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Millennials are eating up fast casual franchise dining

Move over foie gras expertly laid out on porcelain charger plates. Hello foie gras poutine served in a checkered lined basket.


The way Canadians are dining out has changed and food franchises have taken notice, with new and innovative food concepts springing up all the time. In fact, the food franchise category has grown by 45.6% since 2010, according to 2016 franchise trends released by the Canadian Franchise Association.

“The Canadian consumer is always changing, therefore business should be nimble to meet their needs,” says Canadian Franchise Association President & CEO Lorraine McLachlan. “The beauty about franchising is you’re dealing with businesses that have researched their demographic, have an established proof of concept and a proven successful business model, mitigating many of the risks for new entrepreneurs.”

When it comes to consumer purchasing habits, it is clear that millennials pack a huge punch with their collective spending power, and that is only set to increase in 2017.

“With millennials making up approximately 20 per cent of the Canadian population it’s understandable their habits are influencing how we dine out and how franchises are changing or modifying their concepts and services to meet this growing demographic,” adds McLachlan.

A few unique franchisees have taken notice. They have found a way to capitalize on how millennials are spending their money and are changing their offering and services to grow and make their business scalable.

Jeff Young, Chief Development Officer of La Carnita (the newest and hottest spot for Mexican street food) and Sweet Jesus (a soft serve parlour/espresso bar that is testing culinary boundaries) is well aware of this shift, as the inspiration to expand the concept of these two unique brands was derived out customer demand. In his opinion “building a sustainable franchise model is creating happy and successful franchise partners, with a profitable business model that is on trend with what consumers want.”

So, what are millennials looking for in their dining experience and what are franchises doing to keep up?


As revealed in the Canadian Franchise Association’s 2016 Franchise Trends, now more than ever, consumers want choices. They are looking for customization and creative menu options that are unique. Franchises are seeing this and creating more ability to mix and match menu options, sides and shareables.

“I think that many diners are seeking food options that are more experiential in nature. Spicy ingredients; bold flavours and layers of texture – in food and drink,” says Young.


With all these fabulous new creative options for diners, no wonder the idea of “sharing” has become a prominent demand of these young diners. It is not new that the way food is presented is a huge part of any dining experience, but franchises have taken this trend into major consideration by implementing digital strategies, social scenarios and developing recognizable brands that encourage social conversation.

Social media has changed the way consumers interact with the food service industry as a whole.  These days, offering diners a meal that is photographable and shareable is almost as important as the way the food itself tastes.

La Carnita and Sweet Jesus have partnered with OneMethod, an award-winning digital and design studio, so they have access to social media masterminds.  Everything La Carnita and Sweet Jesus says or does is on brand.

“Using social media as the focal marketing platform, in just nine months Sweet Jesus has over 55,000 Instagram followers and we have been growing at a rate of 10,000 new followers each month; we are the number one Instagrammed food in Toronto; we get thousands of likes per post; and we are the number one most followed Toronto café or coffee shop.  Our guests are exceedingly social media savvy,” Young adds.


So it’s clear it’s not only about the food. Delivering innovative dishes and beverages in an equally innovative environment plays an equal role in millennial wants. The fast casual trend will continue to flourish as more and more consumers (in particular millennials) as more and more consumers are seeking an elevated culinary experience.

La Carnita and Sweet Jesus are on trend and have been successful at attracting the millennial audience – a group made up of influential, foodies at heart that are culturally connected.

The brand realizes how to leverage today’s technology. Consumers can be brand ambassadors or brand assassins, Young said. “Restauranteurs who are not connected with their guests and not listening to feedback will not remain relevant.”

Young’s advice to franchises looking to start off in the food service: “Be passionate and love what you do.”