Maple Leaf Foodservice

Grow Your Menu with Flavourful Ethnic Choices

According to NPD Group, the fastest growing menu items in Canadian restaurants are ethnic-inspired foods.From Vietnamese pho to Japanese sushi, ethnic foods are enticing Canadians into making more adventurous food choices. Are you thinking of introducing ethnic fare to your foodservice establishment but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some popular trends and inspiring recipes to try.

World Tour

Asia – Touting it as a “mega-trend,” NDP reports more than a 15 percent change versus last year for the number of servings of Japanese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese foods at Canadian foodservice establishments. Servings for Chinese and Szechwan foods are up nine percent. According to the NPD poll, the top desired flavours include “garlic,” “hot & spicy” and “Asian influence.”

To add some Asian flare to your menu, consider working with flavours such as ginger, garlic and five-spice blend. Popular Asian sauce ingredients to keep on hand include hoisin, soy, miso and sesame oil. Visit Menu Maximizers at for Asian-inspired recipes such as Orange Hoisin Pork Chops, Oriental Meatballs and Thai Chicken Salad (see recipe below).

Italy – NDP research shows that Italian foods are the next most popular item for Canadian diners. Herbs such as oregano, basil and rosemary, and dishes flavoured with tomato and cheese, are sure-fire hits on foodservice menus. Try Menu Maximizer’s Italian Meatloaf Parmesan, Primavera Meatballs or Balsamic Chicken Pasta to offer up a taste of Italy to your patrons.

Preferences of Older Adults

The ethnic food trend is led by the daring taste buds of two-thirds of Canadians who report being “somewhat to very adventurous” when making food choices. Interestingly, people age 55+ report being less adventurous than younger cohorts. However, they do say that recommendations are vital; about half are enticed to try new foods by attention-grabbing menu descriptions or a server’s recommendation, while almost 70 percent rely on recommendations from friends or family. Knowing that older adults are less adventurous shouldn’t deter you from offering ethnic flavours – you just need to be cognizant that recommendations are important, and new dishes needs to be well-described to pique their attention.

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