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The western invasion: Toronto's new restaurant kings

AlvinofDiaspar

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I know more about Moxie's, Joey's, etc than most people (many of my university friends worked there). They were pretty forward about what happens. They know they were hired because of their looks, one purposely chose to show her cleavage because she noticed tips go up depending on how low slung the shirt is...

They also told me the restaurants hire one token 'ugly' girl in case of a human rights contravention.

That is certainly wrong, but how do you police it?

I guess the easiest way is that you don't and wait for someone with enough guts to challenge, then you prosecute. Not exactly pro-active or preventative, but maybe the goal here is to ensure there is a recourse for those who does challenge the wrong? Awful, but it will probably be something that end up written into the expected expenses of the restaurant.

AoD
 
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ShonTron

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The dress code is bad enough, but to expect servers to be wearing heels? Serving tables is hard work. The footwear really should be appropriate for the job. I've gone into Jack Astors and Milestones because of the convenience, but I'm not really a fan of these types of restaurants, largely because of the sexism.

Milestone's is a Cara brand (and has been for at least fifteen years), not a West Coast-owned chain.
 

mjl08

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Restaurants like Joey's are Milestones are for young guys to impress their first date - the food is bland if not horrible but at least the place looks modern and trendy, which means the food is usually of the lowest value. I'd rather go for Wendy's than these two and keep wondering why people waste money there. Joeys for example offers from Sushi to Pizza, from Burger to Thai noodles. You can guess how great they chefs are.

That's something that always bothered me about these places, and something Toronto Life said in a piece about these western transplants a few years back. Why would you buy mediocre pad thai or chicken korma from a Joey's when you could find dozens of better options in the city for half the price?
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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That's something that always bothered me about these places, and something Toronto Life said in a piece about these western transplants a few years back. Why would you buy mediocre pad thai or chicken korma from a Joey's when you could find dozens of better options in the city for half the price?

Because it is never about the food per se? It's about the expectation of a certain, inoffensive level of familiarity/service/ambiance/standards (if not skin). Just like you don't go to McDonalds with the expectation that it's the best burger you will have.

AoD
 

ksun

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Because it is never about the food per se? It's about the expectation of a certain, inoffensive level of familiarity/service/ambiance/standards (if not skin). Just like you don't go to McDonalds with the expectation that it's the best burger you will have.

AoD

true but McDonalds doesn't charge $11 for a mediocre hamburger or $19 for a nondescript pasta.

I think many people go for those places because they are considered "trendy" (whatever that means) and sometimes due to peer pressure (Joey's is cool!). Toronto is an international city, and if a 27 year old (I can't imagine a family would do such a thing) goes to restaurants for familiarity or his comfort zone then I shall feel sorry for him. There are plenty of better places than Joeys for a fraction of the price. For example, I went to Banh Mi Boys near Yonge/Gerrard often and an incredible tasty burger costs $6.5, and the sweet potato fries of very generous portion go for $3. The same thing would cost about twice the money in boring Milestone's. It is not exactly the kind of place you take someone for a business meeting but it is way more interesting than the mainstream "west coast" restaurants people are so familiar with.

but you are right it is not about the food. Joey's and Milestones are undoubtedly better places to go if your main purpose is to find a nice place to talk and hangout for 2 hours, where the quality of the food is basically irrelevant (as long as it is not horrible), but there is Spring Rolls for that, which is just as boring, safe and plain, but cheaper.

And maybe it is just me, restaurants with young leggy blonde female waitress who dress sexily repel me. It largely shows quality of the food, and probably services too - I mean, these girls may appear all warm and chatty, but if you do ask them anything about food, they are completely clueless. I don't want servers to show fake interest in me with fake smiles. I want decent professional service. The best service I got from non-expensive restaurants was from a small Indian restaurant on Queen West with male waiters in their 40s.
 

Hank

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I guess the easiest way is that you don't and wait for someone with enough guts to challenge, then you prosecute. Not exactly pro-active or preventative, but maybe the goal here is to ensure there is a recourse for those who does challenge the wrong? Awful, but it will probably be something that end up written into the expected expenses of the restaurant.

AoD

Hiring only good-looking people doesn't violate human rights codes (or the charter)...ugly people aren't a protected group. Making employees wear too-revealing clothing might be a problem, but hiring only the beautiful people in the first place isn't an issue.
 

Skeezix

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Why would you buy mediocre pad thai or chicken korma from a Joey's when you could find dozens of better options in the city for half the price?

Because it is never about the food per se? It's about the expectation of a certain, inoffensive level of familiarity/service/ambiance/standards (if not skin).

Good question and good answer. Plus, if you go to a Joey's, you can choose between a pad thai, a veggie burger, rotisserie chicken, peppercorn steak, paella, sushi or fettuccine alfredo, among many other things. You don't get that kind of choice at the great Thai place on the corner. While a menu of that scope almost necessarily results in mediocrity, a lot of people value the choice and the predictability of the dishes more than they do the actual taste.
 

Skeezix

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Hiring only good-looking people doesn't violate human rights codes (or the charter)...ugly people aren't a protected group. Making employees wear too-revealing clothing might be a problem, but hiring only the beautiful people in the first place isn't an issue.

No, ugly people are not a protected group. You're absolutely right. I'm pretty sure that Filip and AoD were not actually suggesting that is the issue. Presumably, though, to the extent this "ugly girl" story is correct (and I don't doubt it is), the restaurant manager might foolishly think that protects him from a claim. Sex is a protected ground under Ontario's Human Rights Code (as is age), and the evidence is quite clear that these chains are treating their young female waitstaff very differently than their male waitstaff. (While I did have a male friend in undergrad who was told to wear pants "tight enough so the customers can see that you're circumsized" while he waited tables, I'm pretty sure that's not an issue at these chains.)
 

mjl08

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TrickyRicky

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I have no problem with these kinds of restaurants with respect to them being chains or not cool or original etc. but why is the food so bad at some of these places? Milestones and Boston Pizza represent some of my worst dining experiences in Canada. Maybe it was bad luck or a bad location?
 

Translude15

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I worked at Earl's on King St. during its first year in existence (2011-2012) while at U of T and I can offer some points regarding the relatively recent "Western Invasion" within the restaurant business:

1) I know their hiring practices are currently under a lot of scrutiny as are the dress code standards but in 2011, for front of house staff anyways, the hiring process was much more heavily skewed towards the beautiful. Back of house/kitchen staff hiring wasn't as stringent but at the time, the location being the first of its kind downtown, many young people and students sought employment at Earl's. I witnessed managers laugh at various applicants (once they had left the premises of course) if they didn't fit the beauty standards set within the restaurant. One server, having worked there for a number of months and regularly eating the calorically-dense fare, had gained some noticeable weight by the summertime. Upper management took her aside for a "talk" in which she was politely told to shed a few pounds.
2) Alcohol sales were the main revenue generator of the restaurant: As others have mentioned, the food at these places is almost secondary to the overall atmosphere/ambiance of the place as well as the "experience." Alcohol definitely contributes to the club vibe within these chains and is typically a factor in the clientele it attracts. On weekends, the corporate/after work crowd was replaced by tourists and fans coming in for a drink on game day. 2011 sales were somewhere in the range of $12 million and alcohol sales contributed about 65% of that total. I'm sure this trend is evident within many other non-chain restaurants as well but servers and bartenders were always pushed by management to sell more of what was offered on the alcohol menu, especially various seasonal items.
3) The same family owns Earl's and Joey's. With the success of Earl's it was fairly easy for the Buss/Fuller family to expand the Joey's chain into Ontario. Many are unaware that they are both owned by the same family.
4) A lot of the staff were transplants from Western Canada who helped make the transition phase run smoothly. Many are still there today but the same approach was/is used by the other Western chains as well.

Ultimately, their business model has been incredibly successful due to the various reasons others have pointed out. Sometimes the dining "experience" is more valuable than the food itself.
 

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