By Colleen Cross
Running a pizzeria in Canada today is as challenging as ever.
The list of challenges rivals your five-year-old’s Christmas list in length: a rise in minimum wages in many provinces, a halt to temporary foreign workers, a shortage of skilled workers and unskilled workers, and continuing high food costs on almost every commodity.
Add to these worries the disadvantages restaurants that serve beer and liquor face compared to other retail sellers who can buy it either wholesale or at cheaper prices – and it’s easy to see the glass as half-empty.
Still, we hope you found lots of reasons to raise your glass to 2016. The start of a new year is a good time to take a break from worries and appreciate what you accomplished in 2015.
It’s also a time to look ahead. Considering upcoming trends and how you can take advantage of them is a sure way to recharge your pizza passion.
Customers are very interested in the idea of origin, ethnicity and a back-to-basics approach to ingredients. It’s all tied up in a bundle that goes beyond the Italian authenticity that has been strong for years.
Canadians are becoming more and more adventurous in their tastes. Research firm Technomic points to one uniquely Canadian example of this – a growing interest in comforting German fare, such as artisanal sausages, beer cheese soups, soft pretzels, bratwurst, housemade mustards and Bavarian brews. Other cultures piquing people’s interest include Mediterranean, South American and Korean.
Experimenting with grains and crust inclusions and incorporating different cultural traditions in your pizza are ways you can act on these customer interests. The strength of this trend is good news for pizzerias and for independents in particular as a way to compete with large chains on quality and technique rather than budget.
A related trend hinges on people finding a sense of balance in their lives. Everywhere we see evidence that fat is gradually losing its stigma. Savvy diners understand the concept of good fats versus bad fats and choose to indulge (and later work it off at the gym). Pepperoni and meat-lovers’ pizza continue to be popular The bigger food companies are playing up meat and cheese products as sources of protein, good fats and high-quality, non-GMO and organic ingredients: there’s no reason independents and chains alike shouldn’t play up their own high-quality ingredients.
And, this just in: being a couch potato is no longer viewed as a bad thing but a lifestyle as young couples hunker down for a night of binge TV watching. Online ordering is really taking off and has the potential to boost the average cheque as customers are able to mull over choices and upsells like drinks in a no-pressure setting.
This seems a fitting time to thank our columnists for their valuable contributions. It’s no easy task to write an opinion piece every issue, even when you have no shortage of opinions. Diana Cline, Michelle Brisebois, Diane Chiasson and Tom Stankiewicz come through again and again with smart, lively columns.
Tom, our longtime back-page scribe, is taking a break from writing to focus on the many other hats he wears. In typical generous fashion, Tom says his door is always open to us. As is ours to him.
We hope you find inspiration in these pages and we wish you many moments during the long workweek of loving what you do and feeling a part of the Canadian pizza community. Happy 2016!