As patrons of pricey chain Fig & Olive are now well-aware, a fancy restaurant serving meals at high-end prices doesn't necessarily mean you're eating high-end food. Another high-dollar dining destination has been busted for false advertising: The Star reports Azure Restaurant & Bar, located at Toronto's Intercontinental Hotel, has failed three menu verification inspections by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, an organization that enforces menu descriptions and oversees the safety and nutrition of food in Canada.
A disgruntled employee tipped off the CFIA back in 2013, writing to the agency that he could not stand to see the public "being misled." In his letter, the man alleged that Azure was passing off skirt steak as pricey Wagyu beef and describing regular mozzarella cheese as "buffalo mozzarella." Investigators visited the restaurant three times between 2013 and 2015 and found multiple instances of "misrepresentation" by the restaurant and as many as 20 incorrect menu descriptions. Documents revealed that "organic" granola was really Quaker Harvest Crunch, and the "homemade" dressing was actually procured from commercial producer Renée's Gourmet. The agency also confirmed that the so-called "Wagyu" was in fact beef from a less expensive cow.
Alexi Hakim, a manager for the Intercontinental Hotel, says that as far as he was aware, the issues outlined in the CFIA reports were resolved "immediately" and "sometimes on the spot." Despite the restaurant's claim that it enacted a "deliberate policy to ensure all food on the menu is accurately described," the Star still found inconsistencies in advertising during a recent visit to the restaurant, noting that a $6 juice described by staff as "fresh squeezed" was in fact bottled by the juice company Lambeth Groves. In response, Hakim claims that the restaurant workers were "referencing the supplier which bills the juice as ‘fresh squeezed.'"
With sourcing becoming an increasingly important factor in consumer food spending, it's almost certain there are more restaurants and manufacturers out there committing similar acts that simply haven't been caught yet. Most recently, fancy artisanal chocolate purveyors the Mast Brothers were brought down by a Dallas blogger for melting down pre-made chocolate, molding it into bars and repackaging it during their company's early years. When making menu claims like "fresh-squeezed" or "homemade," restaurants and companies are banking that consumers will buy into the story and believe in the authenticity of a product — and unfortunately, sometimes they're getting ripped off.