Following “what’s hot” in foodservice is a matter of choice. Trends come and go, but sometimes it makes sense to latch onto one or more. And it always makes sense to be aware of what’s going on. Here are several trends that continue to gain traction.
Cold brew coffee, with a 12-hour steep. Less desired cuts like beef chuck and pork shoulder, cooked in the oven for around 4-5 hours. Cauliflower, roasted whole for as much as an hour. Even having one signature item using an old-world technique or an artisanal focus can put a halo around the entire menu.
From one to as many as 100 units, some of Canada’s smaller chains are expanding. They include a range of food styles and menu offerings, but their common denominator is an emphasis on consistency, quality and creativity. In many cases, these growing chains try to combine the best attributes of independent venues in an efficient, repeatable format. Examples include: Symposium Café, Wacky Wings, City Café Bakery, Archie’s Seafood, Oliver’s Coffee and Holy Guacamole. “As much as independents fear the big, bad restaurant chains, in many areas it’s the independents that drive the most far-reaching changes” in neighborhoods and cities (theglobeandmail.com, 3/10/15).
Sales in the quick-serve category are growing as full-serve revenue falls, according to research by NPD Group Canada. Consumers still want the “sit-down” experience, but want to eat faster. Chains such as Tim Hortons, McDonald’s and Mucho Burrito are adding cafes, fireplaces and TVs and seeing the uptick, as well as those that serve alcohol, like Mr. Greek. Full-service venues are fighting back with counter seating, simplified menus and special items that are out of the kitchen in minutes to turn tables.
The desire for better-for-you options continues, if not the reality. Gluten free? Critics call it a fad; others point out that it’s simply part of a quest for meal improvement. And fast food? Forty-five percent of Canadians (NPD Group research) still purchase one item from a fast-food place every day, but the percentage is dropping. McDonald’s is testing revamped salads using baby kale, whole grains and four servings of vegetables per dish. Look to Toronto-based chain Freshii for what’s moving forward on this front: wraps, bowls, burritos, juices and smoothies, even breakfast. Lots of fruit, veggies, quinoa—and customization.
Say, Play, Pay
It’s called guest-facing technology; smartphones and tablets make it possible. Customers can order online and be notified through their device that their table is ready. Or, they can order at the table electronically. While waiting for the food and drink to arrive, they can even entertain themselves with venue-provided games. When it’s time to leave, customers might opt to pay online. Alternatively, they may have paid up front for their meal, when making the reservation. High-tech interaction is sure to grow fast in the coming decade.