Food trends to watch for in Canadian restaurants in 2013

Move over burger bars and head-to-toe meats. It’s time to focus on vegetables! Leafy greens, exotic roots and other locally-grown vegetables are set to take centre stage this year, as our world continues to demand healthier foods.

Restaurant and foodservice operators will also be more accommodating to the growing population of vegans, and those on gluten-free, lactose-free, or sugar-free diets.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, believes these are some of the trends that we will see this coming year:

Eat your greens

Vegetables will be all the rage in 2013, especially leafy greens. Expect to see kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, dandelion, beet greens, turnip greens, Asian greens and all other kinds of greens being incorporated into menu items everywhere. Chefs are also making vegetables the star of the plate, instead of relegating vegetables as a merely a side dish.

Ethnic flavours

Each year, a new trendy ethnic flavour comes along. Last year, we saw a huge Korean influence appearing on menus. This year, expect to see flavours from Southeast Asia to dominate, especially from Vietnam. We will also see many chefs mixing up ethnicities as well. Don’t be surprised to find a dish that features Indian, Italian, Mediterranean and Asian influences all in one!

Look for new grains

Quinoa will continue to grow in popularity as more and more restaurants and supermarkets are adding it onto their menus. Look for new grains such as freekeh, a toasted green wheat from the Middle East, as well as farro, an Italian wheat grain, to infiltrate restaurant kitchens.

New ways of serving food

Restaurant menus are now moving away from the traditional Appetizer, Entrée, Dessert format, and offering smaller dishes segregated by food group instead. This allows consumers to “build” their own meal instead of being forced to have a protein, starch and vegetable all on one plate.


More and more people are choosing to become gluten-, sugar-, or lactose-free as a lifestyle, so restaurant and foodservice owners and operators must be more accommodating to this growing group of people. Expect to see much more choice and offerings catered to this dynamic.

Izakayas and noodle bars

The Japanese izakaya and ramen noodle bar scene is starting to heat up, as more and more of these operations open up on a daily basis. The appeal of the izakaya’s small plates of tasty grilled meats, and other light bar foods, and the convenience and price point of ramen noodle bars makes them highly desirable places to eat for today’s marketplace.

Animal skin

While vegetables will be the main focus of 2013, people still need their meat. Now that we have found ways to cook and eat every piece of meat available on an animal, the only thing left is the skin. Expect to see more dishes garnished with fried pieces of chicken skin or pig skin, or even lamb skin.


With this huge movement towards more healthy foods, there will be one indulgence that will emerge this year – the doughnut. While the sweet, fried ring of dough has always been a popular treat, expect to see it used in less traditional ways like as a replacement for a hamburger bun, paired with fried chicken, or filled with more interesting and savoury ingredients like foie gras. We can also expect to see more hip and boutique gourmet doughnut stores opening, as they replace cupcakes as the trendy dessert.


Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Canada and the U.S. Diane is an industry leader in providing innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or or visit