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Restaurants Canada officially kicked off its 80th anniversary celebrations at RC Show 2024

Restaurants Canada officially kicked off its 80th anniversary celebrations at RC Show 2024, and this year’s theme, “LEVEL UP,” couldn’t have been timelier.

We live in an era where innovation is not just a buzzword but a necessity. The past few years have taught us the importance of resilience and adaptability, and our industry has faced unprecedented challenges that spurred incredible ingenuity and solidarity. There’s a lot to be proud of in that history, but it’s time to put the past in the rear view and turn our focus to a predictable and profitable future.

RC Show stands as a cornerstone event for the Canadian foodservice industry, providing a vital platform for stakeholders to converge, share insights, and foster innovation. It’s paramount not just for networking and uniting the collective voice and strength of our industry, but for energizing and equipping professionals to navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and contribute to the vibrant and diverse hospitality landscape that is one of our country’s most unique and valuable offerings. I am always humbled and amazed to see it come together and for Restaurants Canada to host such an important gathering.

As we navigate the path forward, growth and evolution are key. From exploring new products and technologies, finding sustainable solutions, redefining best practices or learning new ways of working, integrating new ideas and concepts into our businesses is essential for success. And by doing so, we elevate not just our individual establishments, but the entire industry. This year’s ambitious menu of speakers, workshop sessions, competitions and exhibitors were selected because they are at the forefront of this change, ready to share their experiences, insights and solutions.

The numbers speak for themselves:

RC Show is also a place for advocacy. Premier Doug Ford participated in the official RC Show ribbon cutting event and provided opening remarks, announcing that Restaurants Canada had successfully secured $1.4 Million in funding for a training/hiring program in Ontario: Pathways to Careers in Food Service. We will be releasing details on the program in May.

The program will enable Ontario foodservice operators to access funding to hire and train individuals with the goal of retaining permanent positions for those that are successful and hired through the program. It will also provide support for those looking to upskill or promote an individual already employed by a foodservice operator.

Ontario’s foodservice sector has over 24,000 job vacancies. The project seeks to connect restaurants with job seekers in under-represented groups in the broader labour market including youth, women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, racialized persons, recent newcomers and justice involved or at-risk individuals. The program will provide hiring and training subsidies for restaurants that directly hire individuals within these groups and will also work with organizations and associations across Ontario to help connect employers with job seekers.

This is welcome news for our Ontario operators who, like restaurants across the country, continue to face labour challenges and it helps address the increasing cost of hiring and training in the industry.

The Premier’s presence, along with that of Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Neil Lumsden, and Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson, underscores awareness of the vital role the restaurant sector plays in enhancing the province’s economic fabric and cultural mosaic.

At centre front: Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario and Kelly Higginson, Restaurants Canada President and CEO captured with colleagues at RC Show 2024.

The constructive dialogue between Premier Ford, his ministers, Central Canada V-P Kris Barnier and myself highlighted the critical challenges faced by the foodservice industry, including financial pressures and regulatory complexities. Their willingness to listen and continue conversations about further support signifies a commitment to ensuring the sustainability of this pivotal industry.

The conversations continued with Ontario’s Minister of Small Business, Nina Tangri, who also took the opportunity to engage with Restaurants Canada Board members. The Premier and ministers extended their visit to connect with exhibitors personally, which was encouraging to see.

Also on April 8th, Soraya Martinez Ferrada, federal Minister of Tourism, took to the Speaker Stage to share her support for the Canadian foodservice industry, noting the symbiotic relationship between restaurants and tourism. Her energy, passion and expression of interest in working more closely together was made not just to Restaurants Canada, but to the industry as a whole.

RC Show is more than just a trade show or a conference; it’s a platform for learning, networking, celebrating and elevating the incredible talent and creativity that define our industry. It’s a labour of love and an expression of faith in our industry and its people. This was fully on display during the incredible variety and energy of the RC Show’s legendary competitions. On behalf of Restaurants Canada, thank you to all who applied to compete or who supported and encouraged their staff or a colleague take their place on the stage.

RC Show’s Breakfast With Champions morning leadership event on April 10th honoured recipients of Restaurants Canada’s Awards of Excellence and Recognition.

The Awards recognize and celebrate leading professionals and industry-changers who embody the best of our hospitality and foodservice industry. As a consequence of our chosen vocation, we are committed to tending to the needs of others first, and these awards are about celebrating service that inspires and nurtures our own community.  This year’s winners have shown us what excellence in foodservice looks like and the potential it has to elevate and drive the industry forward. Having heroes at the table is important for all industries, but after some very tough years, the restaurant industry needs them more than ever.

I believe the heart of this industry transcends the artful provision of sustenance, the hosting of memorable experiences and even the frank economics. Restaurants—and more precisely the people who work in them—are the threads that interlace the broader social fabric, creating spaces of communion and a sense of belonging. Our professional engagement in this sphere extends beyond ordinary employment; it is a vital commitment to community and culture.

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in making RC Show 2024 a reality. From our sponsors and exhibitors to our speakers, curators, competitors, volunteers and attendees, your extraordinary commitment and enthusiasm are what make this event, and this industry, so special. Thank you from all of us at Restaurants Canada to those who were able to be here with us. To those who supported us from afar, I hope to see you at next year’s RC Show, April 7 to 9, 2025.

Yours in building a powerful, unified and future-ready Canadian foodservice industry together,

Kelly Higginson