Fast Food Still King In Canada

Quick-service restaurants see majority of traffic from out-of-home diners

TORONTO, July 4, 2013 – When Canadians opt out of cooking, the majority head for their local fast-food chain. According to Hot Chefs, Hot Topics: Innovation in Foodservice, the presentation behind The NPD Group’s second annual Chef Panel Discussion last month, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) still get the lion’s share of visits across the country (64 per cent of traffic) in comparison to full-service restaurants (FSRs – 24 per cent), and prepared foods from grocery and other retail outlets (12 per cent). The global information company also reports that Millennials are leading this charge, however older Canadians are playing an increasingly significant role.

Though Millennials (18-34 year olds) have been the single largest source of restaurant traffic, the growth the foodservice industry has seen since 2007 is also due in part to Boomers (45-64 year olds) and Mature Traditionalists (65 years old and over). Millennials have had an increase of 157 million visits in the past six years, while the combined visits of Boomers’ and Mature Traditionalists’ increased by 241 million.

“While Millennials are certainly a major target for the foodservice industry, seniors are becoming progressively crucial to the market,” said Robert Carter, executive director of Foodservice at The NPD Group. “The overarching trend, however, is that Canadians of all ages are having more sit-down meals at home and grabbing quick bites from fast-food restaurants while on the go.”

The report also reveals that restaurant visits increased by 10 per cent between 2002 and 2012 (from 20 per cent to 30 per cent), while the share of grocery spending has had a correlating decrease (from 80 per cent to 70 per cent). Overall, the Canadian foodservice industry is currently seeing its highest dollar volume in six years, reaching $48 billion spent.

Despite the industry’s successes, the FSR market is experiencing the most challenges. Consumer spending has remained relatively flat since 2007, having only increased by two per cent in the last six years. This was one of the central topics at The NPD Group’s Chef Panel Discussion, where a group of industry experts, including Jason Rosso, national executive chef of Milestones, Matt Basile, creator of Fidel Gastro street food revolution, Michael Gray, corporate executive chef and manager of R&D at Boston Pizza, and Dana McCauley, vice president of Marketing at Plats du Chef, addressed the battle for market share in this competitive landscape.

“Food is becoming a spectator sport and, because fewer people are cooking at home, FSRs should focus on the exclusive talent their kitchens offer and the quality ingredients they can bring to the table,” said Dana McCauley, vice president of Marketing at Plats du Chef. “Further, in order to cater to the vital Millennial group, restaurant executives need to make personal connections on the social platforms where they are seeking engagement.”

When it comes to FSRs, diners know what they want. Sixty-seven per cent of consumers would like greater menu variety, while healthy, local and sample portions top the mentions for new menu preferences. Understandably, 78 per cent of Canadians expect high-quality food at FSRs, and primarily dine at these restaurants on special occasions or when they are treating friends and family to a meal.

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Kim McLynn


The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
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