Trying to keep up with the restaurant business in Toronto is much like trying to keep up with the Kardashians: sometimes entertaining, often annoying, and always with its fair share of car crashes. Here at VTV this is what we do every day… try to keep up with restaurants, of course, not the Kardashians. We are continually amazed at the staggering amount of people who sacrifice themselves and much of the life they knew to claim the revered title of restaurateur. Having worked in the business for many years, I am only too aware of not only the addictive highs the industry can provide, but also the devastating lows. It ain’t an easy gig and finding success in what is becoming such a saturated market can be grueling and difficult for even the most seasoned members of the service industry.
With that said, is the fight for market share the only reason we see so many failures? It seems that the number of restaurants closing is rivaling the number opening and, as avid gals and guys about town, we are often surprised at some of the names we see on the ‘no longer open for business’ list. Fan faves such as Cowbell, Bruda, 17 Steps, 1800 Degrees and Pachuco have all closed their doors over recent months and this got us talking about the number of obstacles that hopeful hotspots face.
There’s just soooo many!
The number of restaurants in our fine city is hard to pinpoint because they just keep coming! What I can tell you is that in 2012 alone we saw over 1,300 doors open for business. So we can safely say that the business is booming here in the T.dot and while that is all fine and dandy for the eager foodies among us, it really piles on the pressure for the men and women who work hard every day to get bums in seats and, more importantly, to keep them coming back.
As an avid lover of dining out myself, I of course have my favourites. However, with so many options available, I am eager to try something new when I am making the effort to head out to eat. In just a 3-block radius of my condo, I have dozens of restaurants to choose from. And if I make the trek to a different neighbourhood chances are I will have as big if not a bigger garden to pick from. As with any industry a little healthy competition can be good but this monster is growing at an insane pace and it shows no sign of slowing. Segue to…
We’re diluting the pot
Behind any successful business is a kick-ass team. And the service industry is no different with dozens of hard workers responsible for putting together the perfect plate and precisely pouring your fave vino. But the city’s rapid expansion of buzz-worthy bistros means it’s becoming harder to find the perfect team because they’re already hired. And not having the right team can mean a one-way ticket to termination.
Everyone is a foodie. At least everyone thinks he or she is, and this can be somewhat of a ball-breaker for restaurant folk. Not only are we a society obsessed with dining out but chuck in a good serving of the Food Network and we are privy to all the food fads and trends of the moment. So excuse us if we think we know what we’re talking about! Now the problem with this is that we’re becoming increasingly hard to please and if Joe from the local doesn’t get it exactly right, there’s enough restaurants to explore until you find someone who will. Not that there’s anything wrong with having standards but maybe we can make more of an effort to respect and enjoy the uniqueness of each establishment and trust that they do what they do, well. Leading me to my next point…
It should be a risky business
It doesn’t take a dining detective to see that the world of food has its trends. Just as skinny jeans and cropped tops have dominated the pavements this summer, charcuterie boards and duck eggs have conquered dining tables over the past year. Family style dining became kind of a big deal and we have had an obsession with any kind of pulled meat for some time now. And once something is ‘trending’, it seems that’s all the masses desire it. Thus fueling the pressure for restaurateurs and making them less likely to take risks. If we ventured a little more out of our comfort zones and let our talented pool of chefs take the lead, we may find success stories in the most unlikely of places.
So, class, these are just a few personal thoughts about the industry and a nod to the peeps who work their butts off every day to create so many amazing culinary experiences for the good people of Toronto. There are so many factors involved, feel free to leave your thoughts below.
Now we can only watch in anticipation as we wait and see what happens next. One thing is for sure: all foodies new and old can expect to be kept on their toes. Now go eat, drink and support your local businesses in your satiated merriment. Class dismissed!