Move over hockey and beer: Grilled cheese is now a hot button Canadian topic. Or at least it was for Torontonians this past Friday night when the first annual Toronto Grilled Cheese Fest melted into a stringy mess of power outages, shut-out customers, and widespread malcontent. For $39.99 plus HST, the event, held at Roy Thomson Hall, promised all-you-can-eat gourmet sandwiches from the cities' top grilled cheese restaurants, along with soups and beers. Instead, bad planning led to hundreds being left out in the cold, while those inside got little to eat because of enormous line-ups and power failures that left vendors in a mad scramble.
Frustration grew to rage when the CBC reported that Joylister, the organizers, said they had oversold the event by 700 tickets, exceeding the venue's capacity; a claim they outright denied soon after. Regardless, the Twitterverse exploded:
@The_Jmoney Does it really matter how early you show up at an event if they've oversold by 700 tickets?!— Stephanie (@kitchenfrolic) March 1, 2014
It was a losing battle from the start.
Too bad the TSO doesn't have this problem.
To Joylister's credit, Saturday morning they kicked their damage control into high gear and started to refund customers who were denied entry, or had simply decided not to wait for hours in line. In an email sent to a disgruntled ticket holder, their apology was resolute: "First off, I would like to sincerely apologize for the botched event last evening. I take full responsibility for this and would like to offer you a full refund." But Joylister contested the "rumours of overselling," saying they are "NOT true, and the numbers were greatly exaggerated." Adding: "The lineups you experienced were not the result of overselling, but rather our lack of foresight in gauging the size of the crowd." But they laid the most blame on the power outages: "By far the biggest problem, however, was the power issue we had with the grills which caused vendors to run at only half capacity. We tried to rectify the situation by setting up a satellite kitchen downstairs, but it wasn't enough; soon, the lines got unmanageable." This last claim will surely be hard for many to stomach.
Regardless, Cheesewerks, one of the vendors, took to Twitter on Saturday to clear the air (to win Super Mensch Award), and offered free sandwiches to anyone with a TO Grilled Cheese Fest ticket.
Joylister's poutine fest was a disaster with oversold tickets, food that wasn't ready, packed venue.Not surprised to hear abt grilled cheese— Rachel West (@rachel_is_here) March 1, 2014
For now, Joylister's reputation is on the ropes. Their Poutine Fest 2014 is still set for this summer, but it'll take more damage control to convince anyone to show up.