OCTS: New geographies of local

TORONTO—On the heels of the Ontario government creating a reference point for defining local with the passing of the Local Food Act, taste of place was a hot topic at this year’s Ontario Culinary Tourism Summit.

By Leslie Wu

TORONTO—On the heels of the Ontario government creating a reference point for defining local with the passing of the Local Food Act, taste of place was a hot topic at this year’s Ontario Culinary Tourism Summit on Nov. 13 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

New Zealand-based professor C. Michael Hall, author of Think Global, Eat Local: Innovation & Sustainability in Food Tourism urged the audience via Skype to think about the “new geographies” of local food and sustainable eating. 

“We’re rethinking distance, and where our food comes from and where our customers come from,” he said.

In terms of mapping out local in this province, Trevor Benson, Ontario foodservice designation program co-ordinator at the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance announced the start of Feast ON, a new designation to promote  ocal food and drink on restaurant menus.

“From food trucks to fine dining, we want to encourage foodservice providers to partner at the local, regional level in a way that showcases how they’re plugging into the taste of place,” said Benson. A searchable website, set to launch in January 2014, will allow customers to build itineraries around specific taste trails. Operators must commit to a manifesto that includes tracking and tracing Ontario food and drink purchases as close to the point of origin as possible and identifying the provenance of Ontario food and drink on their menu. On a procurement level, participating restaurateurs must provide proof that 25 per cent of total annual food receipts reflect Ontario food and beverage purchases respectively.

A corresponding launch—Experience Assessment Tool (EAT)—will help businesses to be market-ready for food tourism by using a rating system based on market readings, tourism offerings and other measurables.

As a successful example of food tourism opportunities, Doug Townsend, director of marketing at Taste of Nova Scotia, talked about The Nova Scotia Eatery mobile promotion, which brought East Coast chefs and a model of the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse to the streets of Toronto last summer. Although the team got off to a rocky start with 20 pounds of butter melting due to equipment failure, as well as staffing issues, Townsend and his crew sold more than 7,000 food items during eight weeks on the road. 

Food trucks were also a part of the keynote speech at a joint lunch with the Ontario Tourism Summit, where food truck advocate and publisher of Spotlight Toronto Suresh Doss spoke about millennial culture influencing food: one without a predetermined palate and one influenced by other cultures. “There’s no Baby Duck generation to overcome; instead we’ve got a wave of young foodies,” he said.

Andrew Wiens.

Andrew Wiens.

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Reviewing savvy

Andrew Wiens, international sales manager, destination marketing at TripAdvisor, told attendees that the site gets 70 reviews per minute worldwide. Want to manage your reviews? Here are some tips from Wiens to keep your online reputation clean:

Negative reviews: “The only thing worse than having bad reviews is no reviews. Users look to the middle and ignore and push to the sides superlatives and negatives.”

Responses: “There are two audiences you’re writing responses to: the reviewer and the rest of the planet.”

Photos: “The bar is not super high; it’s to be in focus.”

Repetition: “Don’t repeat your name unless it’s a positive review. A bad review will index higher with Google and other search engines if you repeat your name as a key word.”