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Restaurants Canada (RC) is a national non-for-profit association that represents and stands as a voice of Canada’s diverse foodservice industry. The RC Show is Canada’s largest annual foodservice and hospitality trade show hosted by Restaurants Canada, featuring innovative products and services from new and upcoming companies. The trade show also welcomes commercial companies such as Uber, Ipsos, The Globe and Mail, Domino’s Pizza for tips, advice and more!

How COVID-19 changed the RC Show

Last year, the RC Show was held in Toronto and featured 1100 exhibits and more than 190 speakers spread out over 250,000 square feet of exhibit space. This year, due to COVID-19, Restaurants Canada made the shift to a 60-hour virtual interactive show from February 28 to March 3. It was by far the most organized virtual event I attended to date. With a theme of “feeding the recovery”, it featured a conference lobby, exhibit hall and three stages (speaker, culinary, and bar and beverage stage). I was able to communicate directly with exhibitors in their virtual booths and even enter virtual prize draws. At the stages, the speakers were able to communicate with their audiences through chat-enabled functions and one-on-one video meetings.

Though there were fewer competitions compared to last year, the RC Show was able to bring in Canada’s up-and-coming talent to face-off in two competitions.

Laptop watching RC Show

Main themes at this year’s conference

Creating safe spaces at work

Several speakers addressed the issues of mental health and the need to break down biases and make kitchens more inclusive places to work. The main message was that food service workplaces need to become more open to people sharing their mental health challenges rather than hiding those issues away. On a related theme, a diverse panel discussed their personal experience and solutions to discrimination on a panel entitled “Inclusive Kitchen: Tackling Systemic Racism”. The panelists mentioned how microaggressions in the kitchen are aggressions nonetheless and shouldn’t be accepted anymore. They focused on changing and progressing attitudes we should be trying to have in the foodservice industry.

Making the most of delivery services

Mobile delivery businesses (Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes etc.) have been lifesavers to many restaurants and pubs during the pandemic, offering them a way to get their food to their customers despite COVID-19 restrictions.  Some popular bars are now even delivering their drinks.

In addition to being able to reach their customers during a pandemic, the delivery applications allow a restaurant to receive specific feedback that can help improve its services. Letting the delivery app focus on gathering the feedback, leaves the restaurant owner time to focus on other important business-related activities.

Since delivery is now a bigger portion of a restaurant’s business, more attention needs to be paid to how those orders are packaged. An example they showcased is restaurants should always add a written note to create a connection with their customers on the delivery bag to show their appreciation. I know I love the notes I get when I order food online, even more, if there is a smiley face!

The rise of ghost kitchens           

Ghost kitchens were another popular topic at this year’s show. Ghost kitchens are restaurants you can’t actually visit and dine-in, instead, they’re delivery only, usually partnering with mobile food delivery applications (Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes etc.). Watch the Farmwork to Feed Canada website for a closer look at ghost kitchens in the coming weeks.

Speakers tackled the pros and cons of the pandemic; some pros were it COVID-19 gave them time to think of new ways to acquire customers. The show had solutions designed to rebuild your business if needed due to COVID-19, to reconnect with those customers who’ve been absent, or maybe to even reinvent your kitchen with stunning new technology. For independent operators, the RC Show gave them insight into the future and how they can adapt, while commercial restaurants shared their ways of adapting to the pandemic and how they stayed in business.

Looking ahead

A message that was portrayed throughout the whole event is that restaurants were there for you, now it is time you be there for your restaurant. Already, 10,000 restaurants in Canada have closed due to COVID-19. We all love restaurants and how they help us celebrate special events or connect with our friends and family. Problems that existed before COVID-19 within the foodservice and hospitality industry have in many cases been exacerbated by the pandemic. If we want to keep enjoying our favourite restaurants in the future, we need to support them today.

To learn more about this year’s Restaurant Canada show, visit https://www.rcshow.com.


 

Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.

Keaton Francis

Keaton Francis

Keaton is a #Farmwork2FeedCanada storyteller, he is a graduate of Canadore College's Business Fundamentals and is currently in his third year of Public Relations at Cambrian College. He is from the Ojibway tribe and lived in Wikwemikong for most of his life. Born and raised on Manitoulin Island, Keaton is a young writer who is interested in advocating in Indigenous issues and eco-friendly “mother earth” matters.

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