With every passing day, it’s clear the world as we know it continues to look vastly different. Changing demographics, the magnetic pull of technology and evolving consumer behaviours make us feel as though we’re on a collision course between the existing and the emerging world.
It’s a reality that hits businesses across industry sectors on a daily basis. As Lorraine Trotter, dean of George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts, told an audience of industry executives who serve on the college’s Program Advisory Council in early October, “We’re no longer relevant,” pointing to herself as a member of the baby-boomer cohort. Instead, she offered, it’s the millennials who now matter.
Certainly, that’s not news; we’ve heard the “M” word for several years, but we’re now seeing evidence of how it impacts the foodservice industry on various fronts. From the types of new concepts emerging, to the continuing popularization of plant-based dining, to the imminent changes that will be foisted on different industries — and on society — with the legalization of cannabis.
As Robert Carter, advisor at NPD Group, stated at the recent Restaurant Realities Redefined conference, “It’s all about innovation and change,” pointing to the recent influx of American foodservice brands, such as Chick-fil-A, as well as global operators, such as Jollibee from the Philippines. “Why are they looking at Canada?” asked Carter, answering his own question by telling the audience, “We have a stable industry, where 45 per cent of the population visits restaurants every day.” He then pointed to consolidation and changing consumer habits as trends fuelling a host of additional changes. “Millennials are launching disruptive restaurant brands,” he said, adding they’re also driving growth in casualization, digital-door expenditures and convenience — not to mention declines in full-service restaurants.
Clearly, we’re living in a brave new world brimming with opportunities. But, expect further disruption and expect it quickly. Certainly, as Frank Hennessy, president of Recipe Unlimited said at the conference, “This industry is always under construction. We’ve always been in a mode where you have to evolve and adapt.” And, while that’s undoubtedly true, the only difference this time is that change is happening at a faster rate than ever before and it only promises to further accelerate. That means operators will be forced to become increasingly nimble, proactive and infinitely more strategic; there’s little time to ponder and deliberate outcomes ad nauseum. “The pace of innovation has picked up,” said Eric Lefebvre, president and CEO of MTY, speaking at the conference. “If you sit on your hands for three months, you’re dead.”