Summerlicious reservations down at top restaurants

Summerlicious reservations down at top restaurants

We’re halfway through the annual gastronomic bonanza known as Summerlicious, when droves of thrifty gourmands and aspirational epicures descend upon the city’s finest dining rooms. Or not.

Alex Evans, manager of Célestin, estimates that 30 per cent fewer customers have dined at her restaurant during this year’s fest. “Everyone I know who’s participating is telling me their business is way, way, down,” she says. There’s consensus across the board: Didier, North 44°, Auberge du Pommier and Centro, arguably some of the city’s most sought-after tables, are all reporting quieter phone lines and lighter reservation books.

Centro has 1,000 bookings so far, reports manager Armando Mano, compared to 3,000 for Winterlicious. Though Mano says Summerlicious is always slower (thank you, Muskoka), he mainly blames the dreaded E-word. “It’s not like three or four years ago, when you needed three or four people to answer phones, and you filled up in 20 minutes.”

Elaine Viterbo, manager of North 44°, agrees. She says they now compete with other restaurants that began offering prix fixe once the markets bottomed out. “They’re not the same calibre, but you know…” The Mark McEwan flagship is even accepting walk-ins, something unheard of last year.

North 44° is only one among many that are now accepting walk-ins (stay tuned for a complete roundup). And with less harried service, maybe, just maybe, we’ll be subjected to fewer of the perennial my-Summerlicious-waiter-was-mean-to-me complaints. More than ever, restaurants will battle it out for business. “I take Summerlicious very seriously,” says Mano. “It’s not a cash cow, and it’s not, ‘Oh, Summerlicious, who cares?’ I would fire someone if I heard them say that.”