Food and restaurant trends shaping Canada’s dining experiences in 2021
By Restaurants Canada
By Restaurants Canada
With COVID-19 rapidly changing consumer habits and the restaurant industry as a whole, organizers of RC Show 2021 look at the past 10 months to prepare for the months ahead. Learn about some of the trends they are tracking and will address at the event set for Feb. 28-March 3.
Some restaurants weathered lockdown better than others, adapting to restrictions by bringing in new and old tech: QR codes are the new norm for menu viewing, touchless ordering and paying the bill. Although QR codes get the job done, their impersonal approach has companies looking ahead for better ways to connect with diners without physically “connecting.” Eating out in 2021 might not feel as warm and friendly as we’re used to, at least not right away, but the introduction of apps like App8 will help make the whole process contactless and a little easier. You can ask your server questions, order and even pay via text for a truly contactless experience.
AR, VR and The Digital Shelf
After months of isolation, consumers are getting comfortable ordering food and groceries online. To make products stand out on the “digital shelf,” beautiful and bold packaging, as well as menu design, will play an even bigger role for brands wanting to stand out and make their product jump off the shelf. At the RC Show’s 2021 Online Live virtual platform, expect to see augmented reality play a major role in how we show versus tell diners what’s on the menu. Apps like ARitize by InfernoAR and KabaQ are bringing 3D experiences into people’s homes and restaurants. Picture seeing that blender in your space virtually before purchasing, or 3D food models of a dish you’re curious to try, before ordering it.
Experiential at Your Doorstep
The full indoor restaurant experience may be lost in lockdowns, but chef tastings, wine and cheese pairings, live demos and more will soon be available at a touch of a button right from the comfort of your own kitchen. Interest in online tastings, virtual experiences and curated retail boxes have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. Brands like Joey Restaurants are bringing the taste of their restaurant to diner’s doorsteps with meal and cocktail kits that include everything needed to make menu and bar favourites at home.
Food Delivery Soars to New Heights
With food delivery one of the saving graces for the hospitality industry in 2020, consumers will be expecting nothing less than even faster delivery times and punctual, piping hot transfers going into the New Year. Could this be the year autonomous vehicles and drones are finally ready to start delivering our meals? Already in discussion for partial delivery, Uber Eats is looking to take food delivery to new heights. Drones can cut delivery times by almost half, lowering average delivery fees drastically, and increasing the volume of possible deliveries for restaurants.
Comfort Food That Rocks
In an uncertain world, diner stomachs are signalling for a taste of comfort. Restaurant chains like Jack Astor’s have noticed menu staples such as chicken fingers have climbed to the top of menu must-haves. But, in 2021 these flavours will be reinvented – expect to see traditional comfort foods well into the New Year, as well as new and innovative and glorious takes on tried and tested favourites – think Pad Thai French fries, pulled pork truffle mac and cheese and over-the-top vegan comfort food like plant jerky or “cauliwings.”
In 2021 customers won’t have to worry about missing out on the grub they crave, whether restrictions are still in place or not, restaurants will offer grab-and-go options so diners can conveniently access their menu favourites and flavours anywhere, anytime.
2020 was the year of fermentation, but 2021 will usher in a new era of healthy, gut-friendly options, pairing functional favourites with probiotics, mushrooms and adaptogens. Mixologists are combining the benefits of live probiotic cultures into our cocktails with alcoholic kombucha, quenching thirst and packing a punch.
BIPOC Food Matters
The Black Lives Matter Movement of 2020 has shone a spotlight on the rich culinary heritage and celebrated contributions of BIPOC people, especially in the food, beverage and retail categories. Diners will continue to seek out and support black-owned and operated restaurants and businesses.
Food Waste Part Deux
The RC Show may have started the food waste conversation a few years ago, but diners are finally demanding the brands they support to give back to the communities they serve. The fight against single-use plastics will continue well into 2021. Restaurants and hotels have also recently started stepping up to the plate by sending excess food to food banks, using apps that link overstocked restaurants directly to those local communities in need. Apps like Wasteless that offers data-driven pricing based on an item’s best-before date; Canadian-based Feedback and FlashFood, and so many more help hungry, price-conscious consumers and combat food waste all at the same time. The government is also expected to roll out changes to blue box programs demanding restaurants continue to become even more waste-friendly.
Online Live will take place over four days from Feb. 28 to March 3, 2021. Visit rcshow.com for more information.