A thrifty downtown diner encouraged efficiency among its clientele.
How many downtown office workers followed the Sheffield chef’s advice and saved the advertisement? Perhaps they kept a copy in a safe corner of their desk, or stuck it in a visible location. How could a devoted clerk or number cruncher not appreciate the efficiency of a dining establishment devoted to maximizing its customer turnover?
Opened at the southeast corner of Yonge and Adelaide Streets in 1915, many of Sheffield Lunch’s ads promised Torontonians “good food well cooked and quickly served.” The busy eatery kept its costs low by having customers pick their dishes themselves, instead of being waited on. A 1919 ad assured women that self-service enabled them “to select numerous dainty things on display” and eliminated “the tipping nuisance.” Male customers were enticed by a large basement room which provided “a suitable place for the men who like a smoke after their meals,” but who didn’t want to annoy non-smokers on the main floor.
Any spending the owners did, according to Sheffield’s ads, was only to prevent the restaurant from falling into a rut. Take the purchase of new kitchen equipment and a 20-foot-long steam table in early 1918. “This was done for two reasons,” the restaurant claimed, “namely to be able to serve quicker and to serve the orders hotter, as we realized that is the fault with most eating places.” If true, this doesn’t say much for the state of Toronto dining during World War I.
Management must have had grand visions, as the company made a stock offering in March 1920 with the goal of opening additional locations. Sheffield’s second restaurant, located on King Street across from the King Edward Hotel, had grand ambitions when it opened in 1922. Besides the lunch room, the three-floor complex offered a grill room, a “high class” tea room, and a full-service restaurant.
However, Sheffield’s boast that “no restaurant ever opened under more favourable auspices and with greater surety of success” rang hollow. Having blown nearly all its money on décor and fixtures for the King Street location, the company asked for an extension from its creditors in November 1922. Two months later, a trustee closed the restaurants. Any ads lingering around office desks were tossed away.
Additional material from the October 16, 1919, March 3, 1920, June 21, 1922, and January 13, 1923 editions of the Globe, and the March 11, 1918 and June 5, 1918 editions of the Toronto Star.