The past two years have brought unforeseen challenges to the foodservice industry, leaving many operators scrambling to adapt. Check out the Canadian Foodservice Trends for 2022 to see where Canadian foodservice is going, what consumers are craving, how operators are continuing to pivot, and what successes they might see in 2022. Will this be the make-it-or-break-it year?
Menu Pivots Support Supply Changes
Persistent supply chain issues will inspire creativity and require flexibility in 2022. Almost a third of foodservice operators surveyed (29%) will raise menu prices by 5% or more over the next twelve months so exploring new ingredients or innovative menu pivots is key moving forward (Source: Restaurants Canada Q2 2021 Outlook Survey) Specifically, quirky preparations of familiar ingredients will allow for exciting menu additions without new SKUs—think pickled apples, candied garlic or salt-baked root veggies to impart new flavours and/or textures while, in some situations, even extending shelf life. Inventiveness with favourite fare will also help operators stand out such as global sauces and ingredients on classic dishes and less-traditional cuts of meal that are more economical, chicken thigh vs chicken wing.
Stat: Chicken Thighs have seen a 39% increase in menu mentions over the past year
Source: Ignite Menu data, Q3 2020 – Q3 2021
All Buttered Up
As the comfort food trend surges on, many foodservice operators will turn their attention to butter, a staple ingredient in most kitchens. Flavoured butter will be grounds for culinary experimentation, ranging from umami-rich kombu or yeast butters to cocktails featuring herb-infused and browned butters. Other buttery ingredients such as buttermilk, butterscotch and ghee/clarified butter will gain attention. Elevated versions and applications of nut butters will also continue to grow in conjunction with the plant-based trend, with pistachio and macadamia butters finding momentum, and peanut butter making headway in new directions, such as on burgers or in cocktails.
Stat: Buttermilk is on 14% of operator menus and about 2% of operators menu butterscotch or clarified butter
Source: Ignite Menu Data, Q2 2020-Q2 2021
The Breakfast Boom
The crisis may have prompted some chains to cut back on breakfast over the past year, but the daypart is poised for a big bounce back in 2022. With recovery scenarios on the horizon, consumers are settling into a less-disruptive reality, one in which some are fully homebased, while others head back to the workplace. And – crucially – kids are going back to school campuses. For many, sourcing a morning meal from a restaurant is once again a part of the routine. Expect chains to employ subscription deals, multiperson bundles, product innovation and amped-up marketing to capture morning traffic and establish loyalty. We’ll also see the return of 24/7 breakfast offerings as well as new competition from casual dining in the form of morning-only virtual brands and later-day breakfast options.
Eggs are perfectly suited for a post-pandemic slot in the limelight – simple, universal, craveable, adaptable, suggestive of new beginnings. Eggs also create opportunity for punny concepts and quirky branding, bringing some fun back to the dining experience.
Stat: 62% of Canadian consumers would like breakfast to be offered beyond morning hours
Source: Technomic July 2021 consumer survey, 1,000 consumers
Spicy And Sweet Combinations
Beyond simple heat, operators are creating more complex flavour profiles, including sweet heat, to differentiate. There is growing demand for flavour experimentation and foodservice operators are upping their game by creating unique flavour profiles. We are seeing more development of spice on the menu including spicy flavours combined with sweet flavours, which make spicy flavours more approachable for those looking for a hint of spice or a moderate spice level. From appetizers to desserts, operators are using ingredients like honey with chili oil and honey with hot sauce to create sweet-and-spicy combinations. Pidgin, located in Vancouver, menus szechuan pepper beignets that comes with sugar dusting, salted caramel and miso sauce.
Technology has allowed restaurants to adapt to new expectations for contact-free foodservice. Online ordering and delivery have become a necessity for many operators and continues to evolve. More chains are starting to explore automated systems in both the front- and back-of-house, like grab-and-go cubbies from Paramount Fine Foods, or the Spyce Robotic Kitchen, as a way to improve safety during the pandemic as well as alleviate some of the challenges caused by labour shortages.
While many technologies remain cost-prohibitive to smaller operations, online ordering and menu solutions will continue to become more of an expectation for many consumers and are important to consider in strategic growth overall. We can expect further developments around mobile ordering, geofencing and other technologies; more tech-based self-delivery to help independents – especially – better control costs and quality.
Plant-based ingredients have seen large increases in menu mentions, but the trend continues to grow further than just proteins. Dairy alternatives like oat milk are trending as well as plant-based condiments and cheeses. Alternative and plant-based proteins have gained mainstream popularity, with many top chains adding the once-niche ingredients to their menus. Upcoming plant-based innovation includes vegan bacon, plant-based Bolognese, caviar and other non-traditional protein dishes.
Stat: Oat milk has grown 79% in menu incidence this year and plant-based beef has grown 21% in menu incidence
Source: Ignite Menu Data, Q3 2020-Q3 2021
Reliance On Delivery/Takeout Continues
So many restaurants made the pivot to takeout and delivery over the past year, and this will continue to help drive sales for restaurants while some customers remain unsure about indoor dining. More than half of consumers (52%) indicate they will still rely more heavily on off-premise services such as takeout and delivery in the foreseeable future. The number of consumers who indicated they would be avoiding restaurants for the foreseeable future also went up from 23% in March to 25% in May (Source: Foodservice Digest for Canada September 2021). Many restaurant operators are leaning into footprint innovation with more compact unit prototypes and delivery- or takeaway-only locations. While the threat of new variants and community spread remains a reality, ensuring there are menu items that are portable or more tailored for off-premise occasions will be key in keeping operations flexible as health and safety recommendations continue to shift.