Looking back on the year that was

Here is the Roving Professor’s top 10 list of trends  in Ontario food-service for the year 2011. (in reverse order of significance)

10.  Good bye to complimentary bread!  For those of you who follow this blog you will know this is an issue that is near and dear to my heart but it also seems to be resonating with others in the industry.  More and more we see  independent restaurants that are offering bread at a cost while the newer players in the Ontario upper casual market like Earl’s don’t even offer complimentary bread.  http://restaurantsustainability.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/bread-project-2/

9.  Healthy QSR.  Burgers and fries will always hold a strong position in the QSR market but there has been an increase in newer players offering healthy options.  Extreme Pita has been a trailblazer since their inception several years ago being the first chain in Canada to voluntarily put menu content analysis on their readerboards. http://www.extremepita.com/menu/   A company to watch is  ‘iQ foods’ based out of Toronto.  My prediction…they will become a serious player within the next 3 years in Canada’s QSR market.  The vision they have is forward thinking and the concept air tight!! http://iqfoodco.com/salads.html

8.  Ontario Beer is here!!  Not that the large restaurant groups have realized but ask any pub owner or the guy who stocks the beer shelves at the local LCBO and you will find that Ontario beer is a rising star.  It’s been twenty years since the likes of Upper Canada and Creemore set the stage and the industry is finally starting to get some credit.  Why you ask?  It’s probably a combination of a few things including the ‘local movement’ and the increase in beer education in the province.    Most of all I think it simply comes down to  quality breweries that are marketing savvy.   http://fmbrewery.com/ http://www.niagaracollege.ca/content/Programs/WineryViticultureStudiesCFWI/BrewmasterandBreweryOperationsManagement.aspx

7.  West Coast Invasion!  For those of us in the know, we have long-awaited the arrival of the great upper casual concepts of the B.C. market to make it to Ontario.  Earl’s and Joey have invaded the province and have become huge successes because of strong concepts and quality management…. keep an eye open for the Cactus Club which can’t be far behind! (I’ve heard as early at 2013) http://www.cactusclubcafe.com/

6.  Pubs have ‘fine-tuned’.  Pubs use to be dank places that survived only because of a small but loyal clientele of lonely old men that liked to drink Guinness.  A few years ago the pub market changed with an  ‘awkward’ movement towards the ‘Gastro Pub’.  This approach had a limited market play and ended up confusing many with a to ‘refined’ view of food ($$$”s).  What we have seen in the last year or two has been a ‘fine-tuning’ of the  pub proposition which has taken the best of the old  (warm, welcoming and value driven) and added simplified and  improved  food.  Not only has this been a great result for the consumer but the new business model shows that there is money to be made in this segment.  You now see many a local pub having the best of local and seasonal fare coming out of their kitchens. http://www.woolwicharrow.ca/

5.   Vegetables are cool!   Two years ago, Yasser Qahawish who is the Chef and Owner of Artisanale in Guelph gave a guest lecture to one of my classes.  He didn’t bring a Powerpoint presentation, instead he brought a tomato.  Yes indeed…. a brilliant, fresh, sweet, ripe and red tomato!  He proceeded to speak for 45 minutes about his love of vegetables and how this love had inspired him to cook and create.  In fact my most memorable food experience this year was at Yassers’ restaurant and it is not surprising that it was an amuse bouche made up entirely of seasonal vegetables.  I wasn’t sure what was on the plate but was blown away at how vegetables could taste so good.  Once again the ‘local movement’ has helped spawn this trend in our eating but I also think we have grown tired of the ‘pork belly this and pork belly that’ that has been with us for the greater part of a decade. http://artisanale.ca/page.php?id=1

4.  Food Advocacy!  Ask someone 10 years ago who Jamie Oliver was and they would have said a celebrity Chef.  Ask someone today and the answer more often than not will include the term food advocate.  The food network and the evolution of the celebrity Chef has been a great thing to help improve our culinary culture in this country. What it hasn’t been able to do is to alleviate the real food issues we face today that challenge our society.     It is time for restaurateurs and Chefs to become advocates for food in a more wholistic way and we have seen this starting to happen this past year or two.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EUAMe2ixCI

3.  Talent Shortage!  I blogged about this earlier in the year but our industry is in dire need of smart young people to help shape its future.  This is not only my opinion but this is what I hear from people who are running restaurant companies in our nation.  Unfortunately this is a trend that will continue until the industry straightens itself out as an employer.  Re-visit my more detailed opinions in this previous blog.  https://therovingprofessor.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/enough-with-training-and-development/

2.  The ‘Restaurant’  is dead!  Chris Nuttall-Smith did a nice job in the Globe and Mail a few days ago with his own “Top ten list of ideas that changed food in 2011.” Number 7 on Chrís’s list was “the word restaurant is over”.    This is something that I couldn’t agree with more so check out Chris’s work at  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/trends/trends-features/the-10-ideas-that-changed-food-in-2011/article2284431/page2/

1.  Ontario wine has arrived……….it’s official!!  Most of us have known this for the last few years but like most things with Canadians we have to hear it from an outside authority to believe it for ourselves.  So when Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator came out in his last blog of this year and stated “I became convinced that Ontario is the world’s least known great wine region’ , we could finally take a deep breath, relax and realise that our time has come.  And for those of you haven’t made this realization, I would  recommend a trip in the new year to some of the fine wineries of Niagara or Prince Edward County!  http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/46177

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