Comfort Food Trends
Get the comfort food dishes your guests
Comfort food is a category that is always popular among consumers, boasting consistent bestsellers for many operators. It tugs on heartstrings and creates emotional connections because it evokes memories of family, childhood and place. Comfort food is just that—comforting. It’s nostalgic. It’s familiar. It’s a broad category that shape-shifts depending on overarching flavour trends. Comfort food today is also about reimagining the classics, staying familiar but making them new and exciting for your guests. For instance, at Soda Jerks Burgers & Bottles in Edmonton, macaroni and cheese takes the form of mac & cheese bites, served with a dipping sauce of salsa.
We’ve pinpointed three impactful trends within the comfort food category. Each of these trends offer menu items that demonstrate four-year growth patterns in Canadian foodservice, tracked by Datassential. They serve up the warm themes of comfort food without coming across as old-fashioned. Instead, they’re the best of both worlds—modern and on-trend while maintaining a homespun, soothing profile that always finds a welcome place on menus.
The American South, which includes areas such as the Carolinas, Appalachia, Louisiana and Texas, is known for comfort food, where craveability and homestyle dishes reside. Southern foods, like fried chicken, pimento cheese, country biscuits, mac and cheese, BBQ and red velvet cake, have transcended borders, finding their way to menus in Canada. The trend is all about adaptation—you don’t have to have a Southern-themed concept to borrow from this bold, delicious, comfort food pantry.
As an example, look to Montana’s BBQ & Bar, which this summer offered a BBQ sampler menu that allowed guests to build their own adventures, with meats and sides such as Kicked-Up Corn and Southern Baked Beans.
Nothing says the South like BBQ. Bring home authentic BBQ flavours with top brands
like Kraft, Diana, Bull’s-Eye and Richardson.
Classic diners are known for comfort food: grilled cheeses, daily soup specials, signature burgers and a swoon-worthy display of pies and cheesecakes. Today, the trend sees diner food updated, still serving up comfort, but in modern ways. For instance, at Deville Diner Bar in Montreal, the Louis Lunch Burger is its version of a patty melt—with Swiss and cheddar, iceberg, coleslaw and Russian dressing between two brioche buns.
Grilled cheese is featured on 18% of Canadian menus, up 17% between 2010 and 2014.
One of the biggest draws in menuing innovative diner food is that it has familiarity locked up—everyone knows and loves these dishes. The trend of fun, retro-style foods is at home here, where chefs can take a classic diner-style dish and add a playful twist.
Diner Food Staple
Ketchup is a menu must-have for diner classics such as burgers, fries, grilled cheese sandwiches and meatloaf. Showcase your preference for quality and encourage your guests to customize their meals with Heinz Table Top.
Soothing Soups & Hearty Bowls
The bowl platform—where dishes are served in comforting bowls, layering flavours and textures in delicious ways—is hugely popular. Propelling this popularity are the trends of customization, health and wellness, and the collective hankering for intriguing flavour combinations.
The original—and ultimate—bowl is soup. It’s a comfort food staple, particularly during fall and winter. Today, one-third of consumers say they would order soup as a lunchtime entrée, and 30 percent perceive soup as a healthier choice2. To stay competitive in this landscape, offer soups that both comfort and enthrall.
BBQ Chicken Bowl
Southwest Breakfast Bowl
True Soups Awesome Thai
True Soups Autumn Butternut Squash Soup
True Soups Smart Kettle Masala Tomato Lentil
True Soups Timberline Chili
Modern Consumer Preferences
Sodium is a major concern for consumers, and studies show they are trying to reduce it from their diet.3 Give them a soup so good, they won’t miss the salt. Check out our line of seven soups from Smart Kettle Lower Sodium Soups. From classic Chicken Noodle to the more exotic Masala Tomato Lentil, they are lower in sodium, have 250 or fewer calories and contain no high-fructose corn syrup.
Our TrueSoups portfolio was created by chefs for chefs—with no added preservatives, MSG or artificial flavours or colours. TrueSoups taste like homemade but with unwavering consistency in quality.
- 1Datassential MenuTrends, 2015
- 2Technomic Inc, The Canadian Left Side of the Menu: Soup & Salad Consumer Trend Report 2014
- 3Technomic Consumer Brand Metrics: Canadian Restaurants, Dec 2014 + 2015; IPSOS Idea Factory Health & Wellness Thread, April 2013