With the end of 2012 just around the corner, operators are priming for 2013. For most, the past year has been nothing to write home about. In fact, based on this month’s Hospitality Market Report, industry sales grew by 4.4 per cent, which amounts to less than two per cent once inflation and real growth is considered. While the industry’s performance wasn’t stellar, given a slower-than-expected recovery, and limited consumer spending, operators worked harder than ever to reinvent, preparing for the moment recovery would morph to better days.
But smart operators are hardly waiting idly by for this to happen; instead they’re changing, adapting and, more importantly, innovating. If the past tumultuous decade has taught them anything, it’s they can’t afford to stand still. It’s not surprising then, that there’s never been as much transformation in the industry as in recent years. Some of it has been fuelled by changing demographics and a world in flux, while new health concerns and possible impending nutrition labelling legislation are prompting operators to provide more choice and in the process re-tool their menus. And, of course, let’s not forget the role technology plays on the restaurant landscape — whether we’re talking about new tech toys in restaurants or the full-fledged impact of social media.
These changes are helping create a more vibrant and fluid marketplace. For example, a new breed of independent restaurants is popping up; this segment is led by young cooks intent on making their mark without spending a fortune on restaurant design. They’re hip and they’re confident in their ability to please the customer. And they’re interested in using local product, supporting farmers in their own backyard; they’re not beholden to tradition, which makes for a dynamic industry.
What’s more, Western-based concepts are moving east to find new markets while eastern concepts are shifting west in search of success. And, finally, after years of watching American concepts move north, Canadian-based operators are now spreading their wings and flying south hoping to tantalize American taste buds. While the recession has fuelled the decline of fine-dining, casual-dining has come into its own. And, when it comes to QSRs, fast-food restaurants are going through a mid-life crisis. With baby boomers now more concerned with healthy eating, and dwindling numbers of teenagers, QSRs are being forced to get creative, add menu items to the mix and revamp decor to meet the needs of an aging customer base. In the process, they’re being forced to reinvent.
Still, despite the challenges and the ebb and flow of the economy, as Garth Whyte, president of the CRFA recently said in a newsletter to his membership, “Canadians have a strong connection to the restaurant industry; 18-million Canadians come through our doors every day. This is an important relationship — for the restaurateur, the consumer and the economy.” And, it’s one that needs to be carefully cultivated with an eye to the future.
Foodservice and Hospitality magazine’s November issue: