Peter Oliver was the co-founder and leader of Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality, also known as O&B. He passed away peacefully on September 21, 2021 with his wife Maureen and children by his side. Peter had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer in May 2021; nevertheless, he demonstrated strength and grace as he faced the disease. Throughout his treatment, he always had a cheerful attitude that everyone loved.
Peter Oliver began his career in the hospitality industry 45 years ago. During this time, he set a high standard for professionalism, service and quality in Canada. Oliver was born in Cape Town, South Africa, but moved to Canada in 1967 to attend McGill University. Following his successful real estate and stock brokerage careers, he opened a small sandwich shop named Oliver’s Old Fashioned Bakery at Yonge and Eglinton in 1978. In 1993, Peter partnered with Michael Bonacini — a renowned chef — to form Oliver and Bonacini Hospitality. This partnership started the restaurant chain that would grow into what is now known as Splendido, Pizzeria Cucina and Opa! Peter thought his partnership with Michael was fated; they both believed their collaboration was the key to success for their company. Both of them made beneficial contributions that complimented each other, which made their partnership work well.
Peter was a natural leader and an excellent motivator. His greatest strength was gathering people around a single vision and goal. As a business owner, he considered company culture and its employees to be the most important thing. Peter believed that every member of his team should understand hospitality first-hand— not just on an intellectual level, but also on an emotional one. To accomplish this, he regularly hosted events for new employees. These orientation sessions were usually hosted with other staffers, such as dishwashers, cooks and servers. At these events, everyone would share a meal and Peter would explain the company’s values and goals.
Peter started his career in hospitality with great pride and professionalism. He valued increased job creation greatly and was considered an industry pioneer for providing training programs, benefits packages, education funding and travel opportunities to his employees. His company’s expansion led to thousands of people employed by O&B. Peter was also a key supporter of local hospitality educators; the Ontario Hostelry Institute even granted him honorary degrees from Toronto Metropolitan University and George Brown College.