TORONTO — Restaurants Canada is releasing its 2021 Discerning Diner Report, highlighting what restaurateurs and chefs can expect in an ever-shifting market as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
Based on survey results, 89 per cent of Canadians are looking forward to dining out with friends and family, with 64 per cent of surveyors claiming that it will be an important part of their lifestyle post-pandemic.
“Canadians may be ready to return to restaurants, however, some of their tastes and priorities have changed,” says Todd Barclay, president of Restaurants Canada. “The Discerning Diner Report provides our members with the information they need to make choices around everything from menu selections and customer-service options, to marketing initiatives and possible new revenue streams that today’s consumer is interested in. As more Canadians return to in-person dining, restaurants will need to continue adapting to capture market share.” However, 32 per cent of Canadians are still hesitant about eating in-person and plan to postpone their first in-dining experiences for anywhere between a few months of re-opening, to sometime in 2022. This hesitancy creates a significant challenge for the industry as restaurants are unable to maximize revenue.
Additionally, Restaurants Canada identified the top considerations for Canadians as the country re-opens its restaurants: delivering excellence, supporting local and attracting new diners.
First, Canadians are relying on takeout and delivery options more than ever. In fact, 78 per cent of Canadians have ordered delivery within the six months prior to the survey. Diners are looking for consistent food quality, craveable menu items and alcoholic beverage options, so restaurants will need to continue providing unique takeout and delivery options.
“The developments and improvements made to delivery and takeout containers, food quality and speed have made a lasting, positive impressions,” says Barclay. “Restaurateurs and chefs will need to continue to innovate in order to increase margins on takeout and delivery, but they can count on people visiting in-person instead of just virtually as restrictions subside.”
Next, the support-local movement is here to stay and will help sustain restaurants. According to the survey, 87 per cent of Canadians are interested in ordering food sourced from local farmers or using Canadian produce.
“These food trends are encouraging for the restaurants who adapted to pandemic closures by pivoting their business model to include local grocery and meal-kit options for consumers,” says Barclay. “These findings reiterate the need for restaurants to look at new revenue streams in order to survive and grow.”
Finally, restaurants have been prioritizing customer convenience by implementing more technology, such as online ordering, contactless payment and social-media ads.
“With the amount of innovation that’s transformed the market over the past two years, there are several new ways to help bump your business to the top of someone’s must-visit list,” continues Barclay. “We’ve seen restaurants completely pivot their business model, market to completing new demographics with great success and implement new technology that streamlines efficiency.”