By Lizzy Freier
Menu innovation has arguably taken on new importance in the time of a pandemic as restaurants look to diversify their offerings and retain customer interest amid closures and other hardships. In the latest edition of Trend Watch, we assess three continuing menu trends you can expect to see across Canada.
Over the past few years, consumers’ perspectives of quality as it relates to meat have been transforming to focus more so on locally sourced and preservative- and antibiotic-free claims. During the COVID-19 pandemic, operators have had to put sourcing these “better” beef options on the back burner but they are now reintroducing beef with these trend-forward health claims.
Chains’ initiatives to source beef with these claims will pay off as customers are taking notice. In fact, more than seven in 10 consumers state that they’d be more likely to purchase beef that is locally raised (74%) and antibiotic-free (71%).
- McDonald’s recently returned to sourcing 100% Canadian beef. Since April, it had been serving about 80% Canadian beef due to struggles within the beef industry during COVID-19.
- A&W is now serving grass-fed beef nationwide. The chain has been serving hormone- and steroid-free beef since 2013, but the exclusively grass-fed option is new.
Already popular across other parts of the world, including the U.K. and Australia, halloumi — a cheese from the Middle East — is now popping up on Canadian menus. Of course, the big question is whether consumers will like the global cheese. The answer is most likely yes. Over half of consumers (58%) express that they crave cheesy flavours. In fact, cheesy is consumers’ top-craved flavour.
There are many opportunities for operators when menuing halloumi. First, because of its high protein content, restaurants can highlight it as a vegetarian protein alternative in both entrees and sides. For example, there is the potential to highlight it as a meat-free patty in burgers. Second, the ingredient can be prepared in several ways for added flavour and texture. Popular preparation styles include grilled and fried.
- Pita Pit recently debuted its Grilled Halloumi & Falafel Bowl, spotlighting halloumi, falafel and lemon za’atar dressing.
- Ben & Florentine launched its Hummus & Halloumi Toast in September, which also features tomatoes, spinach and pumpkin seeds.
Technomic’s recently released Q3 2020 menu data proves that Canadian operators are continuing to streamline their menus. Not surprisingly, every mealpart saw year-over-year declines in Q3 compared to the prior year. However, total menu item count declines were less extensive this quarter (-11.4%) compared to the previous quarter (-23.0%). In particular, we saw significantly smaller decreases in adult beverages and kids menus, though entrees and appetizers—the two largest mealparts—saw slightly less extensive cuts compared to Q2. In fact, the only mealparts that had more significant menu cuts this quarter compared to last were sides (-7.8% in Q3 compared to -1.9% in Q2) and add-ons (-10.9% in Q3 compared to -10.5% in Q2).
- Burdock Brewery in Toronto recently reopened its patio with a pared-down menu.
- In April, McDonald’s removed 10 items from its Canada menu due to COVID-19, including McGriddles, bagels, salads, ice cream cones and more.
Trend Watch is based on restaurant and menu trends noted by Technomic Inc.
Lizzy Freier is Senior Managing Editor for Technomic, a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm. Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. The company’s services include publications and digital products as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry, including menu trends.