made hot sauces and jams.

We have bread from Blackbird

[Baking Co.] that we get fresh

every day, Martin’s potato buns,

local all-beef and chicken hotdogs

and we have the fridge in the

front that has cheese and charcuterie,

cold beer and wine. And

we have a little swag-shop area

with all of our Beast [merchandise]

— hoodies, T-shirts and

hats. We’re curating items you

can’t normally get in the grocery

store, such as preserved lemons,

things we’d normally use in our

day-to-day cooking at Beast that

allow people to take that experience

home. And, obviously, the

locally sourced meats we would


opened in Toronto in

June of 2010, in a small

house on a side street

in between King and

Queen West villages.

The 32-seat, full-service

restaurant (with an

additional 16 seats on

the patio) concentrates

on local cuisine with an

emphasis on nose-totail

cooking. It’s known

for its whole-animal

butchery — diners pick

the animal and the

team at Beast creates

a tasting menu using

a different part of the

animal for each course.

Due to COVID-19, Beast

had to shut down in

March and pivot to a

new concept so it can

continue operating

moving forward.

normally have are now packaged

to take home — ground venison,

wild boar, bison and 16-ounce

rib-eye steaks.

RC: Have you fully rolled this

out or are you in the process of

doing so as we speak?

SV: This was launched the first

week in May and, as each week

goes on, we see which products

are selling and what the demand

is. As people start asking for

products, we’ll bring them in. We

had a couple of weeks when we

had beautiful local strawberries

and asparagus when those were

in season. We were letting the

neighbourhood and our clientele

dictate what they’re looking for.

We’re doing some prepared foods,

hot sandwiches and items like

that people can grab to go and

now that we have a couple of tables

on the patio, they can sit down

and enjoy those on the patio. But,

the fun, unique part of the bodega

is its a relaxed atmosphere, even

though there’s no table service.

With the COVID-19 regulations,

people are able to have a nice, safe,

individual shopping experience

or same-household shopping

experience. If they choose to sit

out on the patio and enjoy they

can, but you can literally come in

and buy a bottle of wine at retail.

And, if you want to sit down on

the patio, crack open a beer and

drink it, we’re licensed out there

so you can do so as well.

RC: What has the feedback been

like from your customer base?

SV: It’s been pretty amazing.

[In the] 10 years of having this

restaurant, there’s always been

the challenge of ‘can I make it

sustainable with the support

from the neighbourhood and

as a full-service restaurant?’ We

obviously got a lot of support

from the neighbourhood, but

that also means we would see

regular customers that live in and

around the area maybe a couple

times a month or three or four

times a year on special occasions.

Whereas now that we’re more

a local neighbourhood bodega,

we’re getting the support from

the regular clientele who live in

and around the GTA (Greater

Toronto Area) and are driving in

and showing their support, but

we’re also seeing that the neighbourhood

has really embraced it.

We’re starting to see those people

who we only saw a couple times

a month now coming in two or

three times a week to do a shop

for their groceries, take a lunch

break because they’re working

from home, grab a sandwich and

pick up some cheese and charcuterie

before it’s time for them

to start cooking dinner and a

bottle of wine. You don’t have to

wait in line at the grocery store or

LCBO; you can just walk right in.

RC: Is this concept temporary or

will you keep the bodega open


SV: [We’ll keep it] for the

foreseeable future. As long as it’s

sustainable, it allows me to have a

lot more control over my labour

costs. One of the issues I’ve had

with our restaurant industry, even

pre-COVID-19, is that I felt like

the industry was already broken.

COVID-19 just shined a light on

some of those issues that weren’t

really being addressed and one

of those is the wage inequality

between front of the house and

back of the house. The idea of

the bodega is to eliminate that

divide between the two different

pay rates of staff, allow it to

be one cohesive restaurant or

bodega and pay everybody a fair

wage, so there’s no discrepancies

while having more regular hours.

I mean, it took COVID-19 for me

to sit at home and realize, I kind

of like this. Those 16-hour days in

the kitchen, for those that really

care about the industry and care

about their livelihood, are going

to become a thing of the past. It’s

much more important for me —

and maybe it’s because I just had a

kid — to have a [small] semblance

of a life outside of the restaurant

and for my staff to as well. This

concept allows me to do that

and, in the business model of the

bodega, it allows me to expand,

whereas if I just re-opened as

a full-service restaurant, that

model’s already there and it’s kind

of difficult to expand on — now I

can concentrate on office catering,

takeout packages and business

like that.

RC: Do you think that is a

sustainable model? Obviously,

there’s fewer expenses, but do

you feel comfortable with that?

SV: I do. Only the future will

decide whether or not the


usiness model is sustainable, but

for me, looking forward, it gives

me the opportunity to wrap my

head around the concept more

easily. I don’t have all those costs

up front that I did while I was

running a full-service restaurant.

I’m fortunate enough that I do

have a small space, so the transition

was a little bit easier and it’s a

little bit easier to manage as well.

In this neighbourhood; it was

something lacking in the area.

When you [look at] the

demographics, there’s a lot of

residents and very little for

grocery [options] and there’s

really no LCBO anywhere close

by — the pickings are quite slim.

It’s very important to me to still

maintain the philosophies of

Beast and the bodega still allows

me to do so.

RC: You recently posted on

social media about how the

industry was broken before

COVID-19. What prompted you

to put that post out and what

kind of reaction did you get from

people in the community?

SV: I’ve been in the restaurant

industry for more than 25 years

now and I’ve had Beast for 10.

I’ve done things over the years

to put myself in a leadership role

and, really, it’s always been about

Toronto. I’ve never done it for

sales gain. I’ve always felt that

Toronto is a very special food

city and needed the proper attention

and I’ve been fortunate over

the years to draw some attention

to that. It’s been not as an

individual, but in a collaboration

or collaborative kind of setting.

I found it was more successful,

in that approach, to bringing

attention to the industry and the

special food scene that we have.

I had this sense [that], when

COVID-19 first came about and

restaurants had to shut down,

there was a lot of support, a lot

of talk and a lot of organizations,

such as Restaurants Canada, that

took the torch and decided they

were going to be the voice of the

restaurant industry. And I feel

like, as time has gone on, the

transparent efforts from those

organizations have dwindled.

So, as I sat at home and watched

what was going on, I could only

imagine what other people in the

industry are feeling and thinking

and, from speaking with other

friends in the industry and

hearing some of the issues that

they were having, I felt somebody

needed to say something. And it

wasn’t so much that I have all the

answers…it was more, let’s create

some dialogue and talk about this

and, as a collaborative, figure out,

as an industry, how we can make

things better. I don’t feel comfortable

having other organizations

that primarily represent the large

conglomerates representing small

businesses and there needs to be

a subcommittee put together —

whether it’s by me or somebody

else that wants to collaborate or

take the torch — and knock on

the government’s door to try to

find out what’s going on. Because,

right now, we’re not really

getting any support at all. There’s

a lot of band aids that are being

given with different programs out

there, such as the rent subsidy,

which, when left in the hands of

the landlord, has already proven

unsuccessful. There could be a

more concentrated approach to

it, where we deal with the individual

priorities and move on

as each one gets checked off, as

opposed to proposing 10 or 15

different things that get lost in

the paperwork and bureaucracy

of the government.

RC: Has the landlord issue been

something you’ve had to struggle

with during the COVID-19?

SV: Being a small restaurant,

I’m fortunate enough that my

landlord is an individual. I do

respect the fact he has a mortgage

to pay and he has bills to pay as

well. And, honestly, I don’t really

put the responsibility on him.

I’ve been paying rent since the

shutdown — he doesn’t have any

interest in applying for the for the

rent-subsidy program. The government

should have approached

that program a bit better and

either made it mandatory or put

it in the hands of the small business

to fill out the application

with support from the landlord.

RC: Were you able to take

advantage of things such as the

forgivable loans put in place by

the government early on in the


SV: I was able to apply for the

forgivable loan. But, believe it or

not, even with a small restaurant,

that money didn’t last very long

— it basically allowed me to

re-open with the bodega concept,

purchase products, pay back any

outstanding balances I had with

suppliers so I continue to move

forward with them and pay rent.

When you’re paying rent and don’t

have any sales coming in, that

money fizzled out really quick.

RC: Do you feel the voice of

independents is being heard

less than the bigger players?

And what’s the solution for that

moving forward — what does the

industry need to do to help the

independent restaurateur?

SV: These committees and organizations

need to realize that

small businesses do make up a

good [portion] of the restaurant

industry in each individual

province. Their approach to

talking to the government, as an

industry as a whole, representing

all of Canada, makes sense and

needs to happen, but there needs

to be a sub-committee representing

the small businesses because I do

find that the small business is not

getting represented as well as it

should be.

When it comes to government,

obviously, money is a huge factor

and the big businesses, the chain

restaurants, do represent quite a

large part of that. But, if you look

at our industry as a whole and at

the dynamics of most of the food



cities in in Canada, small businesses

make up the big part of

that and create quite a dynamic

for tourism and the supply chain.

So yes, there needs to be a bigger

voice for the smaller guys like us

in order to have proper representation.

I want to make it clear, I’m

not calling these guys out; I’m

not calling Restaurants Canada

out and saying they’re not doing

anything. I, as a business owner,

am not seeing any more transparency

from them — I actually have

no idea what they’re doing. At the

beginning [of COVID-19], they

were talking a lot about what they

were doing and now we haven’t

heard anything. So, I’m left to

assume that either nothing’s

happening or whatever is

happening is getting buried

under other paperwork — it’s

kind of an eerie feeling. And,

hence, the [social-media] post I

made. After being in the business

for so many years, if I’m not

feeling confident, then imagine

how other people who haven’t

had as much experiences have

been feeling.

RC: What were some of the

comments you got from

fellow restaurateurs in the

city? Are they expressing the

same frustrations or were there

other concerns that surfaced?

SV: Honestly, it was all positive.

There was a lot of support, a lot

of words of encouragement, and

it re-affirmed the idea that we’re

all in this together and we’re all

feeling the same thing — we

don’t know if we’re going to be

open tomorrow or not; we don’t

know if we’re going to get any

help. And, [it’s] not only the day

to day, but what happens in a

couple months from now when

CERB runs out and all those

unemployed industry workers are

left to fend for themselves? And

what happens if regulations aren’t

being lifted and we’re closer to

the end of the summer and into

the holiday season; what happens

to the business we relied on

during the holiday season —

large company parties and family

parties — if nobody feels

comfortable dining in a

dining room?

RC: Are you worried about the

industry in terms of what

happens to those independents

who won’t be able to come out

of this alive?

SV: I’m extremely worried, to be

honest. As a consumer, I worry

because I love to go out to eat

and to not know if my favourite

restaurants in the city are going

to be around when restrictions

are lifted is unnerving. I don’t

have all the answers, but one

thing I do know is we need to

make some serious changes to

the way our industry runs. We’re

a resilient industry and a lot

of people will make it through

this. But, the ones that don’t

— where does that leave their

future? Because, for people like

me, who’ve been in the industry

for 25 years, it’s not like I’m just

going to go find a new profession

if this doesn’t work out — this

is what I’ve invested my whole

life’s work into. So, it’s kind of

sad and things do need to change.

Commercial real estate has gotten

completely out of control

in Toronto and needs to be

regulated; the wage inequality of

restaurants needs to be addressed;

mental-health issues; systemic

racism — these are all problems

that have existed in restaurants

for years. And, as the microscope

is now on and as we all try to

figure out what our business is

going to look like in the years to

come, this is the time to address

those situations and create

positive environments for our

employees and our customers.

RC: How has the supply chain

dealt with this this pandemic?

Have they been helpful for

restaurants that have

remained open?

SV: I obviously have a unique

situation because I deal with a

lot of local suppliers and they’re

pretty small as well. So, we’ve

been able to work together and a

lot of them have pivoted to home

delivery and opening their businesses

up to the public, which

obviously, they needed to do. But,

as far as help from a lot of those

larger industries, I haven’t seen or

heard much of anything. It’s like

they’re waiting for all of this to

blow over. But, what they don’t

realize is, if they’re not helping

right now, I don’t know if there’s

going to really be much come out

of this when it’s all said and done.

RC: What are you hearing from

your fellow restaurateurs and

chefs now that restaurants are

starting to re-open patios and


SV: On the patio subject, to

use my restaurant as a perfect

example, we’re only licensed for

16 [patio seats] and it’s pretty

easy to do the math of what 50

per cent of that is — that’s not a

very sustainable business model.

When the City of Toronto rolled

out the CafeTO program, it was

basically like, if you have a sidewalk

or outdoor space, all you

have to do is apply for it and

you can put tables out in that

space. Unfortunately, I know a

lot of people that were denied

their applications. Those that

were able to obviously have tried

to take advantage of it, but for

a 2,500-sq.-ft. restaurant that

could only put three tables on the

sidewalk, what is that really going

to do for them financially? And

then you have to bring an extra

employee in, who’s paid either

hourly or salary, to manage those

tables and it just starts to add

extra costs. I don’t think the patio

rollout was an answer.

As for the 50-per-cent capacity

in dining-room, what does that

actually do for your sales? How

often are you going to be able

to turn those tables? How much

staff do you have to bring back

to execute it — it’s definitely not

50 per cent of your staff, because

there’s a lot more that goes into

it than that, especially from a

kitchen standpoint. It’s going to

take pretty much 100 per cent

of your full kitchen staff to be

able to execute something like

that. So, I don’t believe the costs

involved in re-opening in those

formats are going to balance

with the sales. But, right now, it’s

desperate times and everybody’s

just doing whatever they can to

have any kind of sales coming in

whatsoever, so I can’t really blame

restaurants for doing it.

And then there’s the other side

of things, too, from the consumer

standpoint. Are people going

to feel comfortable going into

a dining-room? I know, for me,

it’s been quite a while since I’ve

actually sat in the restaurant and

I don’t know how I feel about

that. I don’t know how I feel,

even with the table six-feet away,

with a server leaning over me and

whether people are wearing masks

or not. It’s already been proven in

the U.S. — with it re-opening in

the irresponsible way it has — that

even if you do take precautions

at a restaurant, all it takes is one

positive case to come up in your

restaurant or staff and you have to

shut back down again. And that’s a

very uneasy feeling for restaurants

who put all this time, effort and

money into re-opening.

RC: Are you hearing from other

chefs in the community that

they’re reluctant to re-open?

SV: As restaurateurs and business

people, a lot of us are feeling like

it’s necessary to do so. Especially

if whatever takeout model you’re

doing right now isn’t generating

enough income. But there is a

large amount of that uneasy feeling

and a lot of concern from the


staff. I don’t see a lot of front-ofthe-house

[staff] rushing to

come back to work — that’s from

talking with my furloughed staff,

who I’ve remained in contact

with and other front-of-the-house

employees in the industry. Yes,

they realize they can’t live off of

and remain on CERB or EI forever,

but they’re feeling a little bit

uneasy [about coming] back to

work and having to serve people.

They might have a mask on when

they walk inside, but once they

sit down to dine, they’re going to

have to take the mask off to eat

and drink and then, at that exact

moment, as a server, you’re completely

vulnerable. There’s a lot of

policing and regulations that have

been put on the business owner

and I know we have to do it, but I

also don’t find it’s necessarily fair

to make that the responsibility of

the establishment.

RC: Can restaurants really keep

doing this for the next year until

there is a vaccine?

SV: I don’t think it’s sustainable

at all — not without help from

the government. You’re talking

about an industry that, on

average, has astronomically low

profit margins to begin with and

then you take away the ability

to make 100 per cent of your

business back. And those four to

six per cent profit margins start

to dwindle very quickly.

And, let’s face it, a lot of

restaurant operators can’t do

their own delivery — they just

aren’t set up that way. It’s a huge

risk, too. There are insurance

costs that come into that, there’s

actually finding an employee or

business owner that has a car and

can drive around — it’s a much

more complicated element to

add to your business as opposed

to just having people come in to

either do curbside pickup

or takeout.

we need to continue to persevere. we’ll come out

of this, but it’s going to take a lot of work, and

patience and help from the government. so,

go out and do whatever you need to do to get

the government officials to start listening —

that’s the only way we’re going to come

out of this as an industry

RC: Do you see closures happening

with more regularity or

will become more creative to

keep their businesses alive?

SV: I would like to think the

creativity has been there and will

continue to be there. But, unfortunately,

it doesn’t matter how

creative and how good of a

business person you are, you’re

very limited [in terms of] the

creativity you can offer right now.

RC: What lessons have you

learned operating during the


SV: It’s re-affirmed the idea that,

as restaurants or as an industry,

we’re resilient and we do whatever

it takes to make sure that

our businesses and our industry

can survive. As a small-business

owner for the last 10 years, I’ve

been pretty much thrown every

single scenario you could possibly

imagine and I’ve found a way to

persevere and improve. But, for

the first time in 10 years, I feel

pretty helpless and, for the first

time, I feel without help from the

government, without some kind

of rent subsidy and/or taxation

subsidies or property-tax issues,

most restaurants won’t be able

to survive. It’s tough and it’s not

fair for the industry to rely solely

on the patrons of our industry

to support it. And support isn’t

just financial either; it’s looking

at petitions and signing petitions

that are there to help the

industry; it’s using your power

on social media to help promote

these restaurants when you see

they’re doing different initiatives .

The reality is we have a government

right now that’s not really

taking the [struggles of] the

restaurant industry seriously. And,

if those government officials don’t

feel like cooking at home for the

rest of their existence and want to

be able to enjoy going out to eat

every once in a while, they need to

put some programs and systems in

place — it’s time to pay attention to

the restaurant industry and realize

that when small businesses thrive,

our economy thrives.

RC: What advice would you offer

other restaurateurs?

SV: I know it’s difficult right now,

but to try to stay positive; to not

get complacent and realize there

are things that we can still do to

help our business out. Do whatever

you can — contact your MPs

or any branch of government you

can. At the end of the day, as

politicians, voting power is very

powerful and if we can start to

make a difference by making our

voices heard, even at the lowest

levels of government, we start

from there. Obviously, you need

to concentrate on your business

and work on that, but we can’t

get to the point where we just

throw in the towel and give up

— we need to continue to persevere.

We’ll come out of this, but

it’s going to take a lot of work,

and patience and help from the

government. So, go out and do

whatever you need to do to get

the government officials to start

listening — that’s the only way

we’re going to come out of this

as an industry. FH

You can listen to

the entire podcast







The co-owners of Toronto’s Ufficio Restaurant discuss how the

COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their business


Rosanna Caira: What has it been

like for you during the COVID-19


Ivana Raca: Everything came as

a surprise and everybody took it

day by day — and we still are to

this day. Everybody was looking

forward to spring/summer and

had all these amazing plans. And

then everybody’s world went

upside down and we had to adapt

very quickly. When you’re a small

restaurant, it’s already hard to

get seatings if you’re not having

great weather or if you don’t have

a patio to begin with, which we

didn’t, but we do now. And so,

we adapted quickly and were one

of the first restaurants to get the

“takeout dinners for two” ready.

We had to think local and

everything was a hundred times

more difficult. Not knowing the

future was the scary part — not

knowing what tomorrow is going

to bring — but we were in the

same boat as everybody else, so

all we could do was look forward

and adapt to anything and

everything, whether it’s doing the

dishes or organizing the takeout.

Every business owner ended up

getting their hands in there every

day for every single role and it

brought everybody together. But

also, you have to do 20 or 30

different jobs in the day — you

go from prepping or dishwashing,

to making the delivery at the end

of the day.

Jennifer Coburn: When we first

went into lockdown we were

really overwhelmed with the

loyalty from our customers

checking in on us. I was so

shocked — we were in the middle

of a pandemic, people were afraid

and [yet] we were getting emails

from people just asking ‘how are

you? Are you okay?’ That was

really surprising to me and those

loyal customers were all the first

people to order from us. There

are a lot of restaurants in the

industry and the pie is not big

enough for everybody to have

a slice. It’s not affordable to get

takeout every day. So, thank God

our clients were fortunate enough

that they could do that every

week, which is incredible and

amazing. And the least we could

do was, obviously, bring them

great service and delicious food.

Ufficio is a casual finedining

Italian restaurant

on Dundas West in Toronto

that differentiates itself

with its pescatarian menu.

The 45-seat restaurant

offers a menu free of

meat products, but heavy

on vegetables and




RC: Take us through the process

of pivoting to takeout?

IR: [I was] working for free

because you’ll do anything that

you can to have a restaurant

survive and [wear many] hats —

you prep, you cook, you know you

didn’t have a dishwasher. We kept

our team very small. Everything

was made from scratch, so of

course it makes it a little harder

because you [need to] stay true to

the food and make sure you’re still

delivering the same kind of food

as when they come in [to dine].

You can cut corners, but still do

the right things the right way. [For

example,] sometimes I would do

the last delivery and when we were

able to hire staff back, our servers

would be the drivers; they would

organize the takeout orders and

call the clients. Running a restaurant

is one of the most difficult

things you can do and I praise

anybody who signs up for it. But

this was hard, and everybody felt

it, but all we could do is take it day

by day and go with the waves just

to survive.

RC: Were you able to take

advantage of some of the

benefits the government was

putting forth, whether it was the

$40,000 forgivable loan or the

75-per-cent wage subsidy?

JC: That’s obviously a huge issue

right now. When the government

tells you, legally you can’t open

your business, I don’t know how

you’re legally responsible for

your financial responsibilities.

It’s expensive to run a restaurant

[and] I don’t know very many

restaurants that have millions

of dollars in the bank. We did

get the $40,000 loan from the

government, so that’s super helpful.

We have a small restaurant, so

that means that we don’t have

huge overhead in terms of rent

and that makes it a little bit easier,

because paying a percentage is

not that much money.

RC: Do you feel the government

has done a good job of listening

to the restaurant industry in

terms of what it needs to survive

and get through this?

JC: Definitely not in the first

couple weeks, when they’d make

an announcement and then,

for a few weeks, there was no

mention of anything — everybody

was scared we were forgotten.

We’re lucky that we didn’t have

a $60,000-rent space downtown.

I can’t picture big restaurants

that had to lay off 300 staff — I

can’t even imagine being in that

situation. There’s nobody in the

restaurant industry that has that

kind of money just sitting in the

bank. Every restaurant needs to

be open and successful five days a

week for you to [show any] profit.

[On the other hand,] I was

actually shocked at how quickly

they removed the red tape for

some things, [such as] getting

CERB — what a blessing to be

in a country that just hands you

cash. And then there were the

patios — [the government] made

that change right away.

RC: Some operators and chefs

have also pivoted to selling more

retail items, did you also do that?

And if so, how did that work?

IR: We didn’t do the retail part.

but if we had a customer call us

and tell us ‘we would love to have

this,’ we’d sell it to them. It was

the least we could do for them

for supporting us when there’s

[Uber] is worth millions,

for sure, but that’s off the

backs of restaurants that are

struggling to survive. and, at

this time, it was in bad taste

to charge so much

so many restaurants that wanted

that clientele. [In terms of delivery,]

what benefited us was that we

didn’t care where you lived — if

we could do it, it happened —

and the fact that we did that was

a huge plus.

RC: How did the supplier

community work with you

through this period and did you

have to change any of your

purchasing processes?

IR: Being an Italian-forward

restaurant, there were no

containers coming from Italy

[with ingredients]. Our business

partner did her research and

we supported local — the most

important thing was supporting

within our community. And, even

if it took two-and-a-half hours to

go get our trout — our business

partner did it every week — we

did it. We actually got amazing

prices and were fortunate enough

that our business partner got to

meet a lot of amazing people.

Before all this happened, we

wouldn’t have had the time or

we would make excuses — we’re

so busy doing 200 different jobs

a day, by the end of the day,

you’re mentally and physically

exhausted, you’re not thinking

about going to a farm to pick up

12 pints of raspberries or going

to the [food] terminal — but this

was a good way for the community

to connect with each other and

support each other in this time.

RC: Moving forward, do you think

you’ll be changing some of your

normal procedures to incorporate

some of what has had to transpire

over the last few months?

JC: I hope people will continue

with the takeout. I think they

now realize how great it is to have

our food in their home and they

probably wouldn’t have thought

about it before. Very rarely are

you going to order takeout from a

semi-fine-dining restaurant.



So, hopefully that stays strong.

And then there’s some little

things, like I said, such as the

patio. I hope that continues on.

We do a QR code, right now on

the table, so we’re not handing

out menus. Not only does that

save us monetarily on menus,

but it’s quick — it just pops up

on your phone. And, hopefully

we figure out something with

Uber. Even though there are

some other [third-party delivery

companies], they don’t have the

same type of power Uber has. But

the problem is, of course, that

everybody knows it overcharges

at 30-per- cent [commission].

It’s very high and leaves almost

no room for the restaurant to

make any money. [Uber] is worth

millions, for sure, but that’s off

the backs of restaurants that are

struggling to survive. And, at this

time, it was in bad taste to charge

so much.

RC: What do you think the

long-term impact of COVID-19

will be on smaller, independent


JC: Unless we continue to get

financial support from the

government for wages and rent,

it’s going to be really difficult

to survive until we’re at 100-percent

occupancy. The social

distancing and whatever other

restrictions are going to come

from COVID-19 are not going to

go away until there’s a vaccine.

IR: There have been a few of our

employees that are getting CERB

and don’t want to come back to

work, or they’re nervous or don’t

feel comfortable, and we respect

that. We’re just taking it day by

day. And, we’re just very grateful

that we have this patio because

we would be back to the takeout.

And, now that we’re getting takeout

and the patio, it’s amazing.

RC: What does Stage Three of

re-opening look like for your


IR: We have a small restaurant, so

for us to socially distance, there’s

going to be about four tables, but

that’s fine, we have the full patio.

There are restaurants with air

conditioning and a giant space

and I’m sure they’re going to

benefit from Phase Three. For

us, it’s an added bonus.

RC: What type of safety policies

are you implementing in the

restaurant? Will you be

installing plexiglass?

IR: Servers definitely wear masks

and we [struggle with the plexiglass]

question. We have a cozy

ambiance, so are people going to

want that? [Customers] can’t sit

at the bar because our bar’s tiny

and the pathway is non-existent

— it makes it super tight for the

inside and, in October, when the

patio does close, that’s another

adjustment that we’re going to

have to do.

RC: Many people are saying

COVID-19 has highlighted the

flaws that have always existed

in the industry. Is this a good

time and opportunity to change

the hospitality industry in more

positive ways?

JC: There may be a lot of good

that comes out of it in terms

of the way the structure of the

industry operates. If we’re talking

about the restaurant industry

being flawed, I would just say the

number-1 thing about owning

a restaurant is there’s very low

margins. The reality is that if the

restaurant doesn’t make money

and it doesn’t financially support

the people involved, then we can’t

exist. This isn’t about making

billions off your back here, it’s

literally survival. Another thing is

that people expect restaurants to

donate food and time and I find

it super strange. We’re not some

giant corporation that has

millions of dollars in the bank and

can just do these types of things.

We want to donate some of our

time, like with Open Kitchen.

That’s a big initiative — we were

doing a dinner a month for a

while and having support from

the community and other shops

was huge. And then we would

donate all of that money. None

of it was for us — we donate all

that money to a scholarship, just

to encourage girls to get into the

industry because there’s a discrepancy

in the numbers there.

RC: As a woman in the industry,

I’m sure you’ve had your share

of challenges. Do you feel that

we’re going far enough or quickly

enough to move the needle on

gender equality? What would

you like to see change in a

quicker fashion?

IR: I’ve been in the industry 20

years and I was mentored by two

very talented men, Martin Cuban,

Sash Simpson, and, of course,

Rob Gentile and Ryan Campbell.

But, as a woman, I feel like there

is a boy’s club, so women should

do the same because sometimes

there isn’t that support. We

started Open Kitchen because

why aren’t women meeting up

with women and having these

great women’s clubs? You see men

do it all the time and women

need to support each other a lot

more instead of seeing each other

as a threat —especially if you’re

up and coming. My sister always

says, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky. You’re

everywhere’ and it’s not that I’m

everywhere — I work very hard

to be at the top, to be recognized

as a female chef, because I’m s

urrounded by 99 per cent men.

And what’s going to make me

special, I know, is my drive. But I

know you do have to have a soft

side where people will connect

and want you because you’re

a role model, but you also can

come off as being too strong or

too dominant and right away

you’re pronounced as a bitch.

RC: There’s been a lot of work

being done to help women, but

there’s also issues around racism.

What does the industry need

to do to ensure it treats people

more equitably?

IR: A lot has to be done. I feel

like we’re on the right path, but

there’s so much to do and there’s

so much that is holding a lot of

people back. It’s leading by example,

having those weekly meetings

with your employees and encouraging

your staff that if they see

something, report it — it needs

to be dealt with right away. In

the industry 20 years ago, a lot of

things were ignored and women

were putting up with things —

those times are changed. Every

person needs to set an example

and be an example and be held

accountable for their actions.

RC: What are some of the

biggest lessons you’ve learned

through the pandemic?

JC: Don’t give up. I wasn’t sure

at first that what we were doing

was going to be okay or was going

to help us make it through or be

enough. But the loyalty and

customer support just blew me

away — that people were thinking

about us in such a strange time. So

that for me was an amazing part of

this experience. And just adapting

and learning how to be different in

a weird time.

IR: Adapting was the biggest

thing and I feel like we did such a

good job. To this day, everybody’s

doing whatever they can every

week, and we’re just going to

continue doing what we need to

do to survive. FH

You can listen to

the entire podcast








Alessandro Vianello knows his way around pizza

equipment. “I like all different types for different reasons,”

says the executive chef for Kitchen Table Restaurants in

Vancouver. The organization operates five restaurants that

include three pizza establishments — Pizzeria Farina, Di

Beppe and Farina a Legna. “A lot depends on the style of

pizza you want to make.”


At the Pizzeria Farina takeout pizzeria, the equipment

of choice is Allen, Texas-based Bakers Pride gas ovens.

Di Beppe boasts Mississauga, Ont.-based Miwe’s electric

ovens, while at Farina a Legna, a Vesuvio wood-fired oven

from Tuscany, Italy stands centre stage.



At Pizzeria Farina,

Alessandro Vianello

knows every good pizza

starts with the right


Pizzas on deck

Deck ovens are considered

the basic workhorses of

the pizza world. “There’s

no crazy functionality for the most

part,” Vianello says. “You just turn

them on and that’s it. The one

difference is, with gas you have

only bottom heat, which requires

a bit more control. Electric is very

good because you have top and bottom heat.

However, they draw a lot of power and not all

buildings have enough.”

Domenic Primucci, president of Torontobased

Pizza Nova, says a vast majority of his

operations use natural-gas deck ovens. “I

prefer gas deck ovens over conveyor or rapid

cook. They might take a little more care and

training, but it’s what we like best. We only

Double-batch pizza oven from

W.D. Colledge

use electric if there’s no alternative,

such as ground-floor operations in

condo complexes where there are

no gas runs.”

While they are workhorses,

the stones in the deck ovens do

require regular cleaning, he cautions.

“You also need to regularly

clean under the decks to keep the

gas valves clean.”

Pizza Nova also has what

Primucci calls a “gluten-free kit”

at every location that includes a

special screen to place under a

pizza while baking in a dedicated

chamber, so it doesn’t make contact

with the stone surface, as well

as separate peels and cutters.

In addition, Pizza Nova has

mobile trailer units used at special

events. The units contain

two Bakers Pride deck

ovens and are powered

by propane gas. “It takes

a bit of time to heat up

the ovens, so we need

to start them up a little

earlier to get to the

right heat.”

Depending on the

brand, a two-deck oven

would cost close to

$20,000, with Bakers

Pride a clear market

From the Supply Side

Marra Forni’s Rotator oven is designed to change the way highvolume

kitchens cook. This smart brick-oven eliminates the need

to hire highly trained chefs to produce creative, healthy and costeffective

food options. The Rotator oven can cook pizzas evenly

in a half rotation, in under 90 seconds. It can also be used for a

variety of applications, including for baking, slow roasting, braising

meats, fire-roasting veggies, and seafood in a cast-iron pan. The

Rotator features easy-to-use touchscreen controls and innovative

forced-air burner technology, which uses only 84,000 BTUs. Four

models/sizes are available in a variety of customized tile options.

Wave oven from W.D. Colledge

To each their own

Wood-fired is Vianello’s pizza oven of choice

from a personal perspective. “I love it — the

flavour is incredible. But they do require a lot

more management when it comes to regulating

the temperature and moving pizzas around

while cooking. If I were to open up another

place with an open kitchen, that’s what I would

go with, although they’re expensive.”

Wood/gas-fired ovens tend to carry a hefty

price, but are well worth the investment for

some operations, Santos says. Leading brands

include Woodstone (Bellingham, Wash.),

Marra Forni (Beltsville, Md.) and Beech

(Eagle Farm, Australia). “Depending on the

leader in the category, says chef Gabriel

Santos, corporate chef for Western Canada

at W.D. Colledge in Vancouver. Countertop

versions of deck ovens from brands such

as Blodgett (Burlington, Vt.), Garland

(Mississauga, Ont.) and Marsal (Essex

Junction, Vt.), cost between $10,000 to

$16,000, depending on the model and

heating method.

size you’re looking at, a minimum of $25,000

to $30,000 when you take into account the

frame, installation and customization.”

A number of larger restaurant chains use

conveyor ovens, Santos says. “You won’t get

the char and crispiness that some restaurants

want, but they’re incredibly easy to use. They

do, however, require a bit of work in terms of

fan power and air-flow adjustments to get just


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Wood-fired oven at Pizzeria


the right crispness.” Popular

brands include Lincoln,

TurboChef, Middleby

Marshall and XLT and prices

can range from $15,000 to

$40,000 depending on size.

Rapid-cook ovens are ideal

for restaurants that want

to add pizza to the menu,

but don’t have the space or

ventilation system, Santos

adds. “We usually recommend

microwave assist for

pizzas that are partially

baked. If you’re working with

raw dough, you don’t need

the microwave function.”

Brands include TurboChef,

Merrychef and Ovention.

Rolling in

the Dough

Ovens are only one part of

achieving the perfect pizza.

Dough mixers count among

the absolute necessities for

operators, Vianello says. “I

have two spiral dough mixers

and an old planetary mixer

at our locations. I like the

Italian brands best because

they’re tried and tested.”

Sizes can range from 20 to

180 kg, but Vianello tends to

settle for a middle-of-the-road

60 kg. size that costs about

$6,000. “There are some mixers

that cost less, but they don’t

work as well when doing huge

volumes. If you’re a restaurant

offering pizza in addition to

other cuisine, they might be

okay. But, if you make large

batches several times a day, you

need to invest in one that is

extremely reliable.”

Popular brands include

Globe, Doyon and Cinelli.

A new item in Vianello’s

repertoire is a dough press,

which came with the new

commissary space. “I’ve never

tried one before but am willing

to give it a shot. I know

others who say they’re great

and save on staffing.”

Prepping for


Another must is prep tables.

These can vary a lot in terms

of size and compartments

(i.e. drawers, doors and number

of toppings), Santos says.

Brands include Beverage-Air,

True and Continental.

Pizza Nova’s prep stations

are custom made by a

stainless-steel specialist. “You

can get ones pre-done, but

we often have to tweak sizes

to maximize space depending

on the store size,” Primucci

says. “Typically, it’s a threedoor

fridge with a cabinet for

the compressor, a refrigerated

ingredient counter on top

and marble prep surface.”

Depending on the type of

operation, additional necessities

may include a meat

slicer, food processor for

making sauces and a holding

or proofing cabinet. Holding

cabinet manufacturers

include Alto-Shaam, Metro

and Carter Hoffman.

Whatever the choices,

equipment decisions start

with the type of pizza you

want to serve. From that

point, there is no shortage of

options available, from ovens

to prep tools to smallwares. FH

Lee Ann Kelly, VP Sales,

Marketing and Global

Sourcing for American

Metalcraft in Franklin Park,

Ill., says there’s been

an extreme increase in

demand for certain tools

and accessories. Here’s

her list of some of the

hottest selling pizzamaking


Aluminum peels for

removing pizzas from ovens,

wooden peels for prep and


Anything to cut pizzas,

including wheels and

rocking knives (for deeperdish

pizzas). A popular new

addition is a pizza scissor/

turner that lets you cut any

style of pizza and then turn

it on its side to serve up

a slice

Dough dockers for

aerating dough for a more

evenly cooked crust and

eliminating bubbles

Delivery bags with builtin

frames to carry multiple

pizzas for delivery

Pizza stones. “There’s

been a demand for stones

because they convert

any kind of oven to a

pizza oven.”

Dough boxes for proofing

Pizza racks for prepping

Pizza oven cleaning brushes

Number tents for

quick-service pizza

operations.“They’re simple,

but they’re a great way to

identify different order in

a large oven.”








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restaurant re-openings

move forward, proper

AS sanitation and

“cleaning practices will be critical

benchmarks to success. Whether

it’s a fine-dining or takeout

establishment, consumers are

increasingly vigilant about the

health-and-safety practices of the

restaurants they frequent.

“The important thing to

consider is that customers are

watching,” says Chris Boyles,

VP of Food Safety for Steritech,

in Charlotte, N.C. “Cleaning

and disinfecting used to be kept

behind the scenes. Now restaurants

are purposely showing

practices to instill customer and

team-member confidence.”

Cleaning practices have always

been an important aspect of the

hospitality industry. But now the

stakes are exponentially higher,

says Jenny Companion, VP Eastern

Operations for The Fifteen Group

in Toronto. “What they’re using to

clean may not have changed, but

how often and how thoroughly

they use it has.”

The good news is there’s a

growing interest in equipment

innovation and best practices to

draw from that can help the cause.

But, even so, many operators and

their staff are facing a significant

learning curve.

“Everyone understanding

cleanliness from a virology standpoint

needs to be at the forefront

of operations,” says Josh Wolfe,

director of Sales at Food Service

Solutions Inc. in Toronto. “The

big challenge is people don’t know

how to do it effectively. There’s

a lot of misinformation around

processes and procedures and little

guidance in the way of protocols.”

Wolfe has been involved in

dozens of walkthroughs to assess

sanitation practices, and says even

the best-intended practices could

use some work. One main challenge

is identifying all hotspots in

an establishment. “There are high

touchpoints that people don’t see

and are not necessarily identified

on the sanitation list, such

as under chairs or fridge-door

frames. You need to talk about

sanitizing areas, not just handles

and [visible] surfaces.”

Another common mistake is

wiping down surfaces too quickly.

The reality is, chemicals in sanitizers

require a dwell time to be

effective, which can range anywhere

from three to 10 minutes.

“This presents a real problem,

since most people don’t know

about dwell time and purveyors

are not conveying the message,”

says Wolfe.

“Dwell time is the piece that is

most misunderstood or not even

considered,” adds Boyles. “All

chemicals have a time they have

to stay wet to be effective, which

will be indicated on the label. It

doesn’t mean it’s useless to just

wipe and dine, but you won’t get





the full effect.”

Choosing the right equipment

for sanitizing establishments is

critical. Spray systems in particular

fall under four categories, explains

Wolfe. The first is the handheld

pump spray. “These can be labour

intensive and dispense large,

inconsistent droplets, so they don’t

necessarily deliver large volumes

of chemicals at once. If you go too

How to Elevate Your

Sanitization Programs

According to Chris Boyles, VP of Food Safety for Steritech, there are many points

to consider when putting together a pandemic-focused sanitization plan. “You

have to learn about chemical content, cleaning frequency, coverage guidelines,

protective equipment, physical distancing and interaction with customers.

Everyone also needs to be trained and monitored.

Here are a few tips for elevating your sanitation program.

• See how many cleaning

surfaces you can eliminate.

Move common

touchpoints, such

as self-serve drink

and condiment stations,

to counter

service where possible

• Sanitize restrooms

frequently. Provide

towels for people to use

when touching taps and

door handles

• Re-work your master

cleaning schedule to

include all the items

that weren’t in the past

and display it in a

prominent place

• Assign the same staff

to specific teams/shifts

to reduce the number

of people who can be

potentially exposed

• Assign a specific person

for complex equipment

cleaning and sanitizing

• Keep a good supply of

anti-microbial gloves

and aprons

• Don’t share headsets

amongst team members

• Switch to contactless

payment and ordering


• Close play areas in

self-service operations

• Assess air-handling

systems and invest in

upgrades where needed





fast, (which is typical), you are

not sanitizing effectively.”

The second is electrostatic

sprayers that were originally

designed for the paint industry.

“When sprayed at a surface,

they stick very effectively and

have a wrap effect around the

sides and backs of objects,” says

Wolfe. “However, because they

were designed for paint, they

tend to be over-pressurized,

have a high rate of failure and

the droplets are inconsistent.”

The third is fogging, which

replaces all the air with a mist.

This requires special equipment

and a person wearing a respirator.

“It’s not an effective option

as a day-to-day or minute-tominute

solution,” he notes.

A new technology making

its way into the foodservice

industry is purpose-built

airless, non-pressurized

sanitizers that offer a wider

spray pattern, consistent

droplet sizes and specialized

internal parts that can’t be

corroded by chemicals. “Users

can deliver a perfect thin film

of spray that doesn’t need

to be wiped and covers vast

areas quickly, including nooks

and crannies. Systems start at

around $1,400,” says Wolfe.

Boyles cautions people

need to check labels for

special protective-equipment

requirements (some require

goggles) and reminders of

chemical mixing dangers.

Now that airborne transmission

of COVID-19 is

confirmed, restaurant areas

and, in particular, ventilation

systems, will likely need

upgrades or, at the very least,

more-stringent monitoring.

One effective way to reduce

airborne transmissions is to

increase outside air coming

into the facility. Another is

advanced filtration systems.

IoT platform developer

Senseware based in Vienna,

Va. has introduced new plugand-play


sensors that can track air

quality — including pathogens

— in real time and alert

operators when particles

exceed pre-set limits.

Beyond equipment, there

are other practices that can

help restaurants reduce the risk

of contamination. One is staff

assignments, Companion notes.

“Where possible, there should

be staff members specifically

assigned to sanitization. For

example, taking dirty dishes

from tables, cleaning surfaces

and utensils and sanitizing

tables between turnovers.”

A key area to consider is

the dishwashing station, she

adds. “You need to set up/

prepare the station with

enhanced PPE (impermeable

aprons, face masks/shields,

heavy gloves) and create a

clear separation between clean

and dirty — one person only

touches dirty products and

rinses, while the other only

touches the clean dishes.”

It also helps to advise guest

limits on tables so there is

enough time to clean and sanitize

tables between sittings.

Plexiglass shields are

especially helpful for moreconfined

restaurant spaces

where physical distancing is

a challenge.

Jim Romer owns three

Romer’s Burgers locations in

Vancouver and Port Moody,

B.C.. With occupancy reduced

by half, he wanted to create

an environment that was safe

for guests and staff. The only

caveat was that demand was

so high, barriers were in

short supply.

He found a designer who

built a series of movable

plexiglass walls that can be

easily reconfigured. The total

cost for all three restaurants

was $10,000. “It changed the

feel of the dining room a bit.

But we know people need to

be extra safe when they’re

going out [to eat].” FH










With the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, operats acrs all segments have simplified menus with a f

that yield high profits. operats face economic lses and wk on recovery, expect operats to mark

beverage favourites,— especially the that appeal to customers who may be seeking comft flavours immunity




ocus on ce items

et and highlight

-boting qualities


plant-based offerings,

including non-dairy milk

alternatives and functional

ingredients, were key trends

impacting the coffee and

tea segment, notes Sophie

Mir, associate editor at

Technomic. However, the

pandemic has caused shifts

that altered the course of

these trends.

“With operators turning

their focus to core

offerings to stay afloat,

the fast-paced momentum

of the plant-based trend

we saw earlier in the year

was forced to slow down,”

Mir explains. “However,

it’s recently picked back up

again as more operations

have re-opened. As the

year progresses, we expect

to see operators continuing

to diversify their plantbased

selections with even

more unique twists,” she

says, pointing to Starbucks’

launch of non-dairy cold

foams in June.

Many major players

within this space have

added plant-based milks to

their lineup within the last

year. Even Tim Hortons,

which has been slow to

adopt milk alternatives,

began offering Silk Almond

Beverage (as well as skim

milk) across Canada in

June. This addition allows

customers to customize

their hot beverages, iced

coffee and Iced Capps with

non-dairy milk. “Hearing

and acting on guest feedback

is really important

to help us provide the

best possible experience.

We’re happy to be offering

more choices to guests,”

Hope Bagozzi, CMO, Tim

Hortons, said of the launch.

According to Statistics

Canada, Canadians are

consuming about 20-percent

less dairy milk than

they were a decade ago.

And, oat beverage has

recently emerged as a fastgrowing

dairy alternative.

Between 2018 and 2019,

oat-beverage sales spiked

by 244 per cent nationwide,

according to data from

The Nielsen Company. By

comparison, during the

same period, soy- (down

one per cent), coconut-

(down three per cent) and

rice (down 48 per cent)

milk sales declined.

“In May, Second Cup

became the first national

coffee chain in Canada

to introduce oat milk to

its menu,” shares Steven

Pelton, CEO of Aegis

Brands. “Demand for oat

milk has surged in recent

years, thanks in large part

to its sustainable footprint

and superior taste.” As he

explains, the production of

oat milk requires 80-percent

less land and 20-times

less water than traditional

dairy milk, while “its

creamy taste and smooth

texture make it a perfect

pairing with coffee.”

Starbucks, which has

been offering non-dairy

options since 2004, also

introduced oat beverage

in Canada this summer

— representing the fourth

dairy alternative to join

Starbucks Canada’s menu,

which includes soy beverage,

almond beverage and

coconut beverage.

The company has committed

to including more

plant-based options on its

menu as part of its global

sustainability commitments

and, in 2020, has already

introduced a number of

non-dairy beverages. New

offerings include Cold Brew

with Cinnamon Almond

Foam, the Almond Honey

Flat White, the Coconut

Latte and several new Iced

Coconut Drinks.

Facing New


As social and economic

circumstances shifted drastically

due to pandemic-



elated restrictions, many companies

have had to focus their

efforts on survival and recovery.

Pandemic-related shutdowns,

as well as the new behaviours of

consumers that suddenly found

themselves working from home,

hit cafés and coffee shops hard.

“Across all areas of foodservice,

operators are experiencing economic

struggles and the coffee/

café segment is no exception to

this,” states Mir. “From a financial

standpoint, brands will experience

economic losses, with the

remainder of the year focusing on

recovery — or even survival — for

smaller emerging chains or independent


An example that clearly

highlights the economic hardship

faced within the industry,

Montreal-based DAVIDsTEA Inc.

filed for bankruptcy protection

and began implementing a

re-structuring plan in order to

stem the losses from its retail stores

and accelerate its transition to an

online retailer and wholesaler.

“The transformation of our

business model is necessary

to position the company for a

return to profitability,” explains

Frank Zitella, CFO and COO of


experienced a multi-year decline

in brick-and-mortar sales and the

post-COVID-19 retail environment

creates significant challenges

for our unique in-store customer

experience.” He adds the chain

“may terminate a significant number

of our 222 leases as we seek to

right-size our retail footprint.”

In June, Starbucks also

announced plans to close up to

200 company-operated locations

in Canada over the next twoyears





Entering 2020, beverages featuring

functional ingredients were on the

rise. “Certain aspects of the functional-ingredients

trend are more

relevant today as consumers place

heavier emphasis on their mental,

emotional and physical well-being,”

shares Sophie Mir, associate editor at

Technomic. “Ingredients that provide

mental and emotional benefits, are

increasingly essential as consumers

navigate the new normal of their

day-to-day lives, such as remote

work environments.” Embracing

demand for functional beverages,

this summer, Toronto-based coffee

brand Strange Love launched

botanical cafés inside each of its four

Toronto locations, offering moodaltering

tinctures, tonics and drinks.

as part of “portfolio-optimization”

efforts. This strategy coincides

with plans to reposition many U.S.

stores and will see some Canadian

locations be repositioned as well.

Starbucks is working to accelerate

the U.S. expansion of convenience-led

formats, such as drivethru,

mobile-order-only Starbucks

Pickup locations, walk-up windows

and curbside pickup, over the

next 18 months to meet changing

customer behaviours. The transformation

will also encompass

renovations to select store layouts,

including the addition of a separate

counter for mobile orders.

Strategy shakeups are likely

to be the norm as the industry

navigates the current environment.

While the major players

within the segment have been

prioritizing the development of

digital channels in recent years,

COVID-19 has served to accelerate

this process — as it has with a

number of key trends within the

foodservice industry.

“The COVID-19 pandemic

forced chains to become more

innovative in serving their customers,

with a huge emphasis

on off-premise opportunities,

while in-store operations were

closed,” says Mir. “Even as stores

open, customers are still wary

of coming on-premise, so offpremise

service will be huge for

the remainder of the year. For

example, some chains launched

curbside pickup, while others

[offered] online ordering for

retail items.”

Tim Hortons’ parent company,

Restaurant Brands International

(RBI), also indicated the importance

of digital innovation to its

recovery efforts. “Our teams have

re-written code for our apps;

re-imagined service opportunities

such as curbside pickup; and

expanded delivery services into

thousands of new restaurants.

The outcome has been a significant

increase in digital sales in

North America and we believe

this trend shift to digital is what

guests will continue to demand,”

Jose, Cil, CEO, RBI, shared in a

company update.

On the retail front, Pelton

points to the launch of Second

Cup’s e-commerce platform,

which took place in April, as the

brand’s “biggest new development”

to take place since COVID-

19 hit. This saw the brand offer

home delivery for its products for

the first time. Aegis’ other café

brand, Bridgehead (acquired in

January), has also seen growth

through retail channels during

this period. “Following the closure

of its coffeehouses due to

COVID-19, Bridgehead has seen

10-times growth in its online

sales,” says Pelton.

As coffee shops progressed

down the path to re-opening, Mir

notes one bright spot. “According

to Technomic’s Canadian consumer-survey

data, 51 per cent

are buying from local restaurants

as a way to support the community.

It’s undeniable this is a hard

time for everyone, but in true

Canadian spirit, it looks like consumers

are ready to take out their

wallets to help their neighbourhood

restaurants stay afloat.”

Aegis Brands has been seeing

the impact of this behaviour first

hand. “What’s amazing to see is

just how quickly our operations

are bouncing back — much

quicker than anticipated and

far surpassing our post-COVID

expectations,” shares Pelton.

“Second Cup cafés in Alberta

and the Eastern provinces, for

example, have been delivering

year-over-year same-store-sales

results of approximately 75 per

cent, despite the significant

distancing regulations that are

still in place…It’s clear that

there’s a strong desire [from customers]

to return to the comforts

of their coffee routine as quickly

as possible.” FH

With many Canadians working from home, foodservice spending has taken a

huge hit and, according to a recent study by The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at

Dalhousie University, in partnership with Caddle, many Canadians intend to

continue working from home for the long term.

Given the strong link between morning foodservice occasions — which

account for a large portion of out-of-home coffee sales — and the workday

commute, this is expected to pose a challenge for coffee-focused operations.

According to The NPD Group, in 2019, hot coffee was included in 30 per cent of

all foodservice meal or snacks purchases. But, during the first three months

of the pandemic, that figure fell to 23 per cent (see story on p. 9).

Further, the Dalhousie report suggests workday foodservice visits will

continue to be impacted post-pandemic. Prior to the pandemic 36.8 per cent

of survey respondents were going to a restaurant or ordering out for a meal/

coffee break during the workday at least twice a week. That number goes

down to 23.3 per cent when asked about plans after the pandemic is over.

Unsurprisingly, as out-of-home coffee occasions decreased, retail sales of

coffee, as well as coffee equipment, increased. However, this has not made up

for demand losses.




Hatco Corporation’s Flav-R 2-Go Locker System food-holding lockers

conveniently hold multiple hot or ambient food orders with quick and secure access.

Customers and delivery drivers can access their specific locker and leave without

waiting in line or disturbing the flow of business. Each locker features a timer to hold

packaged foods for up to 45 minutes and are pre-set at 150ºF (66ºC), with a hightemperature

range up to 200ºF (93ºC). Individual lockers can have the heat turned

off for ambient food holding. The unit is available as a countertop, built-in or floormount

model and with pass-through or one-sided access. POS integration

capabilities are available with outside vendor setup.


SafeCount from Celco is a socialdistancing

monitoring system

that digitally tracks the number

of people entering and exiting

retail establishments. It’s

designed to facilitate social

distancing by providing store

management with easily monitored

and live occupancy counts,

including providing graphical data

on patterns throughout the day

and alerts when building capacity is

approached or reached — all through

a simple dashboard on a Wi-Fi-enabled

device. Optional traffic signals and audio

alerts let customers know when it is safe

to enter a building.








PuraShield Technology partnered with Unified Brands to offer PURA

400 and PURA 700. These rolling units are perfect for restaurants

aiming to get back to indoor serving and provide peace of mind for

patrons and employees. Each air purifier features a four-stage

filtration process, including a HEPA final filter for extra protection, and

can provide air protection up to 400 and 700 sq. ft., depending on the

PURA unit. Maintenance is not needed; proprietary chemical filtration

is changed at six-month intervals and filters are landfill safe.


Bevles has introduced its

Dry Well Tables. Engineered

for efficiency, each dry well

features a single formed

Calrod heating element with

independent temperature

control, designed to hold

a variety of foods at

precise serving temperature.

Tables are available in two,

three, four and five dry-well

options and the table-top

design is constructed of

all stainless steel with

galvanized-steel adjustable

feet. Each dry well features a

stainless-steel liner, durable

cutting board and adjustable

undershelf. In addition,

Bevles offers steam-table

accessories such as sneeze

guards for increased food

safety and protection, while

over the shelf options (12”

and 18”) provide additional

storage and prep space.






Copper Tape is a revolutionary innovation, available, through ASSA ABLOY

Global Solutions, that instantly equips existing restaurant door handles

with self-sanitizing abilities. Leveraging its copper-plated polyamide

fleece design, Copper Tape prevents the growth and spread of germs

and can be applied to a wide range of shared surfaces in seconds.



Server Products is launching three

new Touchless Express dispensers

that serve sauces and condiments

using motion-activated technology.

The touch-free dispensing units

feature PerfectSense technology,

which detects a user’s hand to

dispense up to a one-ounce portion

or variable portions if their hand is

removed before the dispensing cycle

is complete. Countertop and drop-in

units are available for pouched foods,

along with a direct-pour countertop

unit for house-made sauces.

Touchless units have the same footprint

as existing Express dispensers

and stainless-steel construction for

easy cleaning and a long lifespan.




Ready Railing from Superior Aluminum Products instantly creates

temporary outdoor-dining spaces to help with social distancing. This

lightweight aluminum product comes pre-assembled and ready to use,

saving time and effort. Durable, high-quality aluminum does not rust or

rot and is available in multiple colors, shapes and designs to help create

the perfect atmosphere. Maintenance-free Ready Railing is ideal for

restaurants, craft breweries and foodservice providers, as well as hotels,

community centres, outdoor venues and anywhere that architecturally

appealing temporary barriers are desired.




Rensair is an affordable and portable hospital-grade air-purification

system. Using HEPA13 filters and ozone-free UVC light, Rensair’s

patented technology kills more than 99.97 per cent of airborne

pollutants, including COVID-19. For over a decade, Rensair has been

used by Scandinavian hospitals. Food Service Solutions and Rensair

are now helping Canadian businesses and institutions re-open safely

for employees and customers.







More than 200,000 servings of

fresh ground pork will help feed Ontario families in

need this year, thanks to a grassroots fundraising

initiative supported by hog farmers and their

industry partners.

In July, the Pork Industry Gratitude Project

announced that a combined total of $85,000 had

been raised since April to support the Friendsof-the-Foodbank

program, which provides fresh

ground pork to the Feed-Ontario network of foodbanks.

An additional $15,000 will be made available

to county pork associations to allow them to

increase community-based food donations.

The Pork Industry Gratitude Project is a grassroots

initiative launched by hog farmers in Perth

County who were looking to make a positive

impact in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

Even as farmers themselves struggled with

on-farm challenges and supply-chain disruptions

caused by the pandemic, organizers of the

Gratitude Project saw three ways they could help

make things better for others: increasing support

for Feed Ontario through the Ontario Pork Friends of

the Foodbank Program; providing additional funds

for community-based food giving by local pork

associations; and hosting Farmer-to-Frontline-

Worker Appreciation Box Lunches for employees at

Ontario’s two largest processing plants.

With support from county-level pork associations,

farming families, Ontario Pork and businesses

connected to agriculture, the group exceeded its

initial fundraising goal of $100,000 by more than

a third. Gold-level sponsors include South West

Ontario Veterinary Services and Purina (Cargill).

Silver-level sponsors include Farmer’s Farmacy/

Grand Valley Fortifiers, Synergy Swine Inc., Schlegel

Home Farms and Floradale Feed Mill.





MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual

commemorated 60 years this

summer. To thank loyal guests

for their support — especially

in 2020 — it hosted community

barbecues at locations across

Canada, with all proceeds donated

to select local charities.

“MR MIKES was started 60

years ago with the goal of

bringing great food and

affordable indulgences in a casual

environment to Canadians who

share a love of friends, family, fun

and their community,” explains

Robin Chakrabarti, president of

MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual.

“The celebration of our 60th

anniversary is a way to show our

appreciation for our guests’ loyalty

and passion for our brand for

the past six decades. During this

strange and difficult year of 2020,

we are as proud as ever to be a

Canadian-owned success story

working arm-in-arm with our

franchisees and restaurant teams

across Canada to provide a safe

yet high-energy gathering spot

in the community for our guests,

who are our extended family

and for whom we wake up every

morning excited to deliver the

spirit of the first MR MIKES. Thanks

to every individual who has been

a part, big or small, in the last

sixty years of MR MIKES.”

Stepping Up

When the COVID-19 pandemic

hit and the foodservice industry

came to halt, Charles Rothman,

chef and regional manager at

Mississauga, Ont.-based Food

Service Solutions, found himself

with extra time on his hands.

His wife, a long-time employee

at Edmonton Meals on Wheels,

told him that the agency had

seen a decrease in volunteer

numbers and was desperate

for help. Rothman spent a few

weeks in the Meals-on-Wheels kitchen until he was offered a two-month

contract to manage the communications department His connections to

the local hospitality industry were exactly what the agency needed. Within

days he recruited industry professionals from around Edmonton to assist

the kitchen-production team. During his two months, Rothman built partnerships

with local businesses and obtained donations to meet the urgent

needs of the agency. He also ran the Essential Toiletry Kit initiative,, which

worked to collect, assemble and deliver Essential Toiletry Kits. More than 650

vulnerable and isolated Edmontonians.

Feeding the

As part of an effort to thank frontline

workers, Harvey’s offered its flamegrilled

burgers free to deserving

Canadians during its Harvey’s RV


summer tour, which kicked off July

17. During the tour, the burger chain gave away 50,000 free ‘Thanks’

burgers to frontline grocery-store workers and communities.

It was one of many initiatives from Harvey’s to support and thank

Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Harvey’s said

thank you to frontline healthcare workers by offering 50-per-cent

off its orders for themselves and their families and, more recently,

partnered with Bauer Hockey, attaching payment machines to hockey

sticks to help with physical distancing and putting associate and

guest safety at the forefront.

“Frontline grocery-store workers and Harvey’s restaurant associates

have supported Canadians by providing food solutions throughout these

challenging times,” says Chelsea Kellock, senior director of Marketing,

Harvey’s Canada. “Harvey’s wanted to recognize and give back to our

fellow food titans who are at the heart of their communities.”







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