Finding opportunity in the white space for Canada’s reopening
With spring right around the corner, the bees aren’t the only ones buzzing; consumers across Canada are eagerly awaiting patio season and the full reopening of bars and restaurants. With that, expect some changes that will satisfy both customers and fellow industry professionals.
Whether these changes rely on the acceleration of past trends or the emergence of new ones, they birth new tensions and whitespace opportunities. For example, new approaches to experiential dining must consider the renewed consumer desire for community alongside technological advancements. When it comes to flavour and ingredients, the tension lies somewhere between curiosity and wellness. Even the fundamental business structure of bars and restaurants must weigh the tensions between safety and transparency. Let’s deep-dive these new (and renewed) trends.
COMMUNAL SPACES & EXCLUSIVE TECHNOLOGY – Gatherings for occasion-based dining have long existed, but so have exclusive private events. In the modern context, consumers miss the “togetherness” and shared experiences that restaurants and bars provide. A major trend emerging as a result is space hybridization; the utilization of one space for many interests. A working example of this concept is Rendez Views, Toronto’s largest outdoor patio that plays canvas to everything from beer festivals to charity events. With something new happening nearly every day, the venue’s ability to reach consumers is endless. The opposite to this extreme is tech-derived exclusivity, from members-only NFT restaurants to speedy, custom home deliveries.
There is an opportunity here — the culinary metaverse; two extremes under the same umbrella that merge seamlessly together. Lockdowns across the country have taught consumers that hybridized dining formats that blend the physical setting with technology are both feasible and enjoyable. We saw this come to life from Chipotle last year when they created a virtual restaurant for Roblox players offering a spooky, online Halloween experience with the promised reward of a free (real world) burrito.
CURIOUS CONSUMPTION & HABITUAL WELLNESS – One tension that has long existed is dietary restrictions or health-conscious lifestyles falling opposite humanity’s innate curiosity.
Over the next few months, expect to see extreme product diversification from potato-based milk alternatives in cafés to fizz-free beers. From the camp of curiosity, we have Blood Brothers, a brewery that created a line of nitro brews ranging from “Nitro Sour Ale with Strawberry, Lime, and Salt” to “Bourbon Barrel Aged Nitro Stout” — offerings that have consumers more curious about flavour than concerned about calories. Opposite that, from the camp of health-conscious, there are experiential tonic waters, seltzers, and canned prebiotic teas that cater to wellness without compromising flavour emerging on a seemingly daily basis.
Between these two extremes, we see an opportunity for harmony with the revival of the halfway healthy lifestyle of yesteryears. Breweries continue to experiment with low-ABV beers and sparkling hop waters. Even gluten-free beers are on the rise with an expected compound annual growth rate of about 13% globally.
INDUSTRY AWAKENING – A major conversation that is rippling across Canada concerns safety, equality, career longevity and salary. Liveable wages will vary regionally, but today’s employees are looking for companies that have taken steps to officially become “Living Wage Certified”, like Traynor Family Vineyards in Hillier, Ontario and Left Field Brewery in Toronto, Ontario.
Employees and consumers are also seeking accountability as well as in-house policies, or codes of conduct (something that many bars and restaurants don’t or didn’t have until recently) to ensure they’re working and/or dining at places that align with their values. In the craft beer space, a movement called “Brave Noise” is underway. Emerging in 2021, Brave Noise advocates for safe and inclusive environments. This type of consumer motivation is not isolated to the beer world; it spans across the foodservice and hospitality industry. In some aspects, lockdowns provided space for reflection, and an opportunity for employers to create mutually-beneficial action plans focused on consumer and employee safety and retention. While the next few months will show which businesses succeeded in creating such plans, it’s never too late to take steps in a meaningful direction.
As older generations such as Baby Boomers slowly shift out of the industry, members of both the Gen Z and Millennial cohorts are looking for radical transparency and authenticity when it comes to their employers and the establishments they visit and support.
The restaurant and bar industry is one of the largest and most ever-changing, meaning it is constantly ripe for innovation. Being able to identify trends and understand the tensions between them will be the key to unlocking new opportunities for success.
Through tension, there is growth.
Ady Floyd is a Futurist and VP of Client Success at Trend Hunter. She’s also a certified Beer Specialist and World Beer Judge. Ady is a curiosity-driven individual who seeks out unique and interesting trends in the world of food and beverage, and beyond, working with over 40 brands every day to curate and customize research strategies that help them find their next big idea and ultimately create the future! As a keynote speaker, she’s presented on stage at national and international events such as Future Festival, EMA, and the CMA+SIMA Conference. Curating private keynotes and workshops for partners such as Beam Suntory, Givaudan, Diageo, and Crayola is the best part of her job. Ady specializes in topics such as food and beverage, entertainment, sustainability, and retail/omnichannel.