By Colleen Isherwood
Patrick Brown, who recently became leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, spoke on the need for government to create a climate of investment, at the Ontario Restaurant Motel and Hotel Association's 16th annual AGM on June 1.
“Give me your ideas. Tell me about your dream scenario for Ontario — how we can make sure your business grows.” That's the message he left with about 40 delegates to the meeting held at the Four Points by Sheraton Mississauga.
As well as his work as a Barrie, Ont. city councillor and MP since 2006, the 37-year-old Brown has less traditional items on his resume. He is an Honourary Citizen of Gujarat, India, receiving that designation from Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of Gujarat and is now prime minister of India. He is also one of just two Honourary Firefighters in Ontario.
Brown's vision of Ontario calls for three necessities for an investment economy: good roads, cheap energy and less red tape. He said his party is against the privatization of Ontario Hydro, saying it will lead to increased energy prices, and lack of oversight.
Like the ORHMA, the PCs oppose the provincial pension plan. He said it is not well thought out, with no business plan or economic analysis. “We will lose 18,000 jobs for every $2 billion collected,” he said.
“We need to do a better job marketing Ontario to both the business and tourism sector,” Brown said. “We need to market Ontario to the world, letting people know that it is an affordable place to take a family vacation, and that the hospitality industry is ready to take in more travellers.”
ORHMA president and CEO Tony Elenis echoed Brown's sentiments in his speech to delegates, saying the last 15 years have brought significant changes to the three most costly parts of the hospitality industry. Prices for food commodities, which make up 35 per cent of a restaurant's budget, have skyrocketed.
The cost of utilities continues to escalate for this energy-intensive industry. “Conservation measures do help, but incentives applied to demand peak times are useless, because the industry operates at full throttle during the breakfast and dinner periods,” Elenis said.
Then there is the fact that 39 per cent of minimum wage earners in the province work in the hospitality industry — even a slight increase in minimum wage will have tremendous impact, he added. “Being hit with the strain of minimum wage has changed this industry for a long, long time.”
“But between all the slings and arrows, many operators have risen up to today's encounters, and are succeeding. Many are even becoming trend setters and have made changes. They are building new menus, brought in new services and new concepts and embraced technology.
“The convenience factor, the health factor, demographic influences and the power of technology. The shift is happening and with it new influences affecting success,” he said.
Steve Robinson takes over as chair
Steve Robinson, president of Travelodge Canada, was appointed incoming chair of the ORHMA, taking over from Darren Sim of A&W Foodservices of Canada, who held the position for three years.
The ORHMA also welcomed two new directors to the executive committee: Stacy King, general manager of the Hampton Inn by Hilton – London and Dan Morrow, senior director, food and beverage, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment – Toronto.
Also new to the ORHMA Provincial Board of Directors are:
- Linda Anderson, owner/operator of Promised Land Camp – Nipissing
- Sarah Chown, operations and financial manager of Empire Restaurant Group – Ottawa
- Todd Connors, regional operations manager at Westmont Hospitality – Mississauga
- Daniel Ilias, executive general Manager, Sandman Hotel Group – Toronto
- Rik Ocvirk, director of operations for Distillery Restaurant Corp – Toronto
- Jay Soldan, owner/operator of Kelsey’s Restaurant – London