Is Winterlicious biting off more than it can chew?

Toronto’s Winterlicious event is advertised to the public as a chance to experience some of the best restaurants in the city, but one critic argues that the continued expansion of the event is lowering quality.

Winterlicious is held every year in Toronto during the month of February. It offers people the chance to experience a fixed price meal, ranging from $25 to $45, which provides significant savings over the normal cost of eating at a given restaurant.

Denise Chiu has been involved in the restaurant industry for most of her life and currently works in the product development department for a major Canadian company. She believes that there are some minor problems with Winterlicious in Toronto.

To her, Winterlicious isn’t that special because a customer can’t always order items from the regular menus. As a result, the Winterlicious menus don’t necessarily reflect what the restaurant has to offer on a daily basis.

“Most places are really good at it (Winterlicious), but some places you’re like a second class citizen because you’re paying lower prices,” she said. “If you go outside of Winterlicious, the food is much better but I don’t know if it’s the menu or what. I don’t think it’s the price at all.”

Giannina Warren works in economic development, culture and tourism for the city of Toronto and she disagrees. She says that the restaurants taking part in Winterlicious have all demonstrated significant savings with their fixed price menus and that the higher price point in this year’s event has allowed many chefs to offer significantly improved menus.

“The higher price point has allowed them to be more creative in their offerings and some of them have gone for organic, wild, or locally produced foods,” Warren said.

Steve Darley worked in the industry for 10 years. Five of them spent as restaurant and bar manager of Bistro West by East at the Marriott hotel at the airport.

He believes that the new system created by the city of Toronto this year for Winterlicious is far superior to the old set up. In previous years, restaurants had to have at least two three-star reviews in selected publications.

“Most places didn’t bother to review in the suburbs unless you were absolutely amazing,” he said. “We used to find that a little unfortunate because our food and restaurant was at least as good as a lot of restaurants in Winterlicious.”

Warren explained that the city is always trying to encourage new restaurants to apply to Winterlicious, and that the city changed the application process to facilitate new entrants.

“We try to manage the program and let it grow every year. This year we had new requirements that encouraged new restaurants to apply,” she said.

Warren says that among other requirements, restaurants have to have the green Dine Safe pass and they need to prove that a three course fixed price meal in Winterlicious would be less expensive than a regular meal at the establishment.

Filed by Will Senn

One comment:

  1. I think another problem with Winterlicious is the best places seemed to be booked right away and you have to call months ahead of time to even get a spot. A lot of people don’t even know that and end up being disappointed. Pretty much according to my observation when Winterlicious guides come out, it is already late for the top restaurants like Auberge du Pommier for example

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