As true lovers of everything food, drink and Canada, it was a pleasure to attend the RC Show on the other side of 2020's leap year weekend. Stepping into its 75th year, the event is the biggest food-service and hospitality tradeshow in Canada's enviable restaurant industry. We schmoozed, sipped and tasted our way through innovations hotly tipped to delight customers, and keep them coming back, in the upcoming year.
The Endless Potential of Ghost Kitchens
We are all busier than ever. Between working, taking care of the family, exercising, pursuing hobbies and updating social media with how rushed off your feet we've been, there's rarely time to cook. Home delivery services and ghost kitchens are helping customers to get the nourishment they're looking for without the toil.
Without the astronomical operational costs of starting and running brick and mortar restaurants, virtual eateries are giving chefs with incredible culinary ideas the opportunity to demonstrate their prowess behind the stove. When passion is more important than capital, magic happens and customers experience something special.
We were lucky enough to hear a panel with George Kottas and Oren Borovitch, from Ghost Kitchens and Kitchen Hub Foods respectively, who are pioneers in the world of virtual kitchens. They have married the concept of online-only ordering with franchising, giving operators the chance to share a kitchen — and the costs — with a like minded group of chefs. The result is a highly productive hub serving a range of delightful dishes that meet the needs of anyone at any time, from breakfast burritos through to dessert platters.
The ever-popular HERO Certified Burgers are pioneering a similar scheme, allowing upcoming restaurant owners to run their own franchise, online or in person.
A Blank Slate for Budding Restaurateurs
Behind the scenes are companies building white-label, custom solutions, providing restaurateurs with groundbreaking solutions to filling empty tables and helping them to reach a broader client base online. Craver impressed us with their live map app that lets restaurants upload deals at the last minute to fill empty tables. UEAT gives brands a sleek platform to order online, providing a unique support service that maximizes the user experience as well as profitability for the operator. Their offering and their team particularly inspired us.
Smoothcommerce partners with restaurateurs to provide a fully integrated online presence, including marketing, delivery services, gift cards, digital wallets and payment networks. It gives even the least tech-savvy of excellent chefs an online presence that will impress millennial and gen z consumers who place great importance upon user experience.
The Trend Towards Plant-Based is Gaining Momentum
While veganism is a growing trend, it's not the only driving force behind the plant-based boom we're currently experiencing. As customers become more health- and environment-conscious, they're realizing that excessive meat consumption is harmful to the body and the planet. The RC Show platformed meat substitutes such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers. This move towards plant-based meat alternatives is set to get bigger and bigger over the coming year.
Dining With a Conscience
Consumers aren't just getting pickier about how much meat they eat; they're also paying more attention to the ethics and message of brands. Younger customers, in particular, want to spend their money in places that care about their workers, carbon footprint, local community and have a purpose behind their offering.
As the cannabis industry grows, foodies are getting creative with incorporating the herb of relaxation into food and drink recipes. We think this trend is set to explode on the dining scene over the next couple of years, once the regulations and law are clear.
A Different Kind of Smoking
While wood-fired ovens aren't a new innovation, they're gaining momentum as a trend for the upcoming year. Pizza makers, meat and fish smokers and veg-lovers alike are experimenting with the added depth of flavour various types of wood can impart on their food.
Young People Practice Balanced Drinking
The most delicious cocktail we tasted — and there were plenty — was the classic Penicillin. This scotch, lemon, honey and ginger blend is as soothing as it is uplifting. Created at the infamous New York cocktail bar “Milk and Honey”, it's so easy to drink that you may need to turn to a hangover cure the morning after enjoying a few of these.
Consumers are taking a more balanced approach to their drinking habits. So while on Friday night, we might enjoy a tipple, the rest of the weekend is likely to be dry. As such, ingenious non-alcoholic beverages like this elixir from Last Call are going to be a huge trend in the coming year. We can attest it works, their flavors are amazing, and its proprietary bottle technology creates a drinking ritual second to none.
POS Systems for the Modern Restaurant Industry
With the rise of ghost kitchens and online ordering, eateries are looking to upgrade their POS systems. Rewards, loyalty, reporting, online and FOH ordering need to be covered in a modern restaurant. This gap in the market has led to an aggressively competitive landscape that's producing highly impressive solutions, present at the event, were Givex, Nown, Silverware, Clover and Auphan.
Overall, we spoke to a few hundred restaurants and restaurant groups and even more restaurateurs. We built and strengthened our relationships with old and new partners, all while having a lot of fun. We can’t wait for next year, so we’ll see you there!