Author: David Lipton

About David Lipton

David Lipton is President and co-founder of Toronto based Sensors Quality Management Inc. (SQM).

SQM is a Toronto based company which assists organizations in improving their customer and employee experiences, by providing the truth. SQM offers its world-wide clientele a variety of programs and services, including: Mystery Shopping, Quality / Service Assurance, Market Research, Field Merchandising, Online Feedback, and Internal Audit Software.

David can be reached at 416-444-4491 or davidL@sqm.ca

Cool cocktails and Awesome Americanos

Voodoo Child a coffee and cocktail bar

Hello again! It’s Clare here and I’m taking over David Lipton’s blog to tell you about a restaurant worthy of a spot on SQM Picks. Last month, I had some work to do and in my classic disorganized style, I left it to the last minute. It was later in the evening than I had planned to get to work, so I had to find a place where I could type into the night.

I stumbled upon Voodoo Child, which is just as cool as it’s Hendrix-inspired name suggests. It is open late and has a very cool atmosphere. The café features dim lighting and low hanging lights, creating a unique feel. Instead of my usual coffee house cohorts, I was surrounded by young people with many different agendas. Nearby, there was a couple that appeared to be on their first date, some young professionals sipping Wu Tangs while typing away and a few folks hanging out and enjoying the live music, which happens every Tuesday night.

During the day, Voodoo Child utilizes a communal table that has a great view of the ever busy and trendy College Street West. On Tuesday evenings, the café moves the table aside, so live performers have a place to play their tunes. On this particular night, there was a trio playing folk tunes that made everyone including the friendly bartender/barista tap their feet.

I knew I’d be in for a long night so the first beverage I ordered was a black americano. The bartender-barista explained I had the choice between two different blends of espresso – this evening, the choice was between a juicy one, with tasting notes of cranberry and stone fruits, and one that was described as syrupy, nutty and chocolatey. I opted for the chocolatey one and was very pleased with my choice.

When it was time for my second drink, I ordered the Wu Tang bourbon cocktail, which is a bit stronger than my chocolate flavoured americano and it tasted delicious. The bartender described it as “not too sweet and pretty strong”. The menu includes everything from a classic Old Fashioned, to the Wu Tang and a drink called the Suffering Bastard.

This isn’t necessarily a place to take the kids, but if it’s early and you’re looking for a great latte (served in a skull glass), an americano, or even a drip coffee, Voodoo Child is the place for you. If you get there before noon, you can purchase an americano and a locally baked muffin for only $5.25. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, the shop offers wood fired bagels with a variety of toppings.

This is definitely a place where you can start your day with a yummy coffee and end it with a strong cocktail. You might even find yourself back there the next morning if you enjoyed one too many Suffering Bastards.

Voodoo Child Espresso and Cocktail Bar
647-748-1011
www.voodoochild.ca

 

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Up, Up, and Away – Beyond Great Service at Buffalo Airport!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport

Flashback to ten or twenty years ago, and there was a long period of time where it was significantly cheaper to fly out of the US, instead of Canada, due to the difference in taxes and fees.

In fact, the cost savings were so significant, that many people found it more economically efficient to fly out of the US (driving down to the states, go about their travels, and drive back to Canada upon their return). In addition, it really wasn’t difficult to make the arrangements, so for the extra driving time, and slight inconvenience, it was well worth it.

Fast forward to present day, and although the difference in pricing isn’t as significant, I still think it’s worth it for Canadians to consider flying out of the United States.

In my case, Buffalo is an easily accessible city if traveling by car, and is one of the reasons why the Buffalo Niagara International Airport is a hotspot for traveling Canadians. My family and I passed through the airport during a recent trip, and I couldn’t help but think of several benefits for using the airport:

  1. When arriving at the airport you would have already cleared customs, as a result of driving down from the Toronto area.
  2. The airport itself has a modern, clean look to it, and while it is a large airport, it is nowhere near as busy as Pearson, meaning shorter (or no) lineups, resulting in far less stress and pressure.
  3. Getting through security seems to be far less of a hassle than in other airports.
  4. The airport has many plugs and open electronic ports to charge laptops, phones, and other devices.

In a nutshell, the airport is a modern facility that supports easy travelling, while providing a variety of features to suit the needs of every traveler.

Aside from the airport, there are an abundance of hotels nearby, with great room rates, and shuttles that take you straight to the airport…perfect for those with an early morning flight. In fact, some of the hotels are so close that you could literally walk across the street in less time then it would take to grab a shuttle. Many hotels also accept Canadian currency at par, and allow you to park your vehicle for up to 14 days.

The only potential drawback to flying out of Buffalo, would be the risk of bad weather in the winter, as there is a higher risk of flights being delayed or cancelled, compared to Toronto.

In more recent times, the airport opened a Tim Horton’s inside the terminal, which tells me they know their consumer base well!

Buffalo Niagara International Airport
www.buffaloairport.com
1-877-359-2642

 

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Thrifty, Nifty, Studio 50

Photograph of household items sold at Studio 50

Every year, as my anniversary approaches, I become increasingly stressed trying to find the perfect gift for Princess Wifey, but this year went much smoother!

My luck began, last fall, when my wife and our friend attended an art show, and came across a unique and masterfully-crafted, functional art piece.

The item was a piece from Studio 50’s Rock Bottom Collection, and consisted of two parts…a glass flask, and a base made of varying types of stone. Depending on what type of beverage it was being used for the stone base could be either heated up or frozen, resulting in the liquid in the flask being kept hot or cold.

After I learned that my wife had fallen in love with the piece, I was on a mission to purchase it in time for our upcoming anniversary, however, the art show only occurred a couple of times a year, and wasn’t going to be in town until after the big day. Fortunately, the products were available online, and while I preferred to see the various choices in person, I wasn’t going to be able to do so.

Enter Kim, from Studio 50, who I connected with first via email, and then over the phone. Kim was more than happy to answer all of my questions, with unfounded patience, and clarified how they shipped the merchandise, and how long it would take to arrive.

My only dilemma was deciding on a colour for the leather wrap that came with the set, and Kim was kind enough to send me samples of a couple colours, with the option of exchanging them if necessary.

At one point, she became so familiar with me, she would ask about the condition of my aunt, who had recently broken her hip. Although a little thing, I was quite impressed that she remembered, and grateful that she cared enough to ask about her.

Of course, I did end up buying the piece for my wife, and the package arrived quickly, and safely wrapped in paper and bubble wrap. Clearly they have their shipping down to a fine art!

Studio 50 also advertises a variety of stunning pieces, including a concrete table, a hardwood mirror, and much more. Prices are reasonable, and the pieces are truly beautifully made and intricately designed.

If you’re ever looking for a unique gift supported by excellent customer service, take a look at Studio 50!

Studio 50
www.studio50.ca
1-226-208-1428

 

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The Senator Restaurant is a Classic for a Reason

The Senator Restaurant in downtown Toronto

Hello there! My name is Clare Jenkins and I am one of the new interns at SQM Inc.  This week, I am taking over David Lipton’s Blog, SQM Picks.

A few weeks ago, my friend and I were debating where we could go for a good breakfast in the downtown core.  We were pretty hungry, so I suggested eating at The Senator Restaurant. For transparency purposes, I am an employee of The Senator Restaurant but have never eaten breakfast there until this day.

The Senator Restaurant is a cool, old school diner, that makes you feel like you are being transported back in time as you walk through the entrance. It is the oldest standing restaurant in Toronto and it is nestled next to the Jazz bistro and situated across the street from the Ed Mirvish Theatre on the corner of Victoria and Dundas.

There is no question as to why The Senator has been around for so long! The Senator welcomes all guests and has an old fashioned charm resembling the diners of the 1940’s. Guests enjoy the welcoming atmosphere, comfortable seating, tasty food, and the quick and friendly service.

The dinner menu provides guests with an array of old-fashioned comfort food including: classic meatloaf, chicken pot pie, liver and onions, and burgers. My favourite items on the dinner menu are the macaroni and cheese and the roasted beet salad with citrus dressing.

Considering I had never eaten breakfast at the Senator, I asked our server what he would recommend and Alan suggested I try the eggs Benedict with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Since I’m a sucker for seafood, I opted for their smoked salmon Benedict. The best part? They smoke the stuff in-house! My benny was served on a homemade biscuit with runny poached eggs and a tangy, yet buttery and smooth hollandaise sauce that made me forget all the times I promised myself my summer body was the most important thing.

The Senator is a fantastic place to take the entire family. The meals leave you feeling warm and satisfied and can be modified for children and adults. If you plan to go in the evening, make sure you book a reservation, since they get really busy catering to theatre goers, students, families, and their regulars of twenty plus years.  If you do have to wait, make sure you check out some of their original menus, which list steak at 99 cents! Tasty food, fast service and an old school charm, definitely makes this place worth the wait.

The Senator Restaurant
(416) 364-7517
www.thesenator.com

 

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Thai It Once And You’ll Be Sure To Thai It Again!

Photograph of Thai food from Nana & Khao San Road

I work in the restaurant industry and like to consider myself a foodie since I get to eat out a lot.  One of the things I have lamented in more recent times is that there is nothing different out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten tasty food at lots of establishments but nothing has really excited me in a long time. That was, until I came across Nana and rediscovered Khao San Road.

Both Khao San Road and Nana are owned by Monte Wan. Monte is pleasant, down to earth, and can always be found helping staff and engaging with customers. During my dining experiences at both restaurants, Monty usually makes an appearance. The first time I met Monte, I thought he was a friendly fellow customer asking us how our meal was. To my surprise, I discovered the man holding a beer and checking in on our table was in fact the owner. Now, whenever I go to either restaurant, Monte personally welcomes me back.

The food at each location is truly special. Both restaurants serve traditional Thai food with a twist and the cuisine always blows me away! Not to sound like a food critic, but the flavour profiles in the food are seriously incomparable.  I’ve tried many of their signature dishes including the Bangkok-style Pad Thai, the Red/Yellow Curry, and the fresh rolls and to this day, I have never been disappointed.

The menus are easy to read and affordable. One other thing to note about the menus – while they are somewhat different at each restaurant, certain menu items at Khao San Road are available at Nana during different times of the week. The restaurants ambiance transports guests to Bangkok’s entertainment district through good music and décor.

Finally, I have to mention the great service.  The staff are always pleasant to deal with, very knowledgeable, highly accommodating, and willing to take the time to suggest items on the menu.

While I have been to Khao San Road’s new location, the last time I ate at Nana was when the Tragically Hip played their last concert in Kingston. I was out for dinner with some friends and was a little disappointed I was going to miss the show (after all, the whole country shut down that evening!) but about 10-15 minutes before the concert, the staff lowered a screen behind the bar and streamed the whole show for all of the customers to enjoy. It really created a nice community feeling with the other customers at the restaurant and everyone left happy.

If you’re ever looking for a great meal, love Thai food and want to try something a little different, check out these two amazing restaurants. You won’t leave hungry, but you will leave happy.

Nana
647-352-5773 x 2
www.stnnana.com

Khao San Road
647-352-5773 x 1
www.khaosanroad.ca

 

 

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Driving Success with Excellent Customer Service

Maple Nissan Dealership Photograph

For many years, both my wife and I have been driving Nissan vehicles, and I’ve been very happy with them. In fact, I’ve been so happy that I bought out both leases and kept the cars longer then I might normally have.

Several years ago, I went to Maple Nissan in Vaughan, since I had an issue with the tire pressure sensor in one of my vehicles. I rarely contact the dealerships as I have a few trusted mechanics that I go to for all my work, but for something like this, I did my research, and learned that it’s better to have the actual Nissan factory product, which is significantly pricier than after market products.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and the tire pressure sensor came on again. After checking the pressure in the tires and discovering they were all fine, I thought, there is a good chance that this was a problem with the sensor. Since the initial repair was done less then two years ago, and was somewhat expensive, I decided to follow up with the dealership. I called them up and introduced myself to the Service Manager, Matthew Grieco, and told him that I used to deal with one of his colleagues who no longer works there. I explained the issue to Matthew and told him I was a bit upset since it wasn’t too long ago that I fixed the sensors for the first time.

Matthew told me to come over to the dealership so they could make sure that this was in fact an issue with the sensor and have a look at what they could do about it. We then arranged a specific time and I headed to Maple Nissan.

As soon as I arrived at Maple Nissan, Matthew was there to greet me and had one of his mechanics take a look at the vehicle. After about 15 minutes, Matthew told me that they were reprogramming some of the sensors and this should take care of the issue. While I was glad that the problem seemed relatively minor, I was prepared for a hefty ding of a diagnostics fee (anyone who’s been to a dealer knows the feeling of receiving the dreaded bill at the end all too well). However, Matthew told me it was no problem and not to worry about a charge. Matthew said he was glad to take care of the problem and apologized for the inconvenience.

In a day and age when most automotive dealerships are making money off of service, Matthew could have easily charged me for diagnosing the problem but he took care of it, and kept me very pleased. Since then, I have told a few friends how great the service is at Maple Nissan. At Maple Nissan they stand behind their product and provide excellent customer service. It goes without saying, if I ever need to buy another Nissan, I’ll go back to them.

Maple Nissan
(905) 417-7211
www.maplenissan.com

 

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I Could Have Been Sitting Two Feet Away From a Bomb… Luckily It Was Just a Training Exercise!

Several weeks ago, I was returning home from a trip with my business partner, Craig. We were sitting in the gate area at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport when I noticed an employee from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) K9 Unit approaching the area with a canine (his partner).

The handler allowed the dog to walk around all the seats and benches sniffing people and their luggage. When the dog approached my area, I asked the handler if the dog was trained for drugs or explosives and the handler indicated he was an explosive sniffing dog.

Seconds later, not even two feet away from me, the dog became focused on the contents of a bag with a shoe box and he pushed it out to where his handler was. As I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together, another TSA officer quickly approached me and indicated that the woman sitting above the bag was with the TSA and they were conducting a training exercise.

Looking back on the situation, I realized that the bag and shoe box sitting underneath the benches never caught my attention, and I never really gave the area a second thought. Had this not been a training exercise, I would have been sitting two feet away from an explosive device!

This experience got me thinking about The Department of Homeland Security’s Program, “If You See Something, Say Something”. The program promotes saying something if you suspect suspicious activity, no matter how minor or irrelevant it may seem, so that everyone can work together to keep the community safe. Whether it be terrorism, crime, or a variety of other safety hazards, you truly do have to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Once again as the saying goes, if you see something, say something.


Homeland Security
Phone: 911
www.dhs.gov

Transportation Security Administration
1-866-289-9673
www.tsa.gov

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
972-973-3112
www.dfwairport.com

 

 

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