Looking Forward: What to Expect in 2018


Last year was a difficult one for the Canadian foodservice industry. Traffic and spending remained relatively flat across most of the market. Certain segments, such as full-service restaurants, continued to struggle, while fast-casual and home-meal replacement continued to see strong growth — successfully stealing share from traditional FSR and QSR categories.

That said, the foodservice landscape continues to shift across the globe. The supply chain is evolving, consumer needs and tastes are changing, the channels offering foodservice are plentiful and technology continues to enable convenience. So, as we prepare for 2018, let’s take a look at some of the top themes in the foodservice industry.

Technology has enabled an unprecedented level of convenience for consumers. With a few scrolls, taps and clicks, customers can now get what they want, when they want it. Digitalization — mobile ordering, delivery, apps, order kiosks, the Internet — is growing rapidly across all global foodservice markets so it’s no longer a question of whether or not to invest in digital ordering — it’s a consumer expectation. Brands must move beyond participation in order to develop a deeper understanding of who is using digital ordering, what methods they’re using, when they’re using them, in what segment and for which category.

Globally, there is strong consumer demand for foodservice. The time-saving aspect of having someone else prepare your meals is a significant driver of growth in the marketplace, giving way to numerous access points for sourcing foodservice. This includes third-party aggregators who handle delivery logistics for restaurants, foodservice in non-traditional channels, meal-kit delivery services, food trucks, vending machines and direct foodservice delivery. Although this broadens the competitive set, it also creates opportunities as consumers blend foodservice purchases with items cooked at home to make a meal.

As operators adjust to this new reality, there are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself and your team. What is my competition from non-traditional channels? What is the impact of third-party aggregators on the industry, my business and my competitors’ business? Who is using these delivery options — when, where and why? How can I expand my delivery revenue to dayparts other than dinner?

Consumer attitudinal and behavioural shifts are impacting global foodservice markets and can have a significant impact. There are also structural, long-term behavioural shifts, such as consumers spending more time at home, which will have a lasting impact on the foodservice industry. Furthermore, in Canada we are beginning to see growth in individual-dinning occasions compared to group-dining occasions, which suggest some consumers are beginning to leverage foodservice more frequently and in different ways.


Some examples of recent fads include plant-based food consumption, meat alternatives, clean eating, “feel-good” consumption, claims-based eating such as grass-fed beef, natural or organic eating and food trucks. While some of these may be more of a novelty, they represent a challenge for operators who are forced to constantly assess and adapt to new and unexpected consumer demands. When it comes to fads and trends, it’s important to consider which behaviours should be invested in. Ask yourself where your white-space opportunities are, which behaviours are threats to your operation and how you can best plan for future investments?

Written by Robert Carter 

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