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Rita DeMontis
Rita DeMontis

Canadians Digging into Ethnic Cuisine

By Rita DeMontis, Toronto Sun
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We're opening wide for the world when it comes to their eating habits.

According to a recent study by the market research company, The NPD Group, Canadians are embracing multiculturalism when they dine out. And full-service food patrons have been spicing up their suppers and taking advantage of the multitude of ethnic menu options being offered today.

The research shows Canadian restaurant goers are flocking to global delicacies in search of dishes that reflect the country's diverse culture. When choosing to dine out, consumers are showing an increased interest in non-traditional fare, with women leading the charge on the search for eateries that offer an array of exotic menu options.

But we want more. The study shows that 73% of Canadians would like full-service restaurants to offer a wider variety of menu choices as many of us see ourselves as adventurous restaurant consumers -- a nine percentage-point gain compared to two years ago. Accordingly, 70% of Canadians would order an ethnic-influenced menu item more frequently if it was available, with Italian, Thai, Greek, Chinese, and Japanese rounding out the top-five options.

"With so many cultures existing in Canada, it's no surprise that consumers expect to see these influences reflected in the restaurants they visit," said Robert Carter, executive director of Foodservice at The NPD Group. "Global-, fusion- and local-oriented cuisine is very much part of the mainstream now, so Foodservice operators would be wise to cater to their customers' desire for variety and their increasingly sophisticated palates."

Though menu diversity is at the forefront of Foodservice, food quality is at the top of consumers' checklists, with 35% of the country citing it as the reason for visiting a full-service restaurant. Together with taste, these are the primary factors that contribute to the overall dining experience and that differentiate one full-service restaurant over another.

Contrary to typical consumer trends, meal discounts have little effect on Canadians' dining out choices at full-service restaurants. Value for money is still important to consumers -- but not at the expense of food taste and quality. To this end, less than 10% of customers are motivated by coupons and low prices when choosing a full-service restaurant.

"The realization that price plays such a small role in the decision-making process indicates that dining out is perceived as an indulgence or special occasion for consumers," said Carter, adding "when Canadians leave the house for a sit-down meal, they're treating themselves to an outing that is valued for the experience it provides rather than the money it saves."

A review of the past year reveals a four per cent decline in Canadian full-service restaurant visits, giving restaurateurs an added incentive to spice up their selection. By integrating ethnic cuisine into their menus and maintaining high industry standards, full-service restaurants will be better positioned to attract new clientele, as well as retain existing customers.

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