Restaurant & Bar Trends in Design, Tech, and Sustainability

In this episode of “On Foodable Weekly,” we’re talking restaurant trends with Restaurants Canada. But though we’re talking Canadian culinary trends, this segment is chock-full of tips for operators of all kinds, in any location, on three main areas: sustainability, interior design, and bar technology. Watch the full episode as we connect with experts in these three realms at the Restaurants Canada Show.


Sustainability has become a more conscious topic of conversation in the industry. Joining us on this episode to talk about the importance of food sourcing transparency and the importance of grains is Shelley Spruit, co-founder at Against the Grain Farms with her husband. They are fifth and fourth generation farmers, respectively. 

“What we find in the industry is that, across the board, there’s this whole disconnect of where people don’t know where their food is coming from, miseducation, a lot of hype, a lot of fluff,” says Spruit. “And that’s where Against the Grain spawned out of. We need to be a part of that conversation.”

More specifically, she feels like the biggest missing link of education is in grains. Against the Grain’s front-line priority at this point is in developing barley specifically for the foodservice industry, a project they’ve been working on with the Canadian Grain Commission and various university studies. Barley has half the gluten as wheat does and contains no wheat, which is a big selling point for chefs.

Restaurant Design

“Interior design and lighting are two of the biggest areas of improvement that we have seen in the restaurant industry worldwide, and there are definitely some interesting things going on in Canada,” says Paul Barron, ONFW host and Foodable founder/CEO. 

Joining us for this segment is Urszula Tokarska, partner and interior designer at SRP Architects. There are trends toward more casual dining and making, say, a 5-star restaurant more approachable, and because of this, design work is often simplified or played down. On the other hand, there are places in Canada like Bar Raval with very intricate design work, so it’s not fair to single out any one side of this trend. 

Lighting is also important. Tokarska says this could be a make or break for a restaurant considering how much of a sensory experience dining is.

Bar Technology

“Bar technology is really taking a front-and-center seat, and that is because the bar business is really exploding — both from an aspect of growth and bar openings, but also in interests from mixologists and bartenders that are getting into the business and creating some really cool concepts,” Barron says.

Matt Rolfe, CEO at Barmetrix, a consultancy firm for bars and restaurants that focuses on maximizing profitability for its clients, “so finding ways for them to control costs but also to really engage with their front-line staff and their leadership and management teams,” says Rolfe.

Training is a huge part of the bar business these days. “I think one of the biggest failings are setting the right expectation with your staff,” Rolfe says. “So when we talk about things like inventory control, that really has a negative context…and I think top operators are showing their staff and their management how they really make money and what they need to do to be profitable.”

In terms of current strong trends, Rolfe says he’s seeing more proper culture surrounding an establishment’s staff. This trickles down to more staff loyalty, less staff retention, and promoting within. Rooted in this “proper” culture is the right training and putting recognition programs in place. “Finding a way to keep people as they grow through the organization creates a foundation that’s stable, it allows us to have people that believe what we believe, and live our core values as the company grows,” he adds.