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Server packing take out food wearing gloves

What does the future hold for foodservice?

Here are 7 top trends to keep you on track


Hindsight is 2020, as the old expression goes. Certainly, as we rounded the corner in 2019, the prospect of a bright new year was uppermost in our minds.


Who could have foreseen a pandemic that would upend every aspect of foodservice? But there is a resilience in the industry and a sense of optimism that once we return to some semblance of normality, or at the very least, a new normal, restaurants will shine once again. To get a better read on what’s in store for foodservice, we turned to our data partner, Technomic Inc., to take a deeper dive into the trends for 2021:


1.Diversity & Inclusion (Operations)

Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 spurred calls to action for foodservice companies to fight for social justice and equality. As a result, businesses across the supply chain are committing to working harder to produce meaningful change. We’ll see more conscious efforts to hire, mentor and promote (especially in leadership positions) minority races and ethnicities, as well as women. There will also be an uptick in internal antibias training, partnerships that support minority organizations and donations to social justice-related causes.  



Stat: Nearly half (46%) of consumers report that it’s important to them that restaurants are engaged in social justice – consistent across all generations. In addition, more than two-fifths (42%) of consumers, including 59% of Gen Zers, express that it’s important to them that restaurants support the Black Lives Matter movement.


Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+

Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data


Example: Uber Eats waived delivery fees for consumers ordering from Black-owned restaurants throughout 2020.


2. Safety Stays Top of Mind (Consumer)

As the pandemic rolls into another year, consumers will continue to prioritize safety when making restaurant decisions. They’ll favour operators who earn their trust by always executing strict sanitation and social distancing protocols, such as proper food handling, rigorous restaurant cleaning and limited indoor seating. This will lead to more touchless digital menu boards, contactless ordering and delivery options, pre-packed and grab-and-go items, tamper-proof packaging, and high-quality air filtration and ventilation systems.



Stat: Nearly two-fifths (38%) of consumers think restaurants could do a better job promoting their safety and sanitation protocols.


Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+
Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data


3. Post-Lockdown Buzz (Global)

In anticipation of a vaccine, operators across the world will innovate highly buzzworthy products to attract guests back into restaurants and stand above the competition. This is a tactic we’ve seen Asian markets employ during a previous easing of lockdown restrictions. Compelling menu development will include inventing wacky mashups and next-level collaborations, expanding into new mealparts and dayparts, and investing in product improvements.



Stat: Most consumers agree that they are likely to visit a fast-food (65%) or fast-casual (71%) restaurant that they don’t typically patronize if it has a unique limited-time offer.


Base: 551 and 701 consumers ages 18+

Source: Technomic Ignite consumer data featuring the 2020 Canadian Future of LSR Fast Food & Fast Casual Consumer Trend Report


Example: Woodhouse Brew Pub launched a modern take on nostalgic TV dinner trays with its “Hungry Friends” reheatable meals. (Toronto)


4. Investing in Technology (Operations)

COVID-19 has motivated both consumers and operators to quickly embrace foodservice technologies that offer contactless and/or touchless aspects, including mobile apps, ordering kiosks and digital menu boards. Operators will test more advanced technologies in the coming year as consumers continue to prioritize safety and convenience. On the horizon innovations will include more GPS tracking, voice ordering via an AI assistant, facial recognition systems and drone delivery to provide frictionless off-premise services, as well as greater investments in robotics to maximize labour efficiencies for both back and front of house operations.



Stat: Nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers 18-34 strongly agree that if available, they would be interested in having items delivered via innovative delivery technologies (e.g., drones, self-driving robots, etc.).


Base: 1,282 consumers who ever order off-premise

Source: Technomic Ignite consumer data featuring the 2020 Canadian Delivery and Takeout Consumer Trend Report


Example: Swiss Chalet updated its mobile app. The chain’s new version of its mobile app features an updated interface where guests can save their favorite items, collect coupons in the Coupon Wallet, opt in or out of receiving silverware with their order, tip ahead and more. It also includes a “giving” feature where customers can gift Swiss Chalet meals to friends and family.


5. Going Dark (Menu)

Operators will increasingly look to black and deep purple ingredients in 2021. All of these ingredients provide a wow-factor colour when featured in food and drink, and some also have either umami flavour profiles or immunity-boosting benefits (due to their anthocyanin-rich capabilities). Ingredients to watch include dark berries, such as saskatoon serviceberry and blackcurrant; purple corn and potato; black salt, kale and gnocchi; activated charcoal cocktails; squid ink beyond pasta dishes; and ingredients in ashes, such as ash-covered cheeses, onion or leek ash, etc.



Example: RGE RD’s Purple City cocktail with Park Distillery vodka, Hanson Distillery cherry rye, maple saskatoon berries and plum bitters (Edmonton)


6. Thinking Local (Operations)

Movements to support Canada’s economy will grow as borders remain closed and small businesses continue to struggle. We’ll see operators increase their sourcing from area suppliers and visibly promote these collaborations on menus. At the same time, community-minded consumers will actively seek to patronize restaurants where their money also helps support local farmers and other purveyors. Driving this effort will be distributor partnership with local suppliers and producers that help spread awareness of their products and fulfill growing patron demands.



Stat: Approximately two-thirds of consumers (67%) say they are more likely to purchase and/or are willing to pay more for food and beverage that is locally sourced.  

Base: 355 consumers ages 18-73

Source: Technomic Ignite consumer data featuring the 2020 Canadian Generational Consumer Trend Report


Example: The Pickle Barrel celebrated Ontario farmers by rolling out LTOs featuring local ingredients, including rainbow trout from Manitoulin Island and corn from Waterford


7. Off-Premise Escalates (Operations)

Off-premise services have served as a lifeline for operators throughout the pandemic. But as consumers grow accustomed to the perks of these occasions (i.e., convenience, speed and contactless experiences), operators are hedging their bets by incorporating off-premise into their long-term strategy to offset future dine-in disruptions. We’ll see an uptick in new and remodeled stores that emphasize takeout, delivery, drive-thru and curbside pickup, as well as new and upgraded technology to make these services seamless and distinctive.



Stat: Approximately a third of consumers say they plan on ordering food and beverage for takeout (38%) and delivery (31%) more in 2021 than they did in 2020.

Base: 1,000 consumers ages 18+

Source: Technomic Canadian Omnibus consumer survey data


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100% Takeout

Lord Elgin Fish and Chips logo with pictures of fish and chips and burger


Lord Elgin Fish & Chips, a family-owned fish and chips restaurant located in Port Elgin, Ont., will be celebrating 40 years of serving the community this May. Owner-operator Mike Lemcke grew up in the business and, with his wife Janet, bought out his parents 22 years ago. The 3,500 sq. ft. restaurant with 145 seats appeals mainly to a family and seniors crowd.
Mike spoke to Brand Points Plus about how Lord Elgin Fish & Chips has been able to pivot quickly from dine-in with some takeout to 100% takeout:

What was business like for you before the coronavirus hit?

Winter is normally slow for us and we close for five weeks at Christmas, usually reopening the last week or two of January. We had just reopened and managed to get through February. Then in March just as business started to pick up, COVID-19 hit. Usually each month gets busier from March to June, then July and August are crazy busy, come September things start to slow down again, and each month from September to December things get considerably slower. Takeout sales generally varied from 15%-25% of our daily business.

When did you see the handwriting on the wall and decide to convert to takeout and delivery? 

We converted to takeout on the Tuesday the Ontario government mandated dining rooms to close. We still haven’t started delivery as we have set up a very safe pickup procedure that’s working well. If we see that people are no longer willing to pick up their orders, we will consider delivery. [Check out Lord Elgin's Facebook page to see how easy they've made it to pick up and go.] 


What was your first reaction when you realized you’d have to make this change?

We knew we could make the change quickly and just had to perfect the system. We had to adjust it a few times as we kept finding little things to change to make everything run smoother.


What steps did you have to take to convert your operation?

Five years ago, we developed a frozen battered fish product that customers can buy and cook in their oven. We have slowly increased the sales each year. This product has been very popular since restaurants had to convert to takeout only. We have added our homemade frozen fries to this product line temporarily.

What changes have you had to make to staffing?

We decided to lay off our staff and run the business with just our family of four. We have many kitchen staff who live with vulnerable people so they didn’t want to work. We decided to open only Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 12-7, to funnel as much business as we can into three days to limit our overhead. We took a few items off the menu with short shelf life to limit the amount of food waste.

What challenges have you faced in converting to takeout?

No real challenges, but we continue to rearrange the kitchen to make it more efficient for takeout. It has been interesting seeing how quickly and easily we were able to adapt to takeout only. Luckily, we already did takeout so we had all the packaging figured out already. We got the word out to our customers that we were switching to takeout mostly through Facebook and our big LED road sign. We make sure we attach a special thank you to each order for the support during this time.
Are your efforts bearing fruit? How have you measured success?

We are very happy with where we are at this point. Obviously, our sales are down considerably, but so are our expenses.


Lord Elgin Fish & Chips' top tips:

  • Trimming costs and limiting any waste is more important now than ever before.
  • Look at every little cost including how often you get garbage pickup.
  • If you find you are not very busy, reduce the days you are open.
  • If you have a product people want, they will come the few days you are open and you can reduce operating expenses.
  • Consider adding other items to your takeout menu



This post was shared in connection with Brand Points Plus, a FREE loyalty program for independent operators.  Easily collect points for amazing rewards, if you're not a member - we highly recommend you become one.



Learn more about Brand Points Plus




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Ontario Pork Supports Local Restaurants

Ontario pork producers know that supporting local restaurants through these uncertain times is the right thing to do. Whether that support is through ordering delivery/take-out or buying gift cards online, we should all come together to ensure local restaurants have a steady income into the future.


This is why they are offering free social media advertising — paid for by the producers — to eligible local restaurants that serve Ontario pork in the province. This Facebook and Instagram ad will target over 5,000 or more customers in their area, and promote that their restaurant has delivery or take-out options.


Ontario Pork is offering to support local restaurants. Contact


They are talking about an actual paid and targeted ad, not just a normal social media post.


Professional digital marketing is an area that many restaurants can’t normally tap into (even in normal circumstances), so they are offering our team to support.


All they need from restaurants is a high-quality photo of a pork menu item, and they would do the rest— so you can focus on running the business.


Please contact Jeremy Yim, Retail and Food Marketing Specialist at Ontario Pork for more information and to sign-up to the free branding program.


Together we support local.



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Flanagan Foodservice team at 40th anniversary celebration

The Flanagan story dates back to 1977 when Joe and Dee Flanagan opened Bob’s Surplus Food Outlet in Waterloo, Ontario. The retail store operated out of 5,200 square feet of space with three employees and 500 products.


The enterprise quickly evolved into Bob’s Wholesale where dry grocery products were distributed to bakeries and donut shops in the Kitchener-Waterloo area with all deliveries being shipped in the Flanagan family station wagon. Joe Flanagan recognized a need for a full service distribution and set out to expand geographical coverage and diversify the product line. He renamed the company J. and D. Flanagan Sales and Distribution Ltd., and over the next ten years the company dealt with rapid expansion including new vehicles, a new building in Kitchener (1983), and a new branch in Owen Sound. In 1989, the Kitchener branch was moved again to accommodate the growing demand.


The '80s also saw the introduction of Joe’s sons to the family business. Dan, Rick, Jeff and Murray started working at the company in various positions. The company was renamed Flanagan Foodservice Inc. and again, continued to grow. By this time the company viewed the ability to adapt to serve its customer needs as a skill that has been well-developed over the years.


Although many businesses were suffering from a recession in the '90s, the company showed no signs of slowing down. Joe Flanagan told employees that the company “wasn’t taking part in the recession.” A true visionary, he led the company through another decade of growth. Expansions to the Kitchener facility were needed and the Sudbury branch was opened. Fresh seafood, dairy, and new marketing initiatives were introduced that helped propel the company forward.


With a strong succession plan in place, Joe appointed his eldest son, Dan, as President in 1998. A gradual hand off of the management responsibilities and consensus among the brothers as to the direction of the business allowed for a seamless transition to the second generation.


With the passing of Joe Flanagan in 2000, the company was led by Dan, Rick, Jeff and Murray. Each brother was actively involved in the day-to-day management of the company, maintaining the integrity and service that Flanagan Foodservice was built on.  Under their leadership, the next 13 years were another period of growth and advancement for the Flanagan brand.


The company acquired Roseland Produce, added another 65,000 square feet to the Kitchener branch, and became HACCP accredited while helping shape the future of food safety in foodservice distribution.  Sustainability initiatives were a focus and the company committed to ensuring they were proactively managing the impact on the environment.   Dan, Rick, Jeff and Murray kept the spirit of their father alive while staying true to his core values of service, teamwork and growth.


In 2012 the owners embarked on a strategic journey which would shape the future of the company for years to come.  Flanagan Foodservice unveiled a new logo to complement innovative changes to the company vision, mission, values, and tagline. The focus remained on the company strengths and the evolving business environment while always keeping its customers as the top priority.


One value that didn’t change was the company’s commitment to the communities it serves. Flanagan’s has always supported many worthwhile charities. The company is actively involved in We Care, Habitat for Humanity, Speroway and many other worthwhile causes. The company has donated over $1 million dollars to We Care over the years and contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars of food annually to worthwhile causes. The company also introduced paid volunteerism in 2016, encouraging employees to support their communities through effort that is compensated with pay.


In 2014, Rick, Jeff and Murray retired from the active management of the family business, leaving the oldest brother, Dan, to lead the family entrepreneurship into the future. The brothers remain as Shareholders and Board Advisors and continue to collaborate on various company projects and initiatives.


Today, Flanagan Foodservice employs 520 people in 4 branches across Ontario.  The fleet consists of over 80 vehicles delivering foodservice products across Ontario and Southwestern Quebec. As the requirements of customers continue to grow, so does Flanagan’s. Through technical innovation and expansions, foresight and marketing, sales have grown consecutively for 40 years.


The future of Flanagan’s continues to be that of a family-owned, independent company that will exhibit the same distinct family values that have defined its identity for 40 years. Flanagan’s is looking to the future with great excitement. The company is in the midst of its largest expansion to date with an 180,000 square foot branch to open in Whitby, Ontario in the fall of 2017. Dan summarizes the strategy for the future: “Our core values of service excellence, teamwork, continuous improvement, inclusive family spirit, and community building through supporting community events, organizations and charities will continue to define what Flanagan’s will stand for in the future.”


At the heart of it, the Flanagan story comes down to service. Providing exceptional personal service was at the heart of everything Joe and Dee did while establishing and growing the business. In the second generation, the Flanagan brothers embraced that core value while taking the company to the next level. Today, this combined legacy of service provides the core mandate for the future of the company.


“Customer service is the cornerstone of our business,” emphasizes Dan. “It really comes down to all of our people understanding how important each and every customer is, and how they can best serve them to meet their unique needs and help contribute to their success in the foodservice market.”


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Flanagan Food Show welcome sign entrance

That’s a wrap!

April 5 and April 26, we held our spring food shows in Kitchener and Sudbury. This annual event gives you the chance to sample new products, network with sales representatives, and experience first-hand the newest trends and industry developments.


We’d like to say "thank you" to all who participated and attended. We couldn’t have done it without our fantastic vendors and customers!


Flanagan team at Food Show with foodKitchener food show guests, Kitchener food show entrance, ED Foods booth, Flanagan's Our Ontario booth.


Guests browsed the exhibits and had their taste buds working overtime sampling new products in foodservice as well as innovative approaches to traditional favourites.

Customers felt that this year’s show was very resource-focused, according to Dave Ball, Division Sales Manager for Flanagan's. “Products complemented current trends, and each booth provided great insight to menu planning,” says Ball. “Vendors didn’t just display their products, they explained how to sell it.”


Some of these trending items included the Maplehurst/Weston Bakeries doughnut wall and doughnut pops, as well as Rich’s Foodservice freakshakes.


Maplehurst/Weston's unique doughnuts can be customized to specific events, and Rich's crazy shakes are an incredibly popular menu trend. Both are sure to be posted to social media by your customers. (Take it from us—we couldn't resist getting a photo!)

Maplehurst/Weston Bakeries doughnut wall and doughnut pops, Rich's Foodservice freakshakes

From left: Maplehurst/Weston Bakeries doughnut wall and doughnut pops, Rich's Foodservice freakshakes.


This year's shows were centre-of-plate focused, featuring premium beef, fresh seafood and custom-cut poultry. As an introduction to our Carve premium Ontario beef brand, a chef greeted customers at the Carve booth with tender and delicious ribeye and striploin steaks.


“There was high interest in Flanagan’s protein products,” Ball continues, “most notably our new premium Ontario beef brand, Carve, and fresh seafood from Caudle’s Catch.”


Speaking of Ontario…

Our marketing team greeted customers at the Our Ontario booth, promoting our new local food program.


We're thrilled to introduce our customers to our local program.

As a proudly Canadian company, we know the importance of supporting our economy and educating our customers on the value of purchasing local.


As guests moved through the show, they received a Canada t-shirt from the Flanagan booth, supported Friends of We Care by spinning a wheel at their booth to win prizes, and last but not least, shopped the s.t.o.p. Cash & Carry booth.



A customer favourite, the Cash & Carry booth has hot deals on a wide variety of smallwares items each year.


“I had customers tell me that this was one of our better quality shows,” says Ball.


“Our show has a unique level of energy,” adds Amber Recchia, Event Coordinator for Flanagan’s. “Flanagan vendors love the level of engagement they receive from our customers.”


We take pride in inviting our customers to the shows. We recognize their busy schedules, and greatly appreciate the time they take to spend with us.


Our goal for each show is to delight, educate and feed our guests—we've done just that for another successful food show season.


Thank you!


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Image of Frape & Sons Boutique Bitters

Nestled just one hour north of Toronto in Newmarket, Ontario, is a unique food business that is one of the newest additions to the Flanagan Market.


What makes Frape and Sons unique is that, to owner Justin Frape’s knowledge, it is the only excise-exempt craft distillery in Canada. The distillery dedicatedly produces craft cocktail bitters for domestic and international markets.


Equipped with brewing and distillation equipment from the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee, Frape and Sons makes batches of no more than 500 bottles at a time using ingredients local to the province of Ontario.


Mr. Frape, Chief Executive and Head Distiller, has been an avid fan of craft spirits for many years, but a nudge from his lawyer (of all people!) opened up his mind to the possibility of producing distilled spirits using local ingredients.


In the fall of 2014, Justin decided to make the jump and purchased an all-copper column reflux still from a coppersmith in Ballard County, Kentucky and grain mashing and brewing equipment was sourced from Knoxville, Tennessee.


Frape and Sons was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada when the first distilled spirit base started pouring into a finishing jug on the evening of May 3rd, 2015 in the presence of Justin, his wife Katherine, and a very curious neighbor who had been following the progression of the distillery.


Frape & Sons are distillers of craft cocktail bitters. Be careful to make the distinction, here; there are many formulators of bitters, who purchase bulk ethanol and steep botanicals and spices in the alcohol base. Frape and Sons are bitters distillers; they make their alcohol bases by hand with molasses from Ontario sugar refineries, local fruit and local grains. A hundred gallons of distiller's beer, which is the input for the still, will net them between five and eight gallons of alcohol base. It is relatively neutral following distillation, but it could hardly be described as smooth; they prefer single pass distillations for the character that they impart to the bitters.


What is unusual about Frape & Sons compared to many bitters producers is that they don’t use neutral spirits in their formulations; the alcohol bases play as much a role in the flavours as the botanicals. The resulting bitters have been described as a little boozy - but not overpoweringly so - with a very clean finish.


Frape & Sons bitters have broad culinary and beverage applications, and features botanicals from the boreal forests of northwestern Ontario, the fruits of food producers from the city of Thunder Bay, and water from Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake.


Purchase boutique bitters from Frape & Sons:

Find their products on Flanagan Market, Flanagan's e-commerce platform connecting you directly to local Ontario producers and more than 600 Ontario items.

Learn about Flanagan Market here and sign up to the platform here.


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Ontario vegetables with Flanagan Market logo

Proudly Canadian and family-owned, Flanagan's is the largest Canadian owned, independent foodservice distributor in the country. Though Flanagan’s has grown to provide full service to more than 6,000 restaurants and foodservice operations across the province of Ontario, it has become more challenging to serve the niche, local segment of the market, according to Peter Bozzer, Director of Procurement at Flanagan Foodservice.


“We kept hearing from customers that local food is a priority for them, so we set out to build a comprehensive local food program that we’ll be able to build on year after year,” says Bozzer.


Our Ontario, Flanagan’s new local food program, lists over 400 Ontario products available in its warehouses, as well as provides access to the thousands of other niche, local products across Ontario through its partnership with Local Line.


“When we spoke with our customers, it became clear that, although many of them wanted local food, identifying the right suppliers and products was very complex. There were unknowns about suppliers, their products, prices, safety certifications and delivery options. Aggregating all of this information from hundreds of local food suppliers is no easy task, so we were pleased to partner with Local Line to make this information available to all our customers,” says Jackie Oakes, Marketing Manager for Flanagan Foodservice.


Local Line, headquartered in Kitchener, is a sales platform for food suppliers, providing e-commerce, CRM and inventory solutions for farmers, brewers, vineyards, butchers, bakers and other food industry suppliers. As a food purchaser, you can sign up with Local Line to access a list of suppliers and their products.


“What we’ve effectively done is created a catalogue expansion platform for Flanagan Foodservice. They now offer their own local food e-commerce store with their local supplier partners throughout Ontario. As a customer of Flanagan’s, you get to browse those suppliers and order from them directly, enabling you to access the variety of products you’re looking for with just the click of a button,” says Cole Jones, CEO of Local Line.


“The goal is to dramatically increase access to Ontario local food products for our customers. This is an exciting program that will only help everyone involved in the local food supply chain, with each passing day,” says Barry Reid, VP of Sales & Marketing for Flanagan Foodservice.


If you’d like to become a customer of the Flanagan Market local food program you can sign up here.


If you’d like to become a customer of Flanagan Foodservice and access their main catalogue, you can do so here.


If you’d like to become a local supply partner in the local food program, sign up to Local Line here and send them an email at



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Squash cut into stripes with dip

With fall brings the feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts. The shift from warm to cool innately inspires dishes of comfort and depth. While flavour preferences and trends may not vary much from the summer months, main ingredients and their applications are a whole lot heartier.


Jumbo ricotta ravioli complements rich garlic shrimp, Parmesan, chives, and basil as a shareable appetizer. Braised pork shoulder sandwich with apple cider and orange gravy incorporates bright citrus flavour while being autumn-appropriate. For a Canadian-inspired fall dessert, feature blueberry bread pudding with vanilla custard, vanilla gelato and maple syrup.


These are the fastest-growing flavours this fall season, by mealpart, to inspire your own signature fall flavour:



Blue Cheese - 29.2%
Lime - 29.2%
Celery - 27.1%
Basil - 26.0%
Dill - 26.0%
Sesame - 25.0%
Avocado - 22.9%
Cream Cheese - 22.9%
Cajun - 21.9%
Goat Cheese - 21.9%



Dill - 29.2%
Citrus - 26.0%
Peppercorn - 25.0%
Sriracha - 21.9%
Mango - 20.8%
Grape - 20.8%
Beet - 17.7%
Rose - 17.7%
Coconut - 16.7%
Brie - 14.6%



Crème Brulée - 19.6%
Espresso - 14.1%
Salted Caramel - 13.0%
Toffee - 12.0%
Vanilla Bean - 10.9%
Buttery - 7.6%
Ginger - 6.5%
Mocha - 6.5%
Butterscotch - 5.4%
Blackberry - 5.4%


Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Caesar - 10.4%
Passion Fruit - 7.3%
Pomegranate - 7.3%
Blackberry - 6.3%
Cherry - 5.2%
Grenadine - 5.2%
Citrus - 5.2%
Sweet - 5.2%
Cucumber - 4.2%


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Lady giving food to Food Rescue

We live in a country that is rich in nutrient soil with incredible farming and safe food production practices. Still, 11 million metric tonnes of food is wasted in Canada annually. That works out to be almost 40% of all food produced in Canada. Not only does food in the landfill create methane gas—a leading cause of climate change—but 1 in 8 families in Canada currently struggles to put healthy food on the table.


Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, has been rescuing usable surplus food since 1985. To date, more than 140 million pounds of food has been recovered. It was Ontario’s ever-growing need to provide fresh, healthy food to hungry families that inspired Second Harvest’s innovative online platform,


What is is a website that directly connects food businesses with surplus food to non-profits with limited funding and resources.


Veronica Summerhill, manager, program and process development, likes to think of it as the eHarmony of food donations. “This system does the work to find partnerships, track a user’s positive impact and access additional resources for safe food handling and donations.” was conceived as a way to help other businesses and non-profits tap into Second Harvest’s expertise in food recovery.


“It increases access for non-profits to offer fresher, healthier types of perishable food that they often can’t afford on tight budgets,” adds Kim Couse, Second Harvest director of communications. She stresses the system is for any food business, anywhere, to safely donate any type and quantity of unsold food to any not-for-profit that provides food to those in need.


The Benefits of Donating Unsold Food

Food businesses can do so much good in their own neighbourhoods with just a few pounds of food donations a week. “We understand that restaurants work to have minimal food waste,” notes Summerhill, “but in instances where you have supplier samples that can’t be used, or maybe a catering order that doesn’t get picked up, is a great option.”


It’s also a philanthropic story to tell. Donation metrics are tracked within the system so restaurants can easily see the number of meals provided in the community, total dollar value of their rescues, and even greenhouse gas emissions averted. Though this information is private, Summerhill says she’s seen a number of business share their positive impact with their customer base through social media.


Improving corporate social responsibility results in stronger community relationships, dedicated staff, and customer retention.


Restaurants stand to benefit from a financial standpoint, too, over-and-above reduced tipping fees. According to a study released by Champions 12.3, a global coalition to inspire action to reduce food loss and waste, restaurants see $7 profit for every $1 spent on food waste and loss reduction.


How it Works

Register your free account

Go to to begin setting up your account. You’ll share basic details like your business name and contact information to get started.


Screen shot of how Register your account on Food


Enter details of your excess food

Let Second Harvest know what it is you’re offering. You’ll select your donation type (one-time or recurring), food category, and additional details like temperature and approximate weight.


Screenshot of details on how to input food on food


You have the choice of selecting a location you’d like to send your donation, or:


Be matched with an organization

Your donation is matched with a suitable organization in your community. That charity or non-profit will be notified of your offer.


Your food is picked up to be donated

If the organization accepts, they’ll pick up your donation at the location and time specified.


Partner organizations are provided with cooler bags, ice packs, and thermometers to ensure food safety is maintained throughout the entire chain of custody, explains Summerhill.


The Ontario Donation of Food Act protects businesses who donate food in good faith, and ensures no liability for the donor. For further peace of mind, social service organizations are screened by Second Harvest to confirm they are registered non-profits, have been Public Health inspected, and are educated regarding safe temperature-sensitive food transport.


Together, We Have Impact

“By providing surplus food to charity partners, food businesses are directly impacting the lives of individuals, organizations, and their community as a whole,” says Summerhill. “Community organizations are now able to offer more food programs, or even start a meal or snack program where there wasn’t one before.”


To date there are more than 700 food businesses and almost 600 non-profits in Ontario using Even still, greater business participation is the number one piece of feedback from non-profit partners, according to Summerhill.

“The appetite to rescue surplus food is large!”


For more information and to create your free account, visit


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Asparagus on a cutting board with lemon

Along with maple syrup, fiddle heads and rhubarb, asparagus is a harbinger of spring, a clarion that the winter is behind us and fresh produce is ready to roll out consistently. There aren’t many chefs – or restaurant patrons who really care about good food – who don’t look forward to asparagus season. 


To taste the early season, try to eat a beautiful green stalk raw – immediately – after it has been picked: it has amazing flavour and juiciness. It grows well in many areas in the south of the province, and there are a number of producers in Ontario if you want to source local asparagus.


Vegetable royalty welcomes spring

The plant’s earliest, most tender stalks are a vibrant apple green with a tip tinged with purple – the colour that we associate with royalty. And the slender vegetable is indeed a royal guest as it starts to appear on restaurant menus. In fact, the earlier in the season, the sweeter the asparagus: the stalks grow from underground rhizomes and, because they must be picked by hand, it helps explain the vegetable’s price at times.


A centuries’ old dish

The Romans and none other than Julius Caesar loved the stalk; he simply ate it with his hands. There’s even a Roman phrase: “Faster than you can cook asparagus.” Centuries later, ancient chefs created cooking vessels which kept the thicker stalks submerged in the cooking liquid while leaving the delicate tips above water to be steamed. There were also inventive serving bowls designed for the shape of asparagus which had hollow sides that were filled with boiling water to keep the freshly cooked asparagus warm.


At the table, beurre noisette, with its dark hazelnut flavour and colour, has been drizzled over asparagus for centuries of dining. Asparagi alla Parmigiana is an authentic dish of Emilia-Romagna, wherein resides Parma, Italy: cooked asparagus tips are sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese and melted butter. In Tuscany, a food Mecca if there ever were one, asparagus soup is made with saffron, pine nuts and pistachios.

White asparagus, a more expensive version of the vegetable, but one that retains a certain perceived luxury quality, is popular in Europe. It is grown covered with mounds of earth to inhibit chlorophyll production and has to be harvested by being cut underground, a labour-intensive process that adds to its cost.


Treat your asparagus with love

Using the time-honoured mechanical method of preparing asparagus, gently bend the stalk with fingers holding opposite ends aiming for the point where woody and tender meet, and snap it off. You can finish the preparation by shaving the woody end with a harp peeler to create a more uniform size for cooking. 

In terms of ways to serve asparagus, simple is often best. You can do the Julius Caesar trick: just prepare the asparagus spears with a dose of melted butter, as he liked it. Adding a bit of fennel to the butter gives a lovely anise flavour to the dish. 

Grilling the raw asparagus and giving it a liberal salting and peppering along with a squeeze of lemon, a few glugs of some good olive oil and perhaps shavings of Parmesan cheese is an excellent way to highlight this bit of early summer. Grill the spears in batches according to their diameter for even cooking.


When the season is moving toward its close, a classic cream of asparagus soup may be in order; garnish it with the delicate tips and a drizzle of cream or olive oil to present it simply and beautifully. Another classic, asparagus Polonaise, is ready for a culinary comeback when it comes to the spears: dress cooked hot asparagus with hard-boiled egg yolk that has been passed through a fine-meshed sieve, drizzle with melted butter and golden-toasted breadcrumbs. For the morning daypart, there are probably few breakfasts as delicious as an omelette with fresh asparagus tips and a few scallions, cut on the bias, for garnish.

As a salad, mix grilled asparagus pieces with a bit of pesto, Parmesan, and perhaps some slices of smoked salmon. Toss with olive oil and lemon juices, a few croutons and top with a sunny-side up egg. Garnish with Parmesan shavings.


While fresh is best, remember that asparagus is remarkable as a preserve, so consider a quick pickle. Put together a mix of vinegars with about 100 grams of sugar per litre of liquid. Add peppers, spices, herbs like tarragon or rosemary and garlic. Boil the mixture, pour it over the asparagus in jars and store in the fridge. Your customers will be able to enjoy the local asparagus of May in the depths of February cold.


Refreshing asparagus

As the season rolls through its prime months of May and June and approaches July, the rhizomes begin to weaken and become depleted leaving the asparagus less flavourful.

This tender crop loses its freshness very quickly – in a matter of hours, actually, and more rapidly than other vegetables, especially in the first 24 hours. Store asparagus cool and away from light. The stalk continues to draw on its sugars becoming tougher and less juicy.


To re-invigorate it before cooking, give it some sweetness: add about a teaspoon of sugar to a half-cup of water and soak the asparagus before cooking.


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Blog Contributor Portrait
Jackie Oakes
March 8, 2021
Blog Contributor Portrait
Flanagan Foodservice
December 5, 2019

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