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Restaurants Canada survey provides details about customer habits and plans


Toronto – Canadians are looking forward to returning to restaurants, so long as safety measures are in place, says a new report from Restaurants Canada. Almost 90 per cent of Canadians are looking forward to eating out with friends and family, with 64 per cent saying that dining out will be an important part of their lifestyle post-pandemic.

Restaurants Canada’s 2021 Discerning Diner Report is based on findings from a survey hosted on the Angus Reid Forum on behalf of Restaurants Canada. The report shines a light on what restaurant operators and chefs can expect in the coming months.

Highlights:

  • 89 per cent of Canadians are looking forward to eating out with family and friends
  • Consumers twice as likely to prefer ordering delivery directly from restaurants vs third party apps
  • 78 per cent of Canadians yearning for comfort food during pandemic stress

The restaurant experience is one that Canadians cherish, with 63 per cent of young consumers (ages 18-34) missing the fun of eating out, and 61 per cent missing the atmosphere. The biggest thing that all Canadians miss about table-service dining is socializing and connecting with friends and family (72 per cent).

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Despite this, four in 10 Canadians are still tentative about eating in-person and plan to postpone their first in-person dining experience for anywhere between a few months of reopening, to sometime in 2022. This poses a significant challenge for the industry in the short- to mid-term as restaurants are unable to maximize in-person dining revenues with fewer patrons.

Restaurants Canada has pulled together the top considerations for Canadians as the nation reopens its doors to diners, from food trends and innovation that consumers are most excited about.

Delivering excellence

Canadians are picky when it comes to their food delivery orders – the most important factors when choosing to order delivery range from consistency of food quality (73 per cent), crave-able menu items (59 per cent) and whether they’ve visited in-person before (51 per cent), to more economical considerations like value for money (48 per cent) and whether it has a low or no delivery fee (43 per cent).

– 78 per cent of Canadians have ordered delivery within six months prior to the survey.
– Quebec ordered delivery the most, with 84 per cent saying they had ordered within the last six months.
– Once the pandemic subsides, delivery will be the preferred choice for 18-34 year olds when eating off-premise at a quick-service restaurant.
– For table-service restaurants, 39 per cent of young Canadians said they will prefer to order takeout by going inside and picking up, while 37 per cent will order delivery. Eight per cent say they plan to order more once the pandemic subsides.
– 15 per cent have ordered alcoholic beverages with food for delivery or takeout, on par with the 18 per cent of Canadians that say they’re likely to do this.
– Cocktails and beer (combined 35 per cent) are the most likely to be ordered.
– Consumers are twice as likely to prefer ordering delivery directly from a table-service restaurant by phone or restaurant app (20 per cent) vs third-party apps (10 per cent).

Cocktail and beer delivery stats suggest a greater possible market for restaurants to provide unique takeout and delivery options for consumers. It is expected alcohol sales will grow as suppliers and operators adapt packing and pricing models to bolster alcohol sales with delivery.

“The developments and improvements made to delivery and takeout containers, food quality and speed have made a lasting, positive impression,” says Todd Barclay, president of Restaurants Canada. “Restaurateurs and chefs will need to continue to innovate in order to increase margins on takeout and delivery, but they can count on people visiting in-person instead of just virtually as restrictions subside.”

Supporting local

The “support local” movement that helped sustain several restaurants during the pandemic won’t be going away any time soon, with more Canadians purchasing and ordering from their local restaurants directly, and for items other than just takeout or delivery.

– 87 per cent of Canadians are interested in ordering food sourced from local farmers or using Canadian produce.
– Almost 25 per cent of Canadians are interested in purchasing groceries from a restaurant in the future, just shy of the 28 per cent that indicated an interest in purchasing meal kits.
– 41 per cent of consumers ages 18-34 indicated interest in monthly meal subscriptions, especially if offered at a discounted price.

“These food trends are encouraging for the restaurants who adapted to pandemic closures by pivoting their business model to include local grocery and meal kit options for consumers,” says Barclay. “These findings reiterate the need for restaurants to look at new revenue streams in order to survive and grow.”

Attracting new diners

With Canadians eager to return to in-person dining, what can restaurants be doing to stand out, re-engineer their menus, capture consumer attention and keep them coming back?

– Seeing a restaurant on Facebook is reportedly just as effective as hearing about it in a commercial or an advertisement on TV/radio.
– Instagram is among the top factors for 34 per cent of Canadians ages 18-34 when choosing to try a new spot.
– 38 per cent of those 55+ are more likely to visit a new restaurant if they’ve received flyers or discounts in the mail.
– 37 per cent of Canadians would choose one restaurant over another if it offered contactless or mobile payment options.
– 51 per cent of those 18-34 would choose one restaurant over another if they can order online through a website or app to pick up at a restaurant

Convenience is key when it comes to technological innovations, especially when appealing to younger audiences. Data suggests that convenience and clarity go hand-in-hand – online ordering ensures that there are no miscommunications in what’s on the list. Word of mouth continues to be the most important factor for Canadians to try a restaurant for the first time, but the power of social media shouldn’t be overlooked.

“With the amount of innovation that’s transformed the market over the past two years, there are several new ways to help bump your business to the top of someone’s must-visit list,” continues Barclay. “We’ve seen restaurants completely pivot their business model, market to completely new demographics with great success and implement new technology that streamlines efficiency.”

What your business offers is also just as important. After a tough lockdown, 78 per cent of Canadians are interested in ordering comfort foods from restaurants, alongside foods that promote health and wellness (73 per cent), natural or unprocessed foods (70 per cent), or culinary cocktails with savoury, fresh ingredients (41 per cent). Meatless and vegetarian entrée options remain most popular among Canadians ages 18-34 (54 per cent), compared to those 35-54 (37 per cent) and 55+ (27 per cent).

For more information, or to read the full 2021 Discerning Diner Report, visit https://info.restaurantscanada.org/discerning-diner-2021.