Saturday, April 7, 2012

Winterlicious a challenge, opportunity for restaurants

The Observer

The annual Winterlicous stampede of value-minded restaurant diners is on for another week. For restaurateurs along the Danforth, the promotion is a mixed blessing.

Winterlicious invites people out for limited, fixed price menus at select restaurants that charge between $15 for lunch and $45 for dinner.

The promotion is marking its 10th anniversary, having started a week ago — and concluding this coming Thursday.

“It is a beautiful program in the worst time of the year for restaurant owners, January and February,” Chris Christodoulou said. Christodoulou initially participated to expose his then-new restaurant, Pan on the Danforth. He said participation brought results, with people turning into loyal customers after the promotion, even referring families and friends.

But Christodoulou admitted that balancing his costs with the limited Winterlicious prices he can charge has been a challenge.
He has also cut his hours of operation in order to keep live performances.
He said some restaurants have difficulty performing this balancing act, and the promotion winds up doing them more harm than good. But for Christodoulou, the advantages of increased business and visibility outweigh the disadvantages.
“What I’d like to do is to show the best I can do, not cutting corners,” he said. “It’s the best way to
make the Pan on top of their list.”

Sam Scanga agrees. The owner of Lolita’s Lust said the rules would have allowed him to charge $35 for dinner, but he opted for a lower price just to introduce his meals to more people.
He stressed the festival’s value as a great marketing strategy and said that he even sees an increase among diners from outside the GTA — including celebrities like Nicholas Cage and other members of
Francis Ford Coppola’s family.

For George Markakos, proprietor of Factory Girl, Winterlicious is an opportunity to raise awareness of his establishment as more than a nighttime pub, but also as a lunchtime restaurant.
Like his fellow restaurateurs, Markakos said there are some issues with Winterlicious and its warmer-weather counterpart, Summerlicious — like the rules around price limits and stiffer competition from the increasing number of restaurants allowed to participate.

But they added that the city has been responsive to feedback, and Christodoulou praised the promotion’s contribution to keeping Greektown and the Danforth lively.
He said it has been beneficial for employees and local restaurant suppliers as well, because owners tend to hire more people and buy more provisions during the two weeks.

This article had been published on the East York Observer Feb. 3 edition.

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