Editor’s Letter: December 2009
By Brian Hartz
I’ve been invited to many grand openings this past year, and had the
honour of attending a few, so despite being disinclined to believe the
hype about the recession truly being over, I can’t help but acknowledge
a sense of better days to come as we bid farewell to 2009 and welcome
Who’s open to a little optimism? I sure am.
I’ve been invited to many grand openings this past year, and had the honour of attending a few, so despite being disinclined to believe the hype about the recession truly being over, I can’t help but acknowledge a sense of better days to come as we bid farewell to 2009 and welcome 2010.
The latest grand opening I had the privilege of experiencing was that of Twisted Bagel at 3500 Bathurst St., Toronto. Formerly the site of the Carousel, Toronto’s first drive-in restaurant, and then an arcade called Video Invasion, the location has seen its share of successful business ventures.
This newest enterprise, founded by entrepreneur and inventor Wayne Fromm, who started Video Invasion in 1980 and then bought the site and building in 1987, is a modern but comfortable bakery café specializing in the famous Toronto-style, handmade, braided bagel.
As legend has it, the Carousel is also where Tim Horton first honed his doughnut-making skills. I won’t delve anymore into the past, though – you can see that for yourself in the decades-spanning photos on the walls of the café – but suffice it to say that Fromm’s willingness to roll the dice on such a major investment is inspiring given the economic storm clouds we’ve been under.
And he’s done it the right way by taking hands-on courses at the American Institute of Baking in Kansas and hiring smart, experienced bakers – one of whom is himself a former bakery owner – who know the importance of using traditional ingredients and methods to create high-quality products that will keep customers coming back for more.
Prior to opening Twisted Bagel, Fromm says he experimented relentlessly with different formulations, going through about 4,000 samples before settling on the shop’s extensive menu, which, in addition to a wide range of baked goods, features foods for the lunch crowd, including custom salads, paninis and poutine.
The emergence of Bakery cafés such as Twisted Bagel in the midst of a severe economic downturn is a welcome development and is further proof of the resilience we’re seeing in the Canadian small business environment. According to Industry Canada, the number of businesses rose by 0.4 per cent in 2008 to 2,314,563 – with small businesses accounting for 97.8 per cent of this seven-figure total. Small businesses with 20-99 employees also suffered the smallest drop in GDP (-0.4 per cent) from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2009.
“Over the past 20 years,” Industry Canada reported, “the number of small businesses has been growing during periods of economic growth as well as during economic downturns.”
Furthermore, if you’re going to open a small business, a bakery café is a smart move. People still want to eat out, but they’re avoiding full-service restaurants. In fact, according to the Conference Board of Canada, sales at full-service restaurants dropped slightly from January 2008 to May 2009, while sales at their limited-service brethren – a category that would include bakery cafés – rose dramatically by 4.6 per cent.
“People need to eat, even during a recession,” the board reports. “But what and where they choose to eat are being influenced by economic conditions.”
However, says the board, 2009 profits in the foodservice industry are expected to fall to their lowest point since 2005 as cost appreciation outstrips revenue growth. Profitability should improve in 2010, but with tax harmonization just around the corner in B.C. and Ontario, and job losses continuing to be a problem – especially among small and medium-sized businesses – we’re not out of the woods just yet.
But in the spirit of the season, I feel good about the strength of the baking industry. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2010 – including Bakery Showcase in May – and we here at Bakers Journal wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.