From the Editor: Power Shift

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a-change-of-season

For several years now, consumers have been driving a multitude of changes at the restaurant level. They’re demanding better quality foods, they’re experimenting with reduced meat intake and they’re fuelling greater snack consumption (currently at its highest level, according to stats from the NPD Group). At the QSR level, consumer demand has grown the breakfast daypart, making it the largest segment. Additionally, the appeal of local foods has never been as strong, as consumers continue to enjoy a love affair with foods from their own backyard (see story on p. 14 and The Produce & Protein Guide).

Whether this passion is based on price point, an interest in reducing the carbon footprint of transporting foods from farther distances, or both, the reality is today’s operators and consumers may be globally influenced, but they’re locally inspired. Underlining these changes is the strong need for convenience, value and transparency.

Are today’s consumers more fickle? Perhaps; but they are also better educated, infinitely more demanding and increasingly ethical in their mindsets. That means today’s operators need to be open to whatever change consumers are spurring or risk losing their customer base.

That was the underlying theme at this year’s Canadian Restaurant Operators Summit (CROS), held last month at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Toronto. Central to almost every discussion that took place through the day was the importance of the millennial cohort and its influence in shaping today’s changes (see story on p. 12). After decades of driving change, and leaving a lasting impact on the marketplace, the baby-boomer influence is now in decline. In fact, quipped Robert Carter, executive director of Toronto-based NPD Group, “The baby boomers are dying.”

Certainly the tongue-and-cheek comment sparked some guffaws from the crowd and may be somewhat extreme as a large portion of the boomers are not only alive and well, but have significant clout and money (more often than not, they are also paying for the expensive tastes of their millennial children) but the point Carter was making is clear — there is a marked power shift in today’s marketplace.

For the first time in years, the baby boomers have been upended by the millennial cohort, which is now the biggest demographic group. Not only do they boast newfound power but their value system is infinitely different from previous generations — a fact impacting how they earn and spend their money, where they spend it, and from a foodservice perspective, how, what and where they eat. Equally as important, millennials are comfortable and adept with technology, using it to customize and facilitate their lives in ways we could never have imagined. Not surprisingly, restaurant chains and independents alike are being forced to invest more heavily in technology in order to appeal to this burgeoning demographic. But, as we’ve learned only too well — don’t get too comfortable. Before you know it, the technology will change and a new cohort will be nipping at our heels.

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Rosanna Caira
Rosanna Caira is the editor and publisher of Kostuch Media’s Foodservice and Hospitality, and Hotelier magazines. In her capacity as editor of Canada’s two leading hospitality publications, Rosanna directs the editorial and graphic content of both publications, and is responsible for the editorial vision of the magazines, its five websites as well as the varied tertiary products including e-newsletters, supplements and special projects. In addition to her editorial duties, Rosanna also serves as publisher of the company, directing the strategic development of the Sales and Marketing, Production and Circulation departments. Rosanna is the face of the magazines, representing the publications at industry functions and speaking engagements. She serves on various committees and Boards, including the Board of Directors of the Canadian Hospitality Foundation. She is a recipient of the Ontario Hostelry’s Gold Award in the media category. In 2006, Rosanna was voted one of the 32 most successful women of Italian heritage in Canada. Rosanna is a graduate of Toronto’s York University, where she obtained a BA degree in English literature.

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