TORONTO ― More than 12,000 foodservice professionals were expected to attend this year’s Restaurants Canada Show, which took place at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre from March 1 to 3, offering myriad culinary innovations, demos, competitions and educational seminars.
The show kicked off on Sunday with a couple seminars, including one from Mark Dempsey, director of client development for the NPD Group in Toronto, speaking about the growing $400-million fast-casual segment. Since 2003, the segment has seen solid gains in the U.S., including five years of double-digit growth, whereas quick-service and full-service have seen flat to declining growth rates, he said, citing NPD CREST data.
It seems fast-casual is eating away at the leadership position of some of Canada’s biggest chains, including Subway, which Dempsey said has lost two-million sandwich servings in the last two years to fast-casual, and Taco Bell, which he says has lost seven-million Mexican servings in the last two years to the growing segment. “The silver bullet of foodservice is loyalty,” said Dempsey. “This is why fast-casual is getting extra traffic and extra dollars, because people are starting to feel loyal to them. Loyal customers spend $4 more at fast-casual than those who go for convenience.”
Back on the showroom floor, the Frankie Tomatto’s Restaurant Innovation Competition winners were announced on day 2 of the three-day expo. Krista Emery and Heidi Ahrens from Toronto’s Humber College took top prize. The duo presented an Amateur Hospitality Certificate Program idea to address the shortage of skilled workers. The idea is to invite high-school students to participating colleges and universities for one week to learn hands-on skills in the trade while working with instructors, chefs and industry icons. The duo won $3,000, plus free sessions with various organizations to help bring their idea to life.
For more news from the show, including the Restaurants Canada AGM, an appearance by Dan Aykroyd of Crystal Head Vodka and trend insights, visit foodserviceandhospitality.com.