Food for thought : Expensive toasts!

Market trends come and go. In computing, mobile devices continue to usurp the desktop. In television, people are cutting the cord in favor of Netflix. In fashion, #OwnTheOrange is the new black. One other industry that touches each and every one of our lives is the food industry – and capitalizing on food trends is proving fruitful for those hungry for profit!

For most full service restaurants, about 1/3 of every dollar spent goes into the food and beverages themselves. Once you tack on salaries and overhead, the profit margins get pretty slim. People are comfortable with the per diem meal rates – $8 breakfasts, $12 lunch, $20 dinner. That’s a fair market price, right? Well, it seems that in California, “fair market price” is a subjective term. People there are spending $11 for an order of toast! Now THAT’S what I call padding the bottom line!

The Artisanal Toast Trend is an interesting phenomenon, no matter which way you look at it. It’s difficult to imagine anyone paying $11 for 2 slices of toasted Mom’s huge loaf bread from Sobeys and a ½ ounce packet of Smuckers – though I’m sure this premium toast is more “small batch” than “store bought”. However, it taps into a few key trends and themes in the food market – smaller or half portions, simplicity, local food, and an overall fascination with artisan gourmet products, the sale of which generated $88 billion in 2013. Then finally there’s the need to photograph, to share, to socially elevate every meal – and how better to do that than to let everyone see, Like, Favorite, and Retweet your exquisite toast from that trendy, exclusive "toast bar"?

Somehow, “toast bars” have found a business model that is working – not everywhere, and probably not forever. But that too is an interesting case to investigate in the study of business. How do you start up a “toast bar” or any breakfast café such an incredibly competitive space? How do you get your business off the ground quickly enough to capitalize on the trend? What is your exit strategy for when the trend – or your business – finally falls flat?

I’m not saying that Sydney is the place for an artisanal toast bar, but the trends have a way of increasing the value of an otherwise uninteresting product even here. $11 for an order of toast? No. $11 for homemade, artisanal oatcakes and an organic, small-batch blueberry compote? Now I’m getting hungry…

Further Reading:

Goldfield, H. (May 2, 2014). The Trend is Toast. The New Yorker. Retrieved from

Passy, C. (June 11, 2014). People are paying $ 11 for one order of toast. Market Watch.  Retrieved from

Restaurants Canada. (2014). Restaurants Canada 2014 Chef Survey. Retrieved from

Special thanks to Emily for the inspiration πŸ™‚

– Gary