Hedge your bets on what will be the next big thing in 2014
By Laura Aiken
Another year has arrived, and along with it a flurry of trend reports
taking a stab at what’s on tap for foodie culture in the days ahead.
Another year has arrived, and along with it a flurry of trend reports taking a stab at what’s on tap for foodie culture in the days ahead. There are trends in pizza, and trends in the restaurant industry at large that pizza can play with, borrow from and be inspired by. Canadian Pizza has rounded up our selection of the most intriguing predictions and oh-so-interesting tidbits that flew across our publishing palate for you to consider as you spin into the New Year.
|Authentic Neapolitan pizza, particularly if it’s certified by the Vera Pizza Napoletana Association, is on fire in the Canadian market. |
Authentic Neapolitan pizzas
Technomic, a Canadian market research company, identified Neapolitan style pizzas (certified by the Vera Pizza Napoletana Association), with their thin crusts, and speed-baked in a super-hot oven appeal, as a style of pizza gaining ground in the Canadian market. From Canadian Pizza’s observations, this style of pizza, certified or not, seems to be the most popular one for new pizza restaurants in trendsetting Toronto, where the past couple of years has seen several new openings: Osteria dei Ganzi, Gusto 101, Pizzeria Defina, and Pizzeria Via Mercanti. Pizzeria Libretto and Queen Margherita have been keeping busy with expansions. Montreal’s six-week Pizza Season that kicked off in fall of 2013 saw media highlight places like Weinstein And Gavino’s and Arlequino, both making Neapolitan style, as local favourites.
Restaurants + retail
Food and drink is making a comeback as a key way for various retail environments to keep you with them longer and hopefully encourage you to spend more money. It smacks a little of Casino-style tactics, but why not take a page from the kingpins of hospitality? Thirty years ago, American department stores rid themselves of restaurants because they felt having one was unproductive or messy. Now they are changing their mind and restaurants are seen as good “anchors,”
suggested Baum+Whiteman, a New York-based restaurant consulting firm, in its annual trend report. They cited several examples of high-end restaurant openings in large New York department stores. Andrew Freeman & Co. (AF&Co.), a California-based hospitality agency, also identified the growing alliance between restaurant and retailers as a location trend to watch this year. If you’re looking to open a new pizza restaurant, perhaps it’s the right time to consider who might want you to share their space.
Tasting menus, where guests are served a succession of many different items that add up to a complete meal, have arguably been growing in popularity throughout the 2000s with no sign of a slowdown. The combination of variety and small portions may be the components of a tasting menu that are piquing consumer interest these days. Baum+Whiteman identified this as a trend, and mentioned one pizzeria within their examples called Ramshackle Roberta’s in Brooklyn. This pizzeria, which the company reported is famous for artisan pizza, created a dining counter that serves a $180 multi-course meal. This pricey an experience likely won’t fly in every market, but there are plenty of restaurants offering lower price points. In Toronto, L’Ouvrier serves a six-course tasting menu for $50.
AF&Co. listed further regionalization of dishes as something to watch this year. Perhaps it makes sense for your pizzeria try a themed evening tasting menu that is specific to niche geography as a special occasion for your customers.
The future of chicken
Pepperoni may be tops for meat pizza toppings, but chicken has joined it as a pizzeria staple. Baum+Whiteman and AF&Co. saw two different things happening with chicken this year. Baum+Whiteman pointed to various examples of sophisticated chicken wings, an idea that could be suitable for pizzerias of all types. Chick-A-Biddy in Atlanta is serving up flavours such as Thai chili and peanuts; spicy green Tabasco with ranch dressing; and wood grilled Piri Piri with cilantro garlic sauce.
At AF&Co., their expertise suggested that chicken is going to be more of a boring meat this year, and cuts like pork belly or goat will play to the adventurous. Their conclusion cited an example of the Empire State South restaurant in Atlanta that didn’t even have a chicken dish on the menu. Is there an alternative wing in pizza’s future?
If food is what you are in the business of providing, then you have a lot of competition. Everyone from grocery to pharmacy and convenience is a potential competitor for you. Pizzeria owners need to give customers something they can’t get at home, and operators may be feeling the pressure to serve more than quality food with convenience and a smile.
Baum+Whiteman cited several cases of how eatertainment is being redefined in the food world. The following examples are global and extreme, but they give you a taste of where the avant-garde are headed. For example, Ultraviolet restaurant in Shanghai takes 10 big spending diners to a secret room that drastically changes moods with each course. The experience seems to spare no expense: uplights in the floor, 360-degree high-definition projectors, changes in room temperature, four smell diffusers, 22 speakers, LEDs, and even servers changing customers to suit the food. At the Casino de Madrid, chef Paco Roncero created a nine-seat invitation only techno dining room that blurs the lines between food and perception through diffusers that waft aromas like grassy wetness or mushrooms, and ceramic tables that heat, cool or vibrate plates on cue. David Bouley’s private dining room, called The Pass, contains a giant screen where guests in New York can chat in real time with the farmers and vintners who created the products that are currently on the table. It would be difficult to imagine a diner walking away and not telling their friends about any of these experiences.
There doesn’t seem to be any slowdown in Asian fusion. Baum+Whiteman predict that gochujang, and shichimi togarashi, which is a Japanese seven spice of sesame seeds, ginger, nori and hot peppers, will be sought-after flavours. The firm went so far as to call shichimi togarashi the new salt and pepper, and suggested sprinkling it on those upmarket chicken wings they are seeing this year.
Technomic predicts restaurants in Canada will be feeling the heat from Latin America and Asia. Sriracha, ghost peppers and kimchi are predictively poised to be bigger players, as are old friends jalapenos and thai chillies, with lesser known friends like habernos getting in on the taste bud tickling.
Technomic also identified “sweet on sour” as a combo to watch for. Consumers may be moving past sweet/salty/umami and onto the spectrum of mildly tangy to super tart.
For a pizza-specific trend in Canada, Technomic indicated that ethnic pizzas are growing as global flavours find their way into traditional Canadian dishes. These currently run the gamut of Mediterranean, Mexican, Polish and Asian ingredients and flavours.
Two restaurant consultants have hedged their bets on Middle Eastern flavours. Diane Chiasson of Chiasson Consultants in Toronto sees Middle Eastern flavours, and pides, a Middle Eastern style of pizza, as having the potential to be popular (for more on Chiasson’s trends, see her column page 10). Sterling-Rice Group, based in Colorado, also pointed to flavours of the Middle East such as sumac and za’tar as being trendy in 2014.
Vegetables appear to be the culinary darlings of 2014. Baum+Whiteman’s predictions anticipate expanded vegetarian menus because there are opportunities to capture several diet markets, such as gluten-free, paleo, the diabetic community and vegans. When one looks at the combined markets vegetables appeal to, operators can see that the opportunities extend beyond serving their vegetarian customers. Canadian Pizza would like to add boomers, with their need for healthier food, as a broader market that would be well served by improved vegetarian menus.
AF&Co.’s annual trend report suggested an increased sophistication in the use of vegetables, whether in cocktails or as a replacement for meat.
Technomic’s pizza-specific trends for Canada listed gourmet vegetarian toppings in its top five. Technomic reported that operators are differentiating their menus by featuring more upscale and gourmet vegetarian ingredients, many of which are locally sourced, organic and non-traditional vegetable varieties.
Technomic’s pizza trends roundup pointed to breakfast pizzas as a growing player for independent and chain menus. Operators can feature toppings like eggs, hollandaise sauce, breakfast meats, cheeses and vegetables. Technomic pointed to Trattoria Di Mikes menu, which has a selection of breakfast pizzas prepared with the chain’s traditional crust and served with home-fried potatoes or fresh fruit, and coffee or tea. Its newest pie comes with poached egg, bacon, tomato slices, Alfredo sauce and a three-cheese blend.
Inspired yet? Satisfy your customers’ need for the new and fun in new seasons and certainly in new years. If there’s a trend you’re spotting in your market, we’d love to hear about it. You can share it with Canadian Pizza magazine by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us @CdnPizzaMag, or find us on Facebook.
A miscellaneous dash of more that’s hot