The hospitality sector in Vancouver is growing. According to Restaurants Canada, B.C. led the country with a 7.7-per-cent jump in food-service sales in 2017, and is forecast to drive growth again in 2018, with sales expected to increase by 4.3 per cent countrywide.
Coupled with this growth is the rise of the “sharing economy,” a system that enables the sharing of resources among businesses or consumers. According to Statistics Canada, between 2015 and 2016, 9.5 per cent of Canada’s population (or 2.7 million people) participated in the sharing economy, using private accommodation or peer-to-peer ride services.
While different industries are exploring how the principles of the shared economy can be applied, here in Vancouver we are seeing innovative services emerge in the hospitality space — to better meet changing customer needs.
The rise of food trucks in Vancouver is a great example of this. The City of Vancouver began its food truck pilot in 2010, and since then, the program has exploded with more than 100 food trucks given permits to operate over the last eight years. These food trucks are mandated by Vancouver Coastal Health to prepare food in a commissary kitchen, and this is fuelling the sharing economy as entrepreneurs seek an affordable space to prepare food. Many catering companies lease their space when it’s not in use to food truck owners, which is a win-win for food truck operators and catering owners alike.
Other food service businesses are benefiting from shared kitchens too. Some hospitality entrepreneurs are coming together to form “collective companies” that use the same space. Belgard Kitchen is a Silver Chef customer, and a great example where Belgard, Postmark Brewing and Vancouver Urban Winery all operate out of the Settlement building and feature each other’s products on their menus.
A shared kitchen can also be a great platform for food entrepreneurs to use while they get their business off the ground, whether they are preparing food to be delivered to retailers or direct to consumers. Services such as Commissary Connect provide members with access to a shared kitchen 24 hours a day, along with a dedicated workstation, prep table, and food storage. Fitness Foods is one local food business, providing home-delivered meals, that has benefited from using Commissary Connect’s service over five years.
In terms of future trends, we’re seeing the rise of “ghost kitchens” in other markets (particularly in Australia, where Silver Chef was founded) and expect to see these in Vancouver soon to meet the growing demand for home delivery. A ghost restaurant is different from a traditional food takeout service because there is no direct interaction between the customer and restaurateur — food is ordered via a third-party food delivery company. The growth of “ghost kitchens” is being fuelled by the rise in third-party apps that promote and deliver food to customers’ doors, such as UberEats, Foodora and DoorDash. Already businesses like DoorDash are seeing huge growth locally, with a tenfold increase in deliveries within 10 months.
We’re also pleased to see the sharing economy being applied to food waste, with an increase in organizations ensuring leftover food is used or given away, rather than thrown out. Currently, around $31 billion worth of food is thrown out in Canada each year. The Food Stash Foundation is a Vancouver-based nonprofit that is rescuing food that would have been destined for landfill and delivering edible food to charities and food-insecure households. JJ Bean, Rosemary Rock Salt and Cupcakes support Food Stash’s program, which collects 12,000 pounds of food each month and redistributes it to people who need it.
Vancouver’s reputation as a “food destination” is growing, fuelled by the city’s entrepreneurial culture and diversity. This mix is leading to an ever-increasing number of restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, and breweries that locals and visitors can enjoy, and is the reason Restaurants Canada is predicting that B.C. will be a leading player in the country’s growth in food-service sales for the third consecutive year.
Robert Phelps is the president of Silver Chef Canada, a leading dedicated hospitality financier that has supported 30,000 hospitality businesses globally.
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