TORONTO — Operators visiting Toronto’s CRFA Show weren’t the only ones treated to a sampling of what’s hot; there was also plenty of meat served at the recent Foodservice Interchange (FSI), held March 4 at the city’s Allstream Centre.
The half-day session attracted industry stakeholders interested in learning more about the issues shaping today’s $65-billion industry. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty, but there is a little turnaround happening,” said Garth Whyte, president and CEO, CRFA, upon opening the session. With the restaurant industry attracting 18-billion visits per day, and employing more than 1.1-million Canadians, Whyte says foodservice is one of the most important sectors of the economy as well as generators of jobs in the country.
Though the past few years have been tumultuous, Whyte pointed out that 2012 sales grew by 5.2 per cent. More specifically, Alberta and Saskatchewan posted the most impressive gains in the country with increases of nine and 8.5 per cent respectively; and Ontario registered sales growth of 4.7 per cent, while B.C. posted the smallest increase at 2.4 per cent. Interestingly, the supper daypart continues to show a decline, while the a.m. snack daypart grew by a respectable 15.2 per cent. Meanwhile, the QSR segment now accounts for $23.2 billion in sales while FSR accounts for $22.7. Not surprisingly, as the industry slowly rebounds, the three top issues operators are concerned most about are rising food costs, the weak economy and rising labour costs.
While the industry has been working hard to keep sales growing during a challenging time, it’s also had to contend with a host of regulatory issues. Speaking on that front, Derek Nighbor, SVP, Public and Regulatory Affairs of the FCPMC, provided an insightful overview of some of the issues impacting today’s operators, focusing on childhood obesity and sodium reduction. “Obesity has become the biggest public policy issue today,” he said. Interestingly, while he was making his presentation at the Foodservice Interchange, the Ontario Healthy Kids’ Panel was launching its recommendations to the government on how to improve the health of its residents. According to Nighbor, the panel did not recommend taxes but it recommended menu-board labelling as well educing sweetened beverages at point-of-sales in stores. The panel also recommended a ban on the advertising of high-calorie foods to children under the age of 12.
As part of today’s healthier landscape, Nighbor also spoke of the move to reduce sodium consumption in Canada from 3,400 mg a day to the recommended 2,300 mg per day. But Nighbor stressed that, while the industry is working hard to move in this direction, once that current standard is met, it will need to be held, as reducing it any further too quickly “is not doable.”