HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: PTI Group a regional success story - originally published Edmonton Sun, Sept 27, 2013

Quick hospitality quiz. Where is the world’s fifth biggest hotel? Hint. Not far from Edmonton. What company owns this hotel, and is Canada’s largest hotel chain owner/operator? Hint. It’s headquartered in Edmonton. Why is this company the single biggest buyer of yogurt in Canada? Hint. It feeds an awful lot of people every day. The company is PTI Group Inc. a subsidiary of Houston-based Oil States Inc. It may be a subsidiary – PTI is headquartered out of a former Costco warehouse on the south side of Edmonton - but it’s a mighty subsidiary. PTI’s biggest hotel is Wapasu Lodge, a two hour drive north of Fort McMurray, in the middle of nowhere, but just a short drive down a private road to Kearl Lake, Imperial Oil’s massive new oilsand mining operation. At 5,400 rooms, it truly is the fifth biggest hotel in the world. PTI buys more yogurt than any other Canadian customer because it’s a lunch-bag favourite for the 19,000 plus tradespeo ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Bistro India a pleasant surprise - originally published Edmonton Sun, Sept. 24, 2013

Bistro India 780 482 1700 www.bistroindia.ca 10203 116 St. Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: porch, 4 of 5 Suns; indoor, 3 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Dinner for two (excluding beverage and tip): basic, $35; loaded, $60 It’s a gamble. You’ve driven by the restaurant 100 times, it looks interesting. But you’ve had no word-of-mouth report, it’s never been featured by Yelp or Urbanspoon. On a quiet stretch of 116 St. but a block north of Jasper Avenue is an older, sprawling residential home turned restaurant. It seems to be where restaurants go to die. Gilligan’s, Dr. Zhivago, Blue Lotus and Way of Life have all occupied the space. For three years it has been Bistro India, featuring the lesser-known cuisine of the southern half of the great subcontinent. Curiosity got the better of me. In we went. Fortunately, it was an inspired choice. Bistro India has excellent food, Indian but subtly different from the many Indian restaurants now dotti ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: e-town entrepreneurial festival soft, but effective - originally published Edmonton Sun, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

Self-celebratory, inspirational-type gatherings where at the end everybody links arms, lights candles and sings Kumbaya don't do much for me. E-town, Edmonton's Entrepreneurial Festival held last week at the Shaw Conference Centre, had a few Kumbaya moments, but the guts of the festival may have moved me down the change curve. In the context of Edmonton’s galloping contemporary entrepreneurialism, I can almost embrace this congratulatory stuff. The e-town festival is visible proof of the profound change of attitude that has happened in e-town (trendy-talk for “Edmonton”). And the festival defined that change within the language, symbols and communication of the incoming business generation. It was a launch, perhaps THE launch, into the trajectory that will soon see Edmonton known from coast-to-coast as one of the country's most liveable cities. Off the top, the e-town entrepreneurial festival was symbolic of a city that has fully restored confidence in itself. The evidence pou ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: RGE RD, Not your mama's liver! - originally published Edmonton Sun, Sept. 18, 2013

RGE RD 10643 123 St. 780 447 4577 www.rgerd.ca Food: 5 of 5 suns Ambience: 4 of 5 suns Service: 4 of 5 suns Dinner for two (excluding beverage and tip): basic, $50; loaded, $100 ——— This was not your mother’s liver – the flat yucky stuff with weird holes in it. This was one of the most delicious meats you have ever tasted. Thanks to the fresh-as-possible policy at RGE RD (the abbreviation for rural roads running north-south) the feature in the day’s “Questionable Bits” meat selection was fresh liver. RGE RD, the new restaurant by master chef Blair Lebsack, buys a whole cow – the two sides and everything edible inbetween – once a week from a local organic beef producer. The liver was from a cow butchered just two days before, fed nothing but good ol’grass and maybe some unsprayed barley for finishing. Intrigued, I took the bait. If Blair could pull this one off … The small liver slices were tri ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: I used to like Neil Young - originally published Edmonton Sun, Sept. 13, 2013

What’s it going to take? Will this be another 100-year war? In 2113, when oilsands extraction is as green as green can be, when gas-powered vehicles have no emissions and aviation fuels leave no carbon in the atmosphere, will they still insist all oil is dirty oil? Those opposed to fossil fuels, especially the oilsands, have the same attitude as those with deep political convictions. Their belief makes them feel so good, so righteous, that any reality-based challenge makes them even more fanatical. Tim Moen’s account of the pre-conceived attitudes of Neil Young and Daryl Hannah, when he accompanied the rock icon and actress on their “tour” of the oilsands over the long weekend, falls squarely in the cling-at-all-costs category. What’s fascinating about the Fort McMurray filmmaker’s blog report is that Moen is as strong an environmentalist as his famous clients. He plays on Neil and Daryl’s team! But he happily makes his home, with like-minded friends, i ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks: Pizza for every taste - Weekly Dish in the Edmonton Sun, originally published Sept. 10, 2013

RoseBowl Pizza/Rouge Resto-Lounge - 10111 117 St. 780 482 5152, rougelounge.ca Pizza: 4 of 5; Ambience 2.5 of 5; Service: 3.5 of 5 Average pizza prices: Appetizer size pizzas, $10; medium, $15; large $20 Little Ceasars, Domino’s, Panago & Famoso. Funky Pickle, Papa John’s, Boston & Parkallen. Deep dish, flatbread, white and red. Pizza, pizza, everywhere. And no evidence that the trend will ever slow down. On the contrary, pizza, at least the contemporary, thin-crust, name-your-topping pizza, is more popular than ever. Thanks, Famoso! Today’s Weekly Dish reviews of three very different pizzerias, united by a love of unleavened pizza dough, cheese, usually tomato or tomato sauce and an infinite variety of toppings, quickly baked in hot ovens. Rosso Pizzeria in the Bridge District (109 Street south of the High Level), is modern, ultra-cool, the ultimate in Euro-chic and very, very good. The classic Italian-Canadian pizza is summed up by Ragazzi Pizzera, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The Way We’ve Grown - originally published Edmonton Sun, Friday Sept. 6, 2013

Stephen Mandel and Reg Milley, two fine civic leaders, are both stepping down. Mandel, of course, as mayor after three terms. Milley is soon to retire as CEO of the Edmonton International Airport. What we’ve seen during their watch – Mandel became mayor in 2004, Milley arrived in 2005 – is the greatest infrastructure sprint in Edmonton’s history. And, just as important, they leave behind a powerful, positive attitude. This urban region is close to a once-Utopian goal, to be in the Top 10 of the world’s best mid-sized cities. From “good enough” to “yes we can!” in under a decade is powerful stuff. Steve, please pass me the list of infrastructure projects completed during your mayoralty. But, before, a shout-out to the province and the feds, who poured cash into our catch-up. And oil sands development just might have something to do with our cash flow. The envelope please. Henday Drive – just about complete and stop-light free, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks's Weekly Dish: The King & I Thai is great again: Originally published Edmonton Sun, Sept. 4, 2013

The King & I Thai Restaurant 8208 107 St. 780 433 2222 Thekingandi.com Food: 4.5 of 5 Ambiance: 3.5 of 5 Service: 3 of 5 Dinner for two, excluding beverages and tip: basic, $30; loaded, $60. ——— Good news! Good news! The King & I Thai Restaurant is back! Not that the King & I ever actually closed its doors. But you might say it had been resting on its laurels. Twenty-three years ago, partners Eric Wah and chef Hoa Chung opened the original King & I in a tiny space on the corner of 102 Street and Whyte Avenue. With excellent Thai-fusion dishes not seen in the city before, plus a most welcoming atmosphere, the restaurant quickly attracted a large, devoted following. Eric was sociable and plugged in – there to help out from the lowliest of charity events to catering for the Rolling Stones or the Oilers. Hoa happily stayed in the kitchen, cooking day and night. But here’s the difficult part. And I think I know why. Over ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Red Deer is a great example of the Alberta advantage: Originally published Edmonton Sun Aug. 30, 2013

How fortunate we are, how lucky for our children, to live in Alberta. This province is so full of human energy and expertise. It has jobs galore, collective technological ingenuity and unsurpassed quality of life. So many opportunities exist here that one hardly knows where to start. How about in Red Deer? Red Deer and central Alberta are a perfect illustration of just what we have. Full employment, robust manufacturing, conventional oil and oilsand industry servicing, agriculture and food-processing, petro-chemical production: All turbo-charged with home-grown expertise and unsurpassed quality of life. That expertise plus being smack-dab in the middle of populated Alberta with a first-rate transportation system has led to booming international exports. Within Red Deer itself, some 70 companies export to 35 countries. A third of total sales from Red-Deer based companies is generated outside Alberta. All this happens within beautiful countryside. Employees have a choice of a city, rural or rurban lifest ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Oliveto Trattoria has figured it out - originally published Edmonton Sun Aug. 28, 2013

Oliveto Trattoria 500 Riverbend Square (Terwillegar and Rabbit Hill roads) 780 435 6411 http://www.oliveto.ca/about —— Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambiance: 4 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars Dinner for two, excluding beverages: Basic, $40; Loaded, $90. —— Restaurants are not necessarily complicated businesses. Buy fresh everything, use it quickly, don't overcook, seek out quality at every turn, be generous in portions. Don't overcharge. Create an attractive décor with an overall colour scheme. Create a pleasant atmosphere with a maître d’ and servers who genuinely like their customers and want them to be happy. Which is why, in a nutshell, the long-established Oliveto Trattoria in Riverbend Square continues to be a destination of choice for Riverbend and West End residents. In addition to the ingredients above, Oliveto is consistent. My friends who took me to Oliveto's had been customers for years. It ain't rocket science. The ... Read the rest of entry »
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