Non-traditonal Foodservice Steps Up Its Game

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Canadians love dining out, which explains why 47 per cent of the population visits a restaurant every day. But, traditional foodservice isn’t the only segment reaping the rewards of foodservice traffic as customer visits to commercial restaurants steadily increased during 2012, surpassing 6.5-billion visits annually, an increase of 200-million visits over 2011, according to NPD’s CREST research.

Although quick-service restaurants (QSRs) capture most Canadian dining-out occasions across the industry, and much of the increased customer visits, consumers spent $4 billion in non-traditional foodservice channels such as business and industry, accommodation as well as at hospitals and schools during 2012.

Convenience is just one of the reasons customers are attracted to QSRs and the non-commercial restaurant sector. In fact, convenience is described as the foundation of the non-commercial segment and the number-1 reason consumers dine out of home. But, recently key trends such as upscaling, snacking and menu expansion have given consumers more reasons to visit the non-commercial segment. Capitalizing on these trends has proven profitable for non-commercial operators, as evidenced by the increase in average eater checks last year to approximately $4.39 (about a three-per-cent increase over 2011). And, with the QSR’s average check at approximately $5.03, there’s still plenty of room for growth in the non-commercial sector.

So far, aside from upscaling, snacking and menu expansion, non-commercial segment operators are also achieving growth through menu innovation, better quality offerings and customized meal solutions that promote fresh and healthy options. Similar to QSR, the top menu item in non-commercial foodservice is coffee. Meanwhile, beverages and snack foods were among the fastest-growing offerings during 2012, while the fastest-growing menu item was chicken/poultry. Taking a cue from QSRs, the influence of grilled-chicken sandwiches, chicken wraps and chicken snack items have been well-received within this segment.

Despite capturing just 13 per cent of all out-of-home meal occasions, the non-commercial foodservice segment is poised for growth. As the unemployment rate in Canada decreases and the economy strengthens, convenience, combined with menu innovation, will continue to make the non-commercial segment a viable alternative to QSRs.

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