Canadians 'expect unique menus'

December 20 2013

Canadian diners continue to expect innovation when visiting restaurants, new research from Technomic has revealed. 

The organization's latest Canadian Flavour Consumer Trend Report found nearly three-quarters of people would return to a venue where they tried an innovative dish and 60 per cent would be willing to order another unique meal at the same restaurant. 

Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice-president, stated: "Flavour innovation can help maximize repeat traffic. Today's foodservice consumers expect uniqueness on the menu - they're gravitating toward bigger flavours and standout flavour combinations that show some creativity." 

The organization found there is growing demand for fusion-based foods, with 80 per cent of consumers saying they like trying dishes that combine flavours. A further 66 per cent claimed they like it when flavours from different cuisines are mixed.

Customization is also seen as very important. Some 64 per cent of diners said they think being able to pick and choose their toppings is important at limited-service restaurants (LSRs), while the figure was 68 per cent for full-service restaurants (FSRs).

"Operators and suppliers that promote differentiated flavour profiles can spark interest with consumers by eliciting cravings - which could potentially increase customer loyalty," Mr Tristano added.

In terms of individual flavours, savoury is the most popular with 70 per cent of people saying this is either appealing or very appealing. Spicy came in second with 52 per cent, followed by smoky and sweet with 49 per cent and 47 per cent. 

Ethnic was rated as the fifth most popular flavour with 46 per cent of customers citing it as appealing or very appealing. This is evidence of the growing popularity of foreign cuisine in Canada, with a number of reports showing people are now more open to food from different cultures. 

For example, the Globe and Mail recently revealed its top ten new Toronto restaurants of 2013, with a number of ethnic-based venues making the list. Spanish-inspired Bar Isabel and Patria were ranked first and second, while Asian restaurants Dayali Beijing Roast Duck and Takht-e Tavoos were also recognized.

Meanwhile, separate research from Technomic has revealed ethnic flavours are increasingly being used in sauces for a wide variety of products such as sandwiches, meat and seafood. Asian, Mediterranean and Latin American are the some of the most popular foreign cuisines the organization said.

Technomic's report analysed the common flavours used at both LSRs and FSRs and tomato was most popular at both. Garlic, onion and bacon are noticeably more common at FSRs, while cheddar cheese also appears on slightly more FSR menus. 

There has been a notable increase in the number of people who enjoy very spicy foods and sauces, with the proportion rising from 50 per cent in 2011 to 56 per cent this year.

Restaurant operators would do well to pay close attention to Technomic's findings as research from the NPD Group has predicted the Canadian foodservice industry will be increasingly competitive in the new year.