Victoria’s claim to fame on restaurant numbers an urban myth, says expert

No current data to back up claim about abundance of city restaurants

An oft-repeated claim about the impressively high number of restaurants in Victoria is nothing more than a 30-year-old urban myth, says the former president of the local restaurant association.

Tourism Victoria’s website proudly purports: “Victoria has the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America.”

The same statement can be found on web pages for the University of Victoria, Victoria Conference Centre and countless other travel blogs.

But the data to back up that claim doesn’t exist, said Frank Bourree, principal of Chemistry Consulting Group and former president of Victoria’s Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“It was at a board meeting in 1983, and we were speculating about the competitive nature of the industry here in Victoria,” Bouree said. “Somebody made the comment, ‘We must have the second-highest number of restaurants per capita in North America besides San Francisco’ and someone must have printed it. But there’s absolutely no data behind it.”

There are 534 active food service licences in the City of Victoria, but Bourree estimates that number to be closer to 600 or 700 when food trucks, food carts and other food stops like farmers markets are taken into account.

“That’s a high number per capita, but it’s a tourist town and that’s typically what can happen,” he said.

Discovering a real comparative number would require crunching the numbers from every major North American city, something Bourree doesn’t think has ever been done.

For now, Tourism Victoria has no plans to remove the statement from its “Fun Facts” page, said Heather McGillivray, director of sales.

“It seems to be a widely accepted and marketed proclamation that’s used by several entities in the city,” she said. “The important point is that Victoria does have a high number of restaurants. Our culinary experiences are amazing here on the Island.”

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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