The State of the Restaurant Industry in Canada

In late 2015, Foodable Network branched into the Canadian market and began to cover industry news and trends in major culinary destinations like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. This quarter, we officially kick off our expansion of original Canada-based content, including a Top 25 Restaurants ranking and a ton of original video content. In sync with this rollout, we are also excited to announce a new media partnership between Foodable and Restaurants Canada and the annual Restaurants Canada Show, a three-day event that recently gathered about 15,000 attendees this year.

In this “On Foodable Weekly” episode, host Paul Barron sits down with Donna Dooher, the president and CEO of Restaurants Canada, at the 2016 Restaurants Canada Show in Toronto, which featured more than 600 exhibitors this year. 

“We have 90,000 foodservice operations in Canada,” says Dooher. “As you know, we’re a large country geographically, but population-wise, we’re only about 33 million people, so that’s a lot of restaurants.”

Of this year’s show, which was dubbed “Unleashed,” Dooher says, “In our humbled Canadian way, we’re very quiet about all the great things we do, and we’re trying to change that at the show. We’re really trying to raise the profile of the industry.”

At this year’s Restaurants Canada Show, the craft beer pavilion was impressively put together, an effort showcasing the rise of craft brew in the Canadian market over the past couple of years. “We have this wonderful terroir — we have the water and the land, we can grow the barley and the hops,” says Dooher. “So we can really develop unique, regional beers right across the country. And I think that’s a great attribute to hospitality and Canada, and that’s one of the reasons why we have such a strong presence with the craft brewers this year.”

Craft has, of course, become a larger movement beyond just beer, including distilled spirits, mixers and non-alcoholic beverages, cheese, and other aspects of the culinary world. “I think the food consumer in Canada is very savvy — they’ve always been very savvy consumers. They know a lot about food, they’re passionate about food, and I think operators respond well to that by not only delivering interesting products, but also educating the consumer even further,” she says.

Having filmed in restaurants and food trucks throughout Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, a few things we’ve noticed thus far is the elevated culinary direction, high-end design, and unique passion weaved into Canada’s culinary scene.

“We’ve always had a rural attitude toward food embedded in our DNA,” says Dooher. “So not only do we have these great culinary hubs in the big cities, but right across the country — from Newfoundland all the way over to Sooke [Vancouver Island] — we just have amazing foodservice operators and growers and producers and winemakers and brewers.”

Though we focus a lot on Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, Dooher refers to Quebec as the “culinary jewel in the crown of the country.” Known for its history and heritage, Quebec’s culture is embedded with a European influence that invades the rest of the country.

“Our population demographic is changing so quickly and we’ve always had open arms to the entire world to come and be part of our country,” she says. “And, unlike being a melting pot, the diversity still stays, so not only do we have communities and neighborhoods, we also have the heritage of those people who are coming from different countries to live here with us.”

Watch the full episode above to learn more!