Kosher eaters are asking where the beef is this summer at Canada’s Wonderland. Accustomed to eating hamburgers and hot dogs at a major amusement park north of Toronto, they are now being offered pre-packaged cold salads and sandwiches instead.
The Canadian Jewish News reported last week that Wonderland severed ties with Howie T’s, the only vendor of fresh kosher food in the park for the past three years. According to the article, Howie T’s owner Howie Rosenberg (who did not respond to requests for comment from The Times of Israel) was surprised by Wonderland’s decision to no longer work with him.
“He had been in talks with park officials for months about a new, high-traffic location for his food cart, as well as improvements that would make the provision of kosher food more convenient,” the CJN reported.
“But over the course of several months, talks went from discussions about improvements to his arrangement at Wonderland to notice that he would have to bid for the contract to word that Wonderland would no longer have a dedicated kosher vendor.”
Shannon Kelly, manager of public relations at Canada’s Wonderland, told The Times of Israel that the decision was made based on several factors.
“Our food and beverage director wanted to offer healthier dining options to park guests, and Howie T’s wanted to stay with its limited menu of hamburgers and hot dogs,” Kelly said.
In addition, Kelly claimed that Rosenberg had reported to Wonderland that 99 percent of his kosher food cart’s customers were actually non-kosher eaters.
“This shows that there was clearly a lack of demand for kosher hamburgers and hot dogs,” Kelly said.
“I had a steady trade. The customers were not just Jewish. It was more of the non-Jewish guests than the Jewish guests, because I’m quick, fast. People came,” Rosenberg explained to the CJN.
Wonderland ended up entering an agreement with Tov-Li, a kosher Toronto restaurant chain and caterer. Tov-Li is providing kosher guests of the park three different salads and three different sandwich/wrap options. All of these cold, pre-packaged items are available at the Backlot Café in the park’s Action Zone.
According to Kelly, who said she herself regularly eats and enjoys pre-packaged salads, Wonderland is committed to catering to a variety of special dietary needs while at the same time shifting to healthier fare. In addition to kosher options, there are also ones for those who need or choose to eat wheat/gluten-free, peanut/tree nut-free, milk-free, egg-free, vegan, and Halal.
Kosher diners will shell out $1.76 less for the most expensive of the new items as compared to Howie T’s top-of-the-line offering. A Tov-Li entrée-size salad costs $10.99, while Rosenberg had been selling Howie T’s SupremeWorks burger for $12.75.
Wonderland guests who don’t keep kosher will still be able to avail themselves of hot dogs and hamburgers from the many restaurants and refreshment stands throughout the park.
Some kosher eaters find this hard to swallow.
“I think it’s not fair, because all the non-kosher eaters get to eat fresh food when they come to Wonderland, and now kosher-observant Jews don’t have that option,” said Judah, an 11th grader at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto.
“The biggest issue is that they are getting rid of the [fresh kosher] option, but you also can’t bring your own food in to the park. Even if they’re offering packaged food, there aren’t enough options for what people want,” added his classmate Jonah.