TORONTO — The CRFA Show has come and gone for another year, and the annual foodservice event, which attracted thousands to Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre between March 3 and 5, may have received mixed reviews, but the hosts are happy with the outcome.
“We have surpassed attendance records,” said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA). “By in large it’s a lot of fun, a lot of experiences, a lot of networking and a great success.”
This year, local suppliers held strong footing at the expansive Ontario pavilion, while on the other end of the show, the Gordon Foodservice pavilion presented a marketplace filled with fresh produce and cheese. The American Range GBS truck premiered new equipment, while the Rational booth buzzed with activity and cooking demonstrations. At French’s booth, chef Trip Kadey showed media how the company’s sauces appeal to trending fare. “This year it’s all about reviving comfort food,” he said, pointing to a simmering dish of Beer Cheddar Crunch Mac & Cheese made with Cattlemen’s Kansas City Classic BBQ sauce. “[Customers] are looking for twists to bring it up a notch.”
In between visiting booths, guests attended seminars, including the economic forecast by Chris Elliott, senior economist for the CRFA, who had some disappointing news. “Still in 2013 we are talking about a weak economy,” he said, discussing Canada as a whole. “We had 0.6-per-cent economic growth [in Q4 2012], which is well below where we normally should be. Between 2000 and 2007 you would normally see 2.6-per-cent growth. So the economy is clearly underperforming.”
Back on the showroom floor, when guests weren’t at seminars, they could be found gathered at the Flair Festival Stage, where a team of international bartenders and professional mixologists performed bottle-juggling tricks. And, as the show closed, Danilo Oribe, an Uruguayan bartender, was crowned the winner of the World Flair Bartending Championship.
To top off the show, a brigade of celebrity chefs, including Mark McEwan, Vikram Vij and Anna Olson led cooking demonstrations.
Looking forward, Whyte is adamant the show will continue to evolve. “We want to make it bigger and better, if it meets our members’ needs,” said the CEO, who hinted that additions to next year’s show would include the Women’s Foodservice Forum.
Stay tuned to foodserviceandhospitality.com for product video highlights from the show.