Twisted Logic at the helm of Villa Charities

di Joe Volpe del 5 July 2019

TORONTO - I have a suggestion for the people at Villa Charities (INC and non-INC): get rid of your CEO, hire a reputable PR firm, focus on long-term Community-building that does not involve “waiting out” the opposition to your plans to turn the campus into a condo heaven, and introduce any future staff to the concept of “service with courtesy and concern”.

It is probably a suggestion des-tined to fall on deaf ears. Having had only a few occasions to meet and interact with the current CEO and some of his underlings – none of them ever prepared to speak on the record, much less respond to questions oral or written – I have been impressed only with the level of their uncultured and uncouth conduct.

These people represent an institution, Villa Charities, by which the Italian Community used to be judged. If the Board of Directors no longer cares how the brand is being downgraded by them, then they should resign; unless they have skeletons in their closets that are too toxic to air.

That staff can’t even react appropriately to long-time support-ers who respond to requests for suggestions. Consider the status in the marketplace of the Ristorante Boccaccio.

It used to be a destin-ation place for everyone who was anyone, from actors to vocalists to Diplomats to holders of the high-est offices in the country, to busi-nesspeople and so on.

The ambiance and the quality of the menu were a dual at-traction for visitors, “networkers” and those who just wanted a night out. Until some bright light de-cided to throw out the old décor, spend $250,000 to make it look more “downtowny” and hire more avant-garde (non-Italian) chefs.

It failed miserably. Were it not for some stalwart patrons and for the return to sanity on the menu, the only clients would be the members of the Board of Directors and senior staff who have been ac-customed to using the facilities as their home away-from-home.

Early this Spring, the inheritors of those “bright lights” to whom the torch of community service was handed brought in yet another change to the menu. A long-time patron, Peter Martini, trustingly wrote to the President and CEO as follows: “Ristorante Boccaccio has always had a well-balance menu with an assortment of choices to satisfy everyone. The new menu, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired”.

Mr. Martini is a former owner of a fine dining restaurant. Contacted by phone, he confirmed the state-ments and more, adding that he still frequents the location at least twice a week.

Guess how the communications experts at the Villa Charities Ivory Tower answered?Slap. “Shifting market forces, product offerings … changing consumer dining preferences are drives that impact our business.” MBA 101, as they say. Refreshing a menu… “one or two times a year … encourages patrons to come back to ‘discover what’s new’.” MBA 102, a changing brand is in itself a brand. Slap again.

CEO DiCaita goes on to say: “Your loyalty to Boccaccio has been unquestionable over the years, but like-minded people like you are the exception …the restau-rant can’t continue to operate on the loyalty of such a small base”. Huh? MBA 103? Wait. It gets better.

“We need to attract a wider audience … if we stand still, we will not differentiate ourselves from the other 25+ food options in the immediate neigh-bourhood and operations will con-tinue to struggle”.

Those food options would be the four pizza outlets along Dufferin St and Lawrence Avenue, McDon-ald’s, Harvey’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Burger Priest, Swiss Chalet, three Tim Horton’s, the [fast]Food Courts at Lawrence Plaza and at Yorkdale, several Oriental dining outlets, and one Italian fine food restaurant on Dufferin street.

I may have missed one or two; sorry.DiCaita closes with, “Your feed-back is always appreciated.” In other words, “up your nose with a rubber hose” or a more pedestrian phrase more commonly used by him, even in public.Mr. Martini, in his letter, and on the phone, is much more polite, “if the new menu does not improve, I will be forced to go elsewhere”. He pays.

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