HicksBiz Blog

Profit in a not-for-profit world, the business of curling's Brier: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun March 9, 2013

Curling is Canada's most peculiar sport.The Tim Hortons Brier, entering into its final playoffs and championship games Saturday and Sunday at Rexall Place, is expected to sell at least 200,000 tickets.It will have been televised its entire eight-day run, on Canada's most watched sports network, TSN.The Brier, says Canadian Curling Association events director Warren Hansen, will cost $3 million to $4 million to produce.It will earn, from ticket sales and sponsorship/TV revenue (including government incentives) $4 million to $5 million.Most sports with such a big audience, as a rule of thumb, split net revenues on a 50-50 basis with its performers, i.e. the athletes.But the Brier will spend just $500,000 on the 12 teams. It will cover all their expenses, and provide prize money for the winning teams.That's 10% of net revenues in this case, not 50% as in other major professional sports.Curlers, even at the Brier level, are not fully professional. The sport is an income-producing hobby. "In a good year," says for ... Read the rest of entry »

Some advice for Normand's Bistro: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun March 6, 2013

Normand’s Bistro10177 99 St. (Citadel Theatre building)780 425 1008normandsbistro.comFood: 3 starsAmbience: 3.5 starsService: 3 starsDinner for two, basic (without beverages) $60; multi-course $90Normand’s Bistro has now been open on 99 Street, across from the downtown library in the Citadel Theatre building, since last fall.It’s veteran restaurateur Normand Campbell’s’ third restaurant. For decades he has owned Normand’s Restaurant and a few years ago became a partner in the Glenora Bistro.Norman, please consider this review as constructive criticism of your latest venture.One, the menu has to change. The location, for a target theatre-going audience that has an hour to 90 minutes to eat before a show, begs for lighter fare.Two, the cooking has to improve.Normand, your menu is old school. The entrees are heavy and traditional, all short rib, steak, duck leg and pork belly, osso bucco and salmon. There’s a few pizzas, a few salads, but little choice. The pricing is at the upper end, $28 for the beef short rib ... Read the rest of entry »

Poor investment decisions, or victims of fraud? Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, March 2, 2013

You might read this column with skepticism, arms folded, chin tucked, frown lines creasing your forehead. If you’re an investor, the golden rules of investing were long ago hammered into your brain. The first three: Don’t lose money, don’t lose money, don’t lose money. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Keep most of your money in boring safe investments. If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t go near the risky stuff. If the investment looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Finally, refer to the first three rules. So why should we care about an estimated 26,000 Albertans who invested in, and then lost, at least $2.1 billion in dozens of intrinsically high-risk, mostly real-estate, investments, sold within the Alberta Securities Commission regulatory umbrella as “exempt” financial products? Because, says Don Logan of the Alberta Investors Protection group, there’s a world of difference between a poor investmen ... Read the rest of entry »

Original Joe's a quiet winner: Weekly Dish review originally published Feb. 27, 2013

Original Joe’s 8404 109 St. (Six other locations in Edmonton) 780 988 5600 www.originaljoes.ca Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 3 of 5 stars Service: 3.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $25; Multi-course, $50 —— Way to go, Original Joe’s. These guys like to lurk under the radar, with minimal advertising. Original Joe’s started in Calgary in 1997, shortly thereafter snuck into Edmonton and has since quietly expanded to seven Original Joe’s in Edmonton, 55 across Western Canada. The original city outlet is still on 102 Avenue west of 124 Street. My memory of Original Joe’s from years ago was of a not-bad burger bar with good beers. But I’d been hearing good things. Going back to an Original Joe’s – on 109 Street in the Bridge District north of Whyte Avenue – was truly positive. Today, Original Joe’s is like Toyota – offering excellent value for you ... Read the rest of entry »

Premier Alison Redford is smart: HIcks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Feb. 23, 2013

He’s mad! He’s mad! This Hicks on Biz chap has gone clear off his rocker! He is suggesting Alison Redford is smart! Super smart! A superb politician! I am indeed. It’s fashionable these days to verbally pound Alberta’s premier at every turn. In Wednesday’s Edmonton Sun, four columns, one editorial and one news story were all over Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner for not anticipating a huge drop in energy royalty revenues, a drop creating $4 billion government revenue shortfalls for the current and next fiscal years. You read it here first. By the time Redford heads into the next election, likely April 2016, she could have a balanced budget, no provincial debt, and a start on building the Heritage Fund ($16 billion) to the size of Alaska’s Permanent Fund (now at $41 billion). Why am I not a madman? The current free fall in government revenue is all about the “bitumen bubble,” the massive discount on the pr ... Read the rest of entry »

Makk Restaurant falls short: Weekly Dish review in Edmonton Sun, originally published Feb. 20, 2013

The Makk on 124  10418 124 St. 780-705-3710 www.themakkon124.ca  Food: 3 of 5 stars Ambience: 3 of 5 stars Service: 2.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $70; Multi-course, $110 Where was our bread, my wife gently queried at the meal’s end … having observed bread baskets on nearby tables. “Well,” explained the waitress, “we serve bread between the appetizers and main courses. But your entrees were ready soon after your appetizers, so we didn’t serve you bread.” ?????????? The Makk on 124th Street, I’m afraid, fell short of expectations, especially when proclaimed (by Where Magazine) as Edmonton’s Best New Restaurant of 2012. It’s a little thing, this bread business, but indicative of the evening’s less-than-satisfactory experience. Service was mildly indifferent. There was no visible sign of a maître d’. Before the Saturday dinner rush ... Read the rest of entry »

Acheson, what's Acheson? Greater Edmonton's invisible industrial giant: Hicks on Biz column, originally published Edmonton Sun, February 16, 2013

It’s Greater Edmonton’s invisible industrial giant.The Acheson Industrial Area runs from the city's western boundary (231 St.) almost to Spruce Grove, from south of Hwy 16A all the way north to Hwy 16. That's a space bigger than Mill Woods.Ten thousand acres, 260 companies, 5,400 employees, a natural area, and even a residential acreage sub-division in its heart.Everybody’s heard of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland, 144,000 acres fanning out from Fort Saskatchewan with 6,100 employees working at 40 monstrous oil, natural gas and petrochemical processing plants.Who doesn’t know the Nisku Business Park, next door to Leduc? It's the second biggest “energy park” in North America after Houston, Texas, with 8,000 acres, 600 oilfield-related companies, 8,000 to 10,000 on-site workers.Edmonton itself has some 13,000 acres of industrial land - mostly in the northwest, east/southeast, and central south alongside Gateway Boulevard. It's chopped up into bits and pieces. No one industrial area dominates the city landscape.B ... Read the rest of entry »

Century Grill Comes Up Roses: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun February 13, 2013

Century Grill3975 Calgary Trail 780-431-0303 www.centuryhospitality.comFood: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 3.5 of 5 starsService: 4 of 5 starsDinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $50; Multi-course, $120——Chef Paul Shufelt, who writes in the Edmonton Sun about food creation while I talk about eating it, has reason to be proud.The Century Grill, the flagship of the Century Hospitality restaurant group over which Paul presides, will be 13 years old come April.I have dined at the Century Grill dozens of times, in formal occasions, business luncheons, even grabbing a burger with a beer in the adjoining bar.But this is the first time I have approached the Century Grill with a critical eye.It came up roses, as it has so often in the past.One has to establish context.The Century Grill is not in competition with the top-end Hardware Grill or the Harvest Room, nor with chef-centred bistros.Its target customer would be at home in an Earl’s or Cactus Club – upscale, but not too upscale, something different ... Read the rest of entry »

Pick up trucks top choice in Alberta: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun Sat. Feb. 9

Greenies, transit lovers and urbanites will not like this column.It’s our love affair with bright, shiny, new and big vehicles.In 2012, more new vehicles per capita were sold in northern Alberta (i.e. Red Deer north) than anywhere else in Canada.In 2012, Albertans purchased 239,000 cars and pickup trucks. Of those, about 60%, or 144,000, were sold in northern Alberta.Divided by a regional population (i.e. The Edmonton Sun’s circulation area) of about two million of Alberta’s 3.8 million residents, that’s one new vehicle for every 14 northern Albertans. The national average was one out of 21.About 1.5 million northern Albertans are licensed drivers. So about one in 11 regional drivers bought a new car or pickup last year.Speaking of trucks, of those 239,000 vehicles sold in Alberta, 190,000, or 80%, were trucks!P.S. This is misleading. For illogical reasons, the vehicle industry places all SUVs (big and small), all “cross-over” vehicles and all mini-vans in the “light truck” category. That cute little Honda CR ... Read the rest of entry »

Mack Male and Graham Hicks team up on a new weekly podcast "Mack & Cheese"

This is quite exciting, as in teaching this old dog new tricks. Mack Male and I have kicked off a weekly podcast, "Mack & Cheese." You can listen to the introductory episode at http://www.mackandcheese.ca/2013/02/02/episode-1-introduction/ (For you even older dogs, a "podcast" is like a discussion/interview/conversation on talk radio, except you can listen to it at any time, from any computer. Just go to the website and click on the appropriate button.) I'm intrigued by where Mack & Cheese is going to go. I've always said that Mack's Mastermaq blog is today's "Hicks on Six", that Mack is equally intrigued, enthusiastic and concerned about all things Edmontonian as I was over the 20 years I wrote the five-times-a-week column for The Edmonton Sun. In fact, I pitched Sun Publisher John Caputo on the idea of Mack replacing me at The Sun when I retired as a full-time columnist at the end of 2010, three weeks after my 60th birthday. (I still think Mack should be writing in "my" newsp ... Read the rest of entry »