Winterlicious has helped local restaurants recover, owners say

'It feels like hard work is finally paying off'

Restaurateurs say the return of Winterlicious after a two-year hiatus has helped them recover from difficult times.

“It’s really helpful! There are a lot of different kinds of people that are learning about us, so it’s nice,”, said Natalie Damceska, an owner of the family-run California Restaurant and Bar.

Damceska says the Winterlicious event was very successful and helped with exposure.

“It feels like hard work is finally paying off — things are finally feeling better,” Damceska said.

A breaded cheese dish from California Restaurant and Bar was an option for Winterlicious appetizers. (Nimrah Khan/Toronto Observer)

Damceska says it has helped their business financially especially after the pandemic. Damceska encourages businesses to participate in Winterlicious as it is especially vital in January and February, known as the worst months for many restaurants.

The California burger with fries is one of the main dishes served by California Restaurant and Bar on their Winterlicious menu. (Nimrah Khan/Toronto Observer)

Stacy Patterson, co-owner of Il Fornello, says she used Winterlicious as a pure marketing tool as it helps people discover their restaurant.

“At Il Fornello we are already a budget friendly restaurant as it is, so I use the platform to promote our plant-based menus as I don’t think everyone knows about our plant-based menu,” Patterson said.

Patterson says participating in Winterlicious is a necessity especially after trying to recover after the pandemic.

“We are not back to fully dining, full restaurants, people are still reluctant to the indoors, Patterson said.

Although Winterlicious is beneficial because it helps promote businesses, not everyone is ready to participate or come into restaurants during this time. 

“There is still that percentage of people that won’t go back into a restaurant, they won’t go back into a busy restaurant, especially senior people,” Patterson said. “People are still coming in with their masks on, still asking what our protocol is.”

The City of Toronto says Winterlicious is intended to help increase revenue for restaurants.

“This year’s Winterlicious program continued to support the recovery and revival of Toronto’s restaurants while providing the enticing experiences and delectable food that restaurant-goers have come to expect from the popular program,” said Nadia Araujo, media relations for the city.

“The program was renewed to help the local industry generate much-needed revenue,” Nadia said.

Summerlicious, the city’s subsequent culinary festival, is expected to begin in late July.

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Posted: Feb 19 2023 11:15 pm
Filed under: Business Food News Spotlight On Small Biz