Not Par for the Course
The Dogwood Café, located within the Victoria Golf Course and Driving Range, is among the 14 Community and Recreation Facilities in Edmonton that have contracted out food service provider agreements to third-party companies. All of these agreements have expired as of this year. The City of Edmonton recently put forward a Negotiated Request for Proposal, which opened the process to vendors to bid on becoming the designated food service provider for any of these 14 facilities.
Located in the heart of Edmonton, the Victoria Golf Course Driving Range is the nation’s oldest city-operated course. The golf course sits in our river valley, providing a scenic background and views of the Legislature and University of Alberta campus.
Many of us visit the Victoria Golf Course and Driving Range to spend a day out in the cart and on the course. However, the Dogwood Café, located in the Victoria Social Room of the Clubhouse, has also been a compelling draw for patrons. It has been operated by the Culina Family of Restaurants, a locally-owned business that strives to secure high-quality, locally-produced ingredients for their impressive, tasteful menu within an elegant dining atmosphere.
The City of Edmonton’s Negotiated Request for Proposal was opened to interested vendors for a one month window—from January 29th to February 20th, 2018.
The Culina Family submitted an application with the intention to continue operating as the food service provider for the Victoria Golf Course Dogwood Café. Culina was informed that their application was unsuccessful and the contract would be awarded to Civeo Corporation, an American multinational corporation based out of Houston, Texas.
This has left residents and frequent visitors of the Victoria Park golf course understandably upset. The Dogwood Café is a local gem that has provided locally-sourced food through a locally-owned and operated family business.
As a city, we have talked a lot about our commitment to do more to encourage local businesses to thrive. We recognize that they are the building blocks of our economy and keep resources in our communities.
95% of businesses in Edmonton are small businesses—made up of entrepreneurial individuals and families who take risks and benefit our city substantially by contributing to the vibrancy and resilience of our communities and economy. Culina, especially, has been a major contributor to the culinary skills and ambitions of the many local chefs who have been a part of their restaurants and have learned and grown professionally from their experience. Edmonton is all about supporting local entrepreneurs and helping them to scale up and succeed.
From the surface, this decision to contract service to an alternative vendor to the detriment of a local business is concerning. Given all of the city-wide efforts to showcase and celebrate Edmonton-made, Edmonton-owned, and Edmonton-operated initiatives, projects and enterprises, what does it mean when we outsource services from an existing family restaurant to a multi-million dollar American company?
As a city, our efforts should be directed toward encouraging local growth. This decision does not appear to accomplish the goals Edmonton’s City Council set out with fresh and our commitment to a diversified local economy.