Restaurant chains are spreading throughout Canada faster than they are in the U.S. According to a study by Technomic, the Canadian restaurant industry has achieved a higher growth rate in 2010 than its U.S. counterpart, and that growth is expected to continue throughout 2011.

This is after the country experienced a 1.2 percent decline in unit counts in 2009.
With the growth comes increased competition in all restaurant segments, as well as more product innovations making their way onto menus.

"The Canadian foodservice industry is full of opportunity right now," said Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice president. "U.S. operators are certainly looking at Canada as an area for potential growth. But to be successful they will need to do more than take a cookie-cutter approach to the Canadian marketplace. There are distinct differences in consumer attitudes and behaviors between the U.S. and Canada, and those play out every day in the way that trends take shape and establish themselves in each country."

Technomic’s research also derived the top 10 Canadian foodservice trends, including:

  • Staying local: Farm-to-table initiatives increasing.
  • U.S. chains have their eye on the Canadian border. The Canadian market is appealing because it is not yet saturated, and close proximity makes it easier for development and management. 
  • As they’ve continually rolled out in the U.S., food trucks are also hitting the road in Canada. 
  • Canadians are seeking healthier ingredients integrated into their comfort foods.
  • The fast casual segment will become more ubiquitous in 2011, with growth from both Canadian and U.S.-based chains.
  • An explosive growth of the breakfast daypart will occur in all foodservice segments.
  • The sodium count will be lower in restaurant fare.
  • Canadians are seeking new dining experiences that feature ethnic cuisines such as Korean, Southeast Asian and Mexican.
  • While honing their global palettes, Canadians will look for ethnic-inspired desserts as an alternative to traditional sweets.
  • The high demand for meat-focused restaurants has spawned a vegetarian/vegan counter-trend.

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