When it comes to restaurant food, the interest level remains high among today’s increasingly sophisticated consumers. It would have been hard to imagine that fact years ago when food was simply viewed as sustenance. Sure, it feeds a fundamental need, but, in the past, consumers’ knowledge and appreciation of food was limited at best and the extent of product available in the marketplace was dictated, in many cases, by price point. Today, consumers know nearly as much about food as the cooks who prepare it. And, interestingly, this fascination with the subject is being passed on to children as witnessed by the sophisticated choices they’re making in restaurants.
While this love affair with food bodes well for the foodservice industry, there are ramifications. For example, consumers and advocates now take the health impacts of their culinary choices more seriously than ever, leading to greater interest in food, from the choices made at the farm level to the choices made about the fish and seafood harvested from our oceans. No longer are ingredients chosen simply because they taste good but also because they’re good for us and for the environment. Sustenance and sustainability now naturally go hand and hand. Similarly, topics such as climate change, carbon footprint and the viability of farms are creating a crescendo of concerns from consumers and advocates alike — not to mention, our growing concerns about obesity.
One need only look at the recent vilification of certain diets and ingredients to understand food has power to elicit both fervor and fear. As a recent example, sugar has become the latest ingredient to come under attack. This past spring, the movie “Fed Up” (see story on p. 38) was released, offering a scathing indictment of the white stuff. As a recent story in The Globe and Mail stated, “For decades many believed the only damage sugar caused was tooth decay and weight gain. But, in recent years, the case against it has been building with fantastic speed, and now a growing chorus of physicians and scientists believe the dangers are comparable to those of smoking.” Sound harsh? Perhaps, but it’s yet another reminder that food can spur fear and loathing in some consumers.
Suffice it to say, food is crucial to our lives and at the heart of the restaurant industry. So, the more we understand the ingredients (see profiles starting on p. 20) being used, the recipes being developed, and the trends and issues impacting consumer choices, the better armed chefs and operators are to run successful businesses. After all, what is food without the chefs who turn the raw product into a finished meal? This month’s series of chefs’ profiles puts it all into perspective by showcasing how these talented toques are interpreting today’s culinary reality in their respective kitchens (see profiles starting on p. 31).
In addition to our themed issue, this summer we’re pleased to present a special supplement on Tim Hortons. The iconic chain is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and will be hosting its annual conference for franchisees this summer in Toronto. As one of the industry’s biggest success stories, its history is one that has become part of the Canadian fabric. We hope you enjoy the special report. And, we salute Canada’s number-1 foodservice chain for its success and longevity.