The Pickle Barrel

Bringing Out the Value of Fine Dining

The first Pickle Barrel restaurant opened in 1971 and while its beginnings have been humble, its success was instant. Since 1971 this all-Canadian diner-style restaurant has become a dining spot and a destination for great food, comfort, ambiance and excellent value.

The Pickle Barrel’s group of original owners has expanded the company to several locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area, and the Pickle Barrel Restaurants has been thriving over the years due to adherence to the timeless business practice — offering a great product, excellent service and a superb value.

The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Peter Higley, President, about the challenges in the service industry, and the fresh new ideas that continue The Pickle Barrel Restaurants’ legacy of quality, comfort and innovation that will see the company success through the 21st century.

“The restaurant business has become one of the most competitive in Canada. The low interest rates had created a lot of opportunity for people who want to get into the service business, with lower leases and larger spaces available. The population is also growing, but the number of restaurants is growing at a higher rate. If you have drawn a map of restaurants in Toronto 30 years ago, they would be in the palm of your hand; today the amount of restaurants, whether it’s QSR [Quick Service Restaurant] or FCR [Fast Casual Restaurant] has grown exponentially, creating a very competitive environment. To succeed in this environment one has to find an edge,” says Higley.

“Our edge is in placing our restaurants in great geographical locations; executing  a big menu at a top level of quality that many restaurateurs do not want to get into, and we offer a value proposition that’s very competitive with restaurants of our caliber.”

Pickle Barrel Restaurants have 17 different operating companies — 12 Pickle Barrel trademark restaurants, Pickle Barrel Catering, Pickle Barrel Banquets (two banquet halls), Glow Fresh Grill & Wine Bar, and Glow Press Gourmet Grilled Cheese.

The Pickle Barrel Restaurants

The Pickle Barrel Restaurants persevered in one of the toughest industries with the old fashioned recipe — preparing dishes from scratch at each restaurant, from soups and sauces all the way to The Pickle Barrel’s signature entrées.

“Many of the bigger chains that we compete with use manufactured products (frozen and reheated). We make everything fresh, from meats and seafood to salads. We offer hand crafted food. This is what separates us from the quality standpoint,” says Higley.

The Pickle Barrel menu continues to offer the favourite quality menu items that have made the restaurant renowned across the GTA, and the restaurant professionals continue to search the world for unique and creative ideas that will deliver fresh and innovative menu items — items that will resonate with Pickle Barrel patrons and satisfy even the most demanding connoisseur. The company also consults acclaimed food writers, health experts and nutritionists in order to develop items demanded by the health cautious customer. The company continues to introduce low-carb and healthy eating choices to its continuously evolving menu.

With a strong Ontario brand awareness and a recipe for success, The Pickle Barrel is finally expanding outside the GTA. “Customers who live outside the GTA often ask us, sometimes even begging us, to open a location in their city or town. We are currently planning to open two new locations in London and Pickering in 2013. In London we are working on our prototype design — a two storey, rooftop patio restaurant. This is our first venture outside the GTA, and this prototype will be our design for our further expansion.

“We are planning to open two or three new locations a year and are also exploring opportunities outside of Ontario. To be competitive we need to be located in the high traffic areas … we are positive we’ll find success in new markets, there’s a reason why our brand is so successful — it really speaks for itself,” says Higley.


While the Pickle Barrel Restaurants is most famous for its trademark restaurant dining experience, the company has been also offering catering services since its inception. Over the decades, the company has catered occasions from casual barbecues to elegant parties, corporate lunches, and fine dining affairs. Pickle Barrel Catering now features a brand new state-of-the-art facility in Markham, that delivers made-to-order fresh cuisine to parties in Toronto and outside the city (Ajax, Oshawa, Pickering, Bradford, Newmarket, Stouffville, Aurora, King City, Richmond Hill, Brampton, Mississauga, Burlington and Barrie), catering parties as small as 10 people and as large as 10,000 people. To make the lives of event organizers as easy as possible, Pickle Barrel Catering offers everything that organizers need to consider: besides its signature dishes, the company provides china, tables, chairs, tablecloths, flowers, serving staff, bartenders, tents, music entertainment and everything that the organizer may have in mind to make an event tastefully simple or excitingly extravagant.

Banquet Halls

To offer additional value on the Toronto food service scene, Pickle Batter also offers event organization for occasions such as Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet Sixteens, wedding receptions, graduation parties, and even daytime business meetings (at special rates) in their two beautiful banquet halls: the newly renovated Rose Room at 5941 Leslie Street, which can accommodate 60 to 120 guests, and The Harold Soupcoff Room in the Markville Shopping Centre, which can accommodate between 75 to 210 guests. The service professionals at the Pickle Barrel Banquets take the stress out of everything from event invitations to food and entertainment arrangements.

Glow Fresh Grill & Wine Bar

Located at the Shops at Don Mills in Toronto, Glow follows in the footsteps of its parent company — the vision of the unique, abiding by the philosophy of a healthy, balanced lifestyle that includes eating well and reconnecting with friends and family over a relaxed and comfortable meal. These ideas drove Glow’s menu and surroundings designs, radiating a design that creates a soothing and rejuvenating experience.

Glow Press

Located in Yorkdale Shopping Centre’s new food court in Toronto, Glow Press focuses on more mainstream, affordable menu meals with the Pickle Barrel’s quality twist — perfected gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and made-from-scratch healthy sides.  The menu offers customers choice of premium quality bread, cheese, and a broad list of gourmet toppings, from pulled pork, chicken and brisket, to grilled and sautéed vegetables, caramelized onions and mushrooms, prosciutto, lobster, avocado, and much more. A glowing twist on the traditional menu; grilled cheese made like never before.

More than 40 years of great food, professional service, classy surroundings and unbeatable value has put Pickle Barrel Restaurants in a class of its own, and while the food service industry has become competitive beyond any traditional measure, while other restaurants come and go, the Pickle Barrel continues to thrive and remains the best value in town.