While walking around the city recently, we couldn’t help but notice the abundance of non-Summerlicious restaurants advertising prix fixe promotions with names that reference the City’s program, but carefully avoid infringing on the trademark. It made us wonder just how difficult it is for restaurants to get accepted into the ‘liciouses, and how the City decides who’s in and who’s out.
Despite the ongoing CUPE strike, we managed to get in touch with Giannina Warren from the Economic Development, Culture & Tourism Department at the City of Toronto who filled us in on the process. Warren told us that before 2009, restaurants had to prove they were rated in two of three leading restaurant guides, which were Patron’s Pick (now defunct), Zagat, and Toronto Life. But, as Warren said, “by the nature of the restaurant review industry, many more restaurants downtown were reviewed than in the outskirts, which may have made it appear that there was a downtown skew.” So now, all restaurants in Toronto proper are eligible to apply as long as they possess a green DineSafe pass, and can prove the price of a typical three-course meal meets minimum requirements. Applicants that fulfill all criteria are notified and asked to RSVP to confirm their participation. As RSVPs roll in, the spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, making the playing field as level as it can get.
Even though bookings are reported to be way down this year and grumblings from patrons and servers are getting louder, spots in the program are still coveted by restaurateurs eager to fill seats, especially these days. Over two hundred establishments applied for the one hundred and fifty places in Summerlicious 2009. And while anyone can offer a prix fixe menu at any time, no one can deny that ‘licious has become a household name among locals and tourists alike, and therefore packs more marketing punch. Warren told us the City doesn’t mind non-participating restaurants using variations of the name—just not the name itself. We can just hear managers dreaming up new ones. While strolling around the city this summer, see how many you can find.
All photos by Kaori Furue/Torontoist unless otherwise specified.