Foodservice and Foodies meet at the Restaurants Canada Show
By Jacquelin Bhandari
In a few words, the Restaurants Canada Show is a culinary haven for starved leaders in the foodservice industry. The much-anticipated event is nothing short of a cultural exposition, sharing new and old business models that continue to influence how we as consumers, experience food. Long-time business representatives can discover new ways to reach out to the burgeoning millennial population. Fresh grads with great ideas can learn about the wealth of opportunities before them on their journey.
The show featured a host of events all over Toronto, leading up to the final weekend of February, which is also Ontario Agriculture Week. Business Elite Canada attended this year’s show for the first time on February 29, and we were far from disappointed.
What we know as the Restaurants Canada Show today is the result of a merger between two separate shows — HostEx and the Canadian Food & Beverage Show — both organized by what was then the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA). The CRFA was re-branded in 2014 as Restaurants Canada to celebrate 70 years in the business.
Along with the new name came a new logo and new tagline: “The voice of foodservice”. With its long history of loyal membership and growing following of entrepreneurs, Restaurants Canada has managed to bring together the different aspects of Canada’s vibrant restaurant and foodservice industry. More than ever, Restaurants Canada is a the result of a community of businesspeople who are passionate about food.
Donna Dooher, President and CEO of Restaurants Canada, says that the show “takes all the ingredients a hospitality provider needs to succeed in this competitive industry, and brings them under one roof … they can try innovative things, and truly unleash the potential of hospitality in our country.”
For 2016, the annual food show, dubbed Hospitality Unleashed, directly addressed advances in the food and beverage industry. The exhibition space completely swallowed Toronto’s Enercare Centre (formerly the Direct Energy Centre) with 12,000 experts and enthusiasts alike. Exhibitors ranged from industrial equipment suppliers, wholesale food suppliers, broadcasters, chef schools and everyone else in between.
Attendants could start their morning at the Coffee and Tea Pavilion and head to the Pizza Pavilion for demos on how to make the perfect crust and then talk organic at the Ontario Pavilion. The more adventurous visitor could savour the Shake and Sling Pavilion at the end of the day. POS and app technologies made a special appearance at this year’s show in a pavilion dedicated to the technologies improving foodservice delivery, customer experience and outreach.
For all three days, the exhibition floor was bustling with long-time veterans and wide-eyed hopefuls looking to make their mark in the industry. The concept of networking between these groups has become increasingly digital in the foodservice industry. Exhibitors and show attendees could learn how to reach new clientele without losing their loyal base through social media storytelling, and how to increase an operation’s efficiency digitally by preventing cyber attacks.
In addition to heated debates about tipping, workshops on how to stay relevant and mouth-watering food demos, Gusto TV and Foodable WebTV Network also made casting calls for the next great chef extraordinaire. Author Bhavna Chauhan also had some choice words on how to get published in the food industry. It was food “infotainment” at its finest!
On the main stage, Restaurants Canada awarded Canada’s Best 100 Restaurants; literally the crème fraiche of the crop. Winners of the show-wide latte art labs were also announced on Monday, many of which went to students at one of Toronto’s many culinary schools.
The last night of the Restaurants Canada Show closed with an Industry Night Out Reception in Heritage Court. Following the show, the Breakfast with Champions was held at the Liberty Grand the morning of March 1. The event served as a venue for corporate executives, owners and senior managers to discuss a powerhouse panel discussion on the Future of Hospitality.
Whatever the future, Restaurants Canada continues to be the glue that holds together the foodservice industry leaders in collaboration and innovation. Whether you are a distributor, manufacturer, importer or restaurateur, this is not a show to miss next year!
For more information on Restaurants Canada, visit www.restaurantscanada.org, and for more information on next year’s show, follow @restoshow on Twitter.