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.”
28 thoughts on “Summerlicious reservations down at top restaurants”
Went to Summerlicious at Lucien last night and it was phenomenal. Beautiful food, lovely service, warm surrounds. As your story states, I was surprised to find one of the city’s best restaurants only have full (or half empty, depending on your point of view).
Ditto re Lucien….Had a top notch meal last night with a group of five colleagues…it was busy; not packed, but regardless we all came away in agreement this was our best summerlicious experience ever..beautiful room,great menu which showcased quality ingredients;plus warm service and excellent reasonable wine pairings….the owner was so welcolming and the floor staff velvety smooth…recommend to anyone and we are looking forard to trying them out after summerlicious for their regule menu
perhaps it’s the rise in cost? summerlicious used to be $15 lunch/ $25 dinner max. Now its up to $45. Add in a bottle of wine and coffee/ aperatif and its not much of a deal any longer.
I have been going to summerlicious since it started and I have to agree with the person above. When it was $15 lunches/$25 dinners, it was a DEAL. It was a great way to experience a new restaurant and decide if it was someplace I would return to for a sampling of the regular menu. Now, I find it over-priced at certain places and there are too many restaurants on the bandwagon so I have to be extremely selective in my choices of where to go for that great meal. We are in a recession after all.
We avoid Toronto during “Hoboliciuos” both winter and summer.
When will these restaurateurs wise up and realize the cheap “roadhouse crowd” is only looking for a bargain dinner?
Do they really think these people will ever come back and pay retail??
I’m not dropping $ 350.00 for dinner with some dude beside me paying $ 80.00 and drinking tap water!
No wonder the servers are snarky – they know the tip will be weak at best!
” Would you like still or sparkling water sir”? ” I will have tap please, because it is free – and can we get more free bread and butter too”?
” The roadhouse I go to has peanuts, can we get some peanuts too”?
Steve – always drink tap water – I don’t mind paying for good food and good service but bottled water is where you draw the line? How environmentally unfriendly.
“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.”
What a flaming idiot. If he feels he can fire staff on a whim, I guess he’s not very selective in the first place.
Lisa – please stop hugging that tree and think for a moment.
Sit down, take a load off your Birkenstocks and consider the fact that bottled water containers get recycled.
Right this way Lisa – your table at the roadhouse is ready.
Steve, you are what is wrong with this world. Yes, bottled water containers are recycled, but only if they find their way into the right containers. People like you who don’t care about respecting the environment that sustains our life can’t think for one second where to put that plastic. You might want to get your snobby nose out the air and consider what that plastic is leeching into your over-priced water, which is in fact, just pumped out of the ground, often close by to polluted streams and dumps. Plastic bottles are loaded with PCC’s you might have heard of these? They cause cancer, and are estrogenic materials. So while you may not care about your health, or that of our planet, you might just be vain enough to care when you start growing breasts. Lisa is practical and thoughtful, not a tree-hugging granola. Take a step into reality Steve.
I have been to many. I thought it was a chance for restaurants to showcase their menus and entice new
regulars. Unfortunately we’ve been served one too many
day-old, pre-prepared, microwaved, stuck-to the plate
meal. I see low attendance as Toronto’s foodies signal that they have wised up.
There are exceptions- and Celestin is one- it is always
amazing, delicious, cooked to order, with great service.
I will try Lucien. I think the smaller restaurants try
a bit harder.
As for the biggies- sorry, your meal ticket is over!
And as for steve- your smalltown mindness is showing- what do you care how and what the table next to you is having- wow….
Easy Julia – I drink from a Nalgene BPA free water bottle and recycle / compost at my home and workplace.
Shame on you to assume I don’t respect the environment!
Maybe the “down-market” places you go to don’t recycle but rest assured that the “high end” places I go surely do!
Right this way Julia – your table at the roadhouse is ready.
Okay, just read Steve’s comment about “Hobolicious”..wow, kinda harsh! Sorry, I’m a student and cant afford retail at some of the high-end restaurants but i still want to try new things..which is kinda what summerlicious is about, attracting new customers, trying something new and generating some income esp. during recession times. Its not like hobo’s can afford $35 lunches and $45 dinners not including tax and tips.
Also, I beg to differ about weak tips and tap water comment..I love going to this restaurant, Canoe Restaurant & Bar and I for one, order tea & a drink besides my water and give the 15% tip. No snarky waiters even if its obvious that I’m not a regualr. I’m in my early 20’s and the general patrons are 35-50’s+
Besides, why would you want to pay retail anyways? you get more choices on the menu but its the same quality.
P.S. Free bread and butter is usually standard at high-end places so what does that have to do with being cheap?
Dani – of course you are more than welcome to take in Toronto’s finest restaurants – with one condition.
Please promise me that when you finish school and start making big cake you will go back to Canoe and pay retail.
Places like Canoe cost millions to build and thousands daily to operate.
Summerlicious is a “loss leader” sales promotion providing product at cost or even below cost.
One more thing – 15 % tip is sooo 90’s – it’s 20 points now!
This is an interesting discussion.
I can purely relate to both sides, but when it comes to tipping I cant stand the Americanized custom.
I dont understand why it is practically required to give a tip; after all in my opinion a tip is something additional that you pay if you are overwhelmed with the quality of service- it is not included in the cost of your meal. Waiters have become snobby and expectant. I dont think that the amount of the tip should matter; what you recieved(as teh waiter) is what you deserved. Stating that you should tip “15%” or even “20%” is ridiculous. You should tip however much you think their service was worth. I dont mean to compare, because someone will reply with “you live in Canada, deal with it” but in Europe, tips are not expected at ALL. Its a matter of culture, I think, and how Canada and the US dont really have a culture. If you go to a restaurant in an European country, you will 1) recieve far better service and 2) if you do decide to tip, the waiter will be SO greatful. Whereas here, if you dont tip “enough” your already recieving dirty looks.
And Steve; if you comment and end it with “your table at the roadhouse is ready” i will not be impressed.
Don’t be so critical over people who drink tap water. i dislike sparkling water and studies have shown that tap water is better than most still waters you purchase. I order wine with my meal and have always supported restaurants. I am not afraid to spend money on food (maximum was $700.00 for two at Charlie Trotters in Chicago). Although I am not from Toronto, I fly their often because I love the city, it’s culture, and food. Restaurants agree to participate in Summerlicious and people get a chance to dine that they may not otherwise do.
Sure there are issues (like tipping or “snooty’ servers – but that can happen without Summerlicious). Don’t be so critical of what people order (“fine” diners order tap water too).
hmmm I was trying to think when I last owned a pair of birks – high school maybe? No, undergrad, long before two post-graduate degrees. If you’re not at the roadhouse Steve, maybe I’d like it there better.
No one at Canoe or any other restaurant has ever complained when I asked for tap water. Funny how some assume that because I ask for tap water I’m not also spending $$ on the wine.
Lisa – are you boasting about all your degrees? I can’t believe someone as educated as you would miss the point I am making.
My comments have nouthing to do with tap water you silly people!
During summerlicious these fine restaurants are hoping you blow a little more cake than the bargain dinner cost.It’s the people that go for the cheap dinner and absolutely nouthing else. That’s what I’m talking about.
Steve-you are a star with the $ 700.00 chow down. I hope your evening ended well (if you know what I mean).
Please lighten up kids-I’m just keepin’ it real here!
Right this way Magda- your table at Burger King is ready!
I have tried Summerlicious and Winterlicious events several times, and I usually have ended up being dissapointed. I now avoid Summerlicious and avoid restaurants participating in the event until it’s over. In the past I have found the service is rushed, the restaurants overcrowded, the food is very obviously prepared in a assembly line manner, and I would rather pay full price and enjoy my meal than get a “deal” on something that is sub-standard.
Having said that, I also want to add that I always order tap water. I hate sparkling water, and I simply can’t taste the difference between the bottled stuff and what we get out of the tap. That doesn’t make me cheap, it makes me smart for not paying for something that I can’t taste the benefit of.
It was novel at first, but now its passe to most because of the service and treatment you come to expect during the “2 weeks of hell” (as one sous chef friend of mine said to me). It seems that resto’s think you can’t afford their regular menu and are hence coming during Summerlicious, when in reality most people are just trying a new place without having to sink a 2nd mortgage worth of cash into the meal, that is, without tax and tip of course.
Also, i just remembered one meal at a resto during Summerlicious which is now, funnily enough, out of business. My dessert was a lemon tart which, when it was delivered to our table, had obviously been sliced in half (anyone else run into the “Summerlicious half service”?). No ice cream or garnish to hide the knife slice, just a straight cut and serve. To say we thought they were taking the piss was an understatement.
While I do not frequent roadhouses or request more free bread or peanuts-I AM one of those people that enjoys the experience of Summerlicious simply because neither I nor my family can afford expensive nights out.
I read your comments…and I was honestly hurt and saddened. I had no idea people like yourselves were out there looking down on the Summerlicious diners.
I hope tearing down other people makes you feel better about yourself. Although it does not seem you need much help in that regard.
I can’t wait to get to the roadhouse!
People who dont want to tip are a special breed indeed. Making less than the minimum wage, thinking you dont have to tip unless you are blown away is crap!
I like restaurants giving ‘regular’ folks a chance to eat well and also be able to afford it. Gee, it is only two weeks. The place I was working at, didnt do Summerlicious but offered a prix fixe for 25 bucks. The quality excellent and the service (at least from moi) excellent as well.
Steve post your number so when I land another job I can serve you. I like 20% cake, and you sound fun!
The problem with fine dining restaurants participating in Summerlicious is that it doesn’t really give the parton the full experience of that restaurant. I think it’s a nice idea, but basically you’re just allowing someone to experience the ambiance.
Wow, final note: I, like everyone, order cocktails, wine, coffee, and a digestif with my summerlicious meal. When the prices were at $15/$20, the bill was reasonable, and I had the chance to sample a resto without paying hundreds. I have, on many occassions, gone back to the summerlicious resto if the experience was good enough, often bringing larger parties with me.
Personally, I think steve should get out of canoe (one, trevor, susur etc) and head over to the roadhouse himself, since his comments would be better suited to that environment.
wow. very old and controversial comments. my two cents, as a worker at a fine dining restaurant in toronto that does summer licious is about the 15% comment. I DO agree, as someone who works in the industry but still struggles to make ends meet, that YES tipping should be about the level of service you get. However, I think there is a bit of a misconception that needs to be rectified. When you work as a server in the industry you tip-out a certain percentage (based on sales) to the house. If you don’t make that 15% you sometimes end up having to tip out more to the house than you actually make, meaning you are paying the restaurant to serve there, and losing money. Obviously people should tip based on how they felt the service/food/experience went. Just don’t think the server is walking away with all of that money. And don’t think that servers are all calloused people hoping to earn as much as possible. There are many, many people in this industry who truly care about making your experience amazing!
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