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:
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.
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
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)
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.
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)
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
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
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:
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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.
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.
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.”
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!
Kitchener 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!)
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.”
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.