The Bistro at the Seniors Centre was once a thriving, popular and profitable location - not anymore and we can't blame covid

By Penny Hersh

December 6th, 2022



At the council meeting Monday evening recommendations came forward from staff regarding the proposed increase in charges that are being recommended for various city venues.

Emilie Cote, Manager of Recreation Services indicated that there should be 100% recovery from The Bistro at the Seniors Centre.  When asked about the revenue generated this past year Emilie indicated $34,000.00 and that 15% was not recoverable.

Presently staff are involved in the running of the Bistro along with volunteers who set up what is being offered and making tea/coffee.  Bistro hours are 10-2 Monday-Thursday and self-serve coffee only from 10-12 on Fridays.

The Bistro, the heart of the Seniors’ Centre and the focal point for many of the administrative problems.

Both the Mayor and Councillor Bentivegna spoke in defence that the Bistro was much more than simply a service that needed to be able to support itself fully. For some it could be the only full meal they would have that day.  It was a way of having a very inexpensive meal that they could share with friends. Isolation is a very serious issue for many seniors, and this was an essential component in operating the Bistro.

Presently what is available are 2 wrapped in saran chocolate chip cookies, a few saran wrapped muffins, butter tarts and 1 type of square, along with tea/coffee.

Nothing healthy is being offered. At the very least soup and sandwiches should be available. The seniors attending classes along with the volunteers have asked repeatedly for more healthy food choices.

When the volunteer Board of Management was operating the Bistro, it was open from 8:30-3:30 pm, Monday-Friday.  We offered homemade soups, made to order sandwiches, salads, along with an interesting and healthy lunch special for $4.00. We also provided home baked scones, squares, fruit breads and rice pudding.

We had one paid staff – the chef, everyone else were volunteers, who worked alongside him to help with prep, serving and the washing of the dishes, taking orders and payment and serve the seniors.

Total revenue from the Bistro in 2014 was $ 92,685.00

Total revenue from the Bistro in 2015 was $112,958.00

Total revenue from the Bistro in 2016 was $105,326.00 (this was from Jan-Nov 30th only)

To be fair we did not pay rent for the use of the facility or for any utilities and the city was responsible for the deep cleaning. The kitchen was available for outside rentals in the evenings and on weekends.

In 2016 the city took control of the Senior Centre, and the Bistro.  The first thing they did was hire back the chef that the board was fortunate enough to hire.  Michael Gris is a Red Seal trained chef. I have been led to believe that he is presently not available.

The kitchen in the Bistro would rival any restaurant. All the upgrades – redesigned stainless-steel cabinetry and counter tops, additional refrigerators/freezers, commercial stoves, convection oven, etc. were paid for by the board of management along with donations from the Boutique Ladies and Club 9.  A Horizon grant in the amount of $25,000.00 that we received to start up our Soup Project paid for a lot of the upgrades in the kitchen.

The Bistro was more than self-sustaining. It was profitable.

I realize that Covid did play a part in some of the changes that needed to take place.  This once bustling lounge where people would have to look for a seat is EMPTY.  A commercial grade kitchen remains unused.

The city needs to change its current model to not only be profitable, but to provide a much needed service for the seniors who attend classes at the Burlington Seniors Centre.





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5 comments to The Bistro at the Seniors Centre was once a thriving, popular and profitable location – not anymore and we can’t blame covid

  • Vicki Thompson

    After returning to the Seniors Centre for exercise activities I was shocked to see that the Café was now only having tea and a cookies available. I looked forward to
    Soup and sandwich with friends in a clean and pleasant environment. Please with the information available please reconsider the return of the cafe for seniors to meet up with friends and have a healthy well priced meal.

  • “Bistro Services shown at 100% cost recovery – the program is still offered, and
    prices change based on the fluctuating cost of food” This is how the Bistro Services appeared in Standlng Committee report on fee increases going to Council on December 13, 2022. We sincerely hope that there will be more than us delegating on the need to revert back to the programme described by Penny Hersh that served good healthy food rather than cookies and muffins and also made a profit that was put to good use in our community.

  • Eleanor Khoury

    In agree with the articulates completely,
    Seniors in Burlington are being forgotten and neglected, we are suffering of loneliness and isolation while having major health issues, we need the love and support of our friends and community
    We need the seniors centre back the way it was,

  • Emily Cote, the Mayor and Paul Sharman (both on Council since 2010) at the very least surely had access to the same information that Penny has shared. Using this information in evidence based decision making is what is expected of both staff and Council whose role is to ensure the well-being and best interests of Burlington families and businesses. The large senior’s population in Burlington who for the most part have paid their dues to the city coffers over and over again deserve better decision making than this.

    Staff and Council clearly knew (as we did with no access to the city files only through reading the Gazette) that revenue from the Bistro when operated by volunteers and fulfilling a health need (good food and good company) has also seen profits been used to benefit seniors in other ways (outside exercise equipment etc.).

    We sincerely hope that this is not the first of many budget discussions where this Council and staff fail to utilize the evidence available to them, but not the taxpayer, that clearly shows they are walking down the wrong road in terms of spending our money in a manner that fulfills their legislated role i.e. in a manner that supports the well-being and best interests of Burlington residents. We all benefit when we look out for our seniors health needs outside of homes and hospitals as did the previous Bistro and seniors centre management board with money left over to do even more than provide good food and good company. The evidence is the present Bistro management do not!

  • Bill Davidson

    Well Said Penny ….. Your Observations & Recommendations. Make a Great Deal of Sense !!!