The onset of the pandemic in 2020 introduced new market forces that disrupted the restaurant industry. However, the economies are bouncing back and bringing new opportunities and challenges.
The labor shortage and supply chain pressures experienced in 2021 have continued into 2022. These challenges are causing instability that pushes operators to reduce their costs. For instance, investing in labor-saving technology as well as providing simple and fewer menus options helps them free up cash to hire more staff or increase wages.
On the other hand, plenty of automation opportunities such as robot bartenders, smart ordering, and delivery options will transform the food and beverage industry. These shifting trends will help the restaurant industry continue to thrive, address the labor shortage, and the changing guest preferences as well as the ups and downs in the industry.
So then, here are new and continuing trends that will shape restaurants in 2022.
1. Change of Menus
Restaurants have been changing their menus throughout the years. Some of the common trends include:
People have become health conscious and are willing to pay more for nutritious meals tied to organic, all-natural, or GMO-free foods. Restaurants are looking for different ways to offer healthy meals in their establishments because the trend will continue into the future.
They can achieve that by eliminating prepackaged or processed ingredients from their meals and inventory, ensuring peak freshness through seasonal produce, and buying all-natural and local farm ingredients. Restaurateurs are visibly marking vegetarian and vegan options on their menus. They’re also serving smaller portion sizes of these healthier options.
Offering Ethnic Preferences
People are dropping foreign fast foods and adopting Middle Eastern cuisines and Pan Asian menus. The use of herbs and spices in these meals is gaining popularity. There are also healthy fast-food choices that have gained traction globally.
Diners are taking less alcohol every year. Restaurants have joined this trend by providing non-alcoholic alternatives to those seeking to celebrate but don’t want to feel left out by not having alcohol on their table.
The non-alcoholic cocktails and mocktails movement has gone into 2022. Restauranteurs have changed their recipes to offer alcohol-free cocktails close to their boozy relatives.
Plant-based or Vegan Cuisines
Vegan cuisine has more fans than it did several years ago because people are cutting back on meat consumption. So plant-based menus are no longer vegetarians, but it’s an option for all.
The majority of restaurants have joined this trend to meet the growing demand by revamping their menus and adding plant-based and vegan dishes. So vegan cuisine is no longer a limited option but a staple for those seeking alternative diets.
In fact, a restaurant chain like M restaurant now offers a diverse spread of vegan and vegetarian dishes/platters for its customers who are now increasingly fond of green vegetables, curry and breads in the menu, rather than going for meat, flesh and gore, which was not the case a couple of decades ago.
2. Smart Restaurant Technology
The labor shortage reported in 2021 continues into the future. However, the hospitality industry is adopting smart technologies to navigate this significant challenge. Instead of increasing wages to fill open positions, food businesses invest in restaurant technology to help owners and managers be more efficient.
Eateries have developed ordering and delivery apps to counter low staffing capacity holding back cash-strapped operators. They have also automated customer payments and customer communications to fill the gaps.
3. Contactless Ordering and Delivery
The health pandemic introduced new normal of ordering and paying for your food in any establishment. Touchless payments and QR-code menus are ordering and payments options that will continue in 2022.
In fact, the major of restaurants are offering contactless payment options and have developed their own mobile wallet apps, while others continue with QR code menus and payments. The main advantage of the QR code menus is that it costs nothing to implement this technology, improves customer experience, increases employee tips, and reduces errors.
Therefore, online ordering will be a permanent fixture in the restaurant businesses post-Covid-19 pandemic.
4. Kitchen Automation
In addition to online ordering, payments, and delivery, most restaurateurs have streamlined their kitchen operations in order to deliver a consistent guest experience. These businesses have invested in digital technology to enhance processes in the kitchen.
Other restaurants have automated certain tasks like back-of-house responsibilities such as dishwashing. Robots will dominate the coffee space because automating the process of combining liquids, ice, and powders or preparing smoothies can reduce the number of staff in an establishment.
These streamlined and equipped kitchens give owners and managers the freedom they need to experiment with new restaurant concepts, improve food quality and provide better efficiency across different channels. For instance, a robot will never call in sick, won’t have a romantic affair with another employee, and work on holidays and weekends.
5. Boosting Customer Engagement
Restaurateurs want to keep their customers coming back throughout the year. To achieve that, restaurant owners and managers develop creative ways to grow business and boost customer loyalty and engagement.
Actually, businesses are designing products and services inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic. These new strategies include subscriptions and memberships, virtual tastings, meal and cocktail kits, and more.
Further, restaurants have developed well-planned loyalty programs and incentives to improve customer satisfaction and gain deep insight into customers’ preferences and needs. Introducing new initiatives or creatively revamping their services helps them to provide great restaurant experiences. In the end, these initiatives translate to increased sales and customer retention.
6. Managing Food Delivery
Restaurants are running away from third parties. Instead, they want to manage their online ordering and delivery. Most restaurateurs will offer food delivery in 2022 in order to control their end-to-end restaurant experience. They want to provide frictionless customer engagement by taking control of customer engagement. Additionally, they want to maintain centralized customer data, which helps deliver loyalty programs and better marketing campaigns.
Customers, too, want to skip the third-party delivery customers. They prefer to use the restaurant food delivery app and website instead of a middle person. They want to support their favorite restaurant directly.
7. Community Service Initiatives
Businesses can’t stand without the community. One way that restaurants can engage the community is by providing a venue for special or important life events for community members. These include anniversaries, weddings, birthdays, first dates, business meetings, reunions, and much more.
Participating in many community engagement initiatives helps businesses to build strong ties with the community. Restaurateurs can donate money or foodstuffs to the community organizations, cook for various community service providers and support local and minority-owned businesses. These new initiatives and experiences will help brands win the community’s love and delight guests.
8. Pop-up Restaurants
In 2022, pop-up restaurants and food trucks will offer great dining experiences that you can’t find elsewhere. These establishments are not reserved only for fine dining, casual dining, or themed spots. Restaurants owners and managers choose limited dishes or even set menus to revamp their business in their stationary restaurant.
9. Green Kitchens
Customers have become environmentally conscious, and they expect the food and beverage industry to implement substantial changes to protect the environment. For instance, businesses reduce plastic waste and water pollution by eliminating plastic cups and lids, straws, and packaging bags. Instead, they’re using eco-friendly alternatives or biodegradable wares, thus creating green kitchens.
Restaurateurs are working on reducing waste by recycling and reusing leftovers. For instance, Fast food giant McDonald’s has a plan to switch 100% to renewable or recycled materials by 2025. Although your restaurant might not take such aggressive approaches, it can choose environment-friendly options to stand out from its peers.
10. Food Halls
Food halls began gaining attraction before the pandemic and will continue into 2022. Many developers are designing food halls to offer a social experience and quality food at a reasonable price.
Although the health pandemic severed businesses, they are beginning to rebound in 2022. These food halls are starting to highlight multiple cuisines and vegan foods.
11. Time-saving Pickup Lockers
Restaurants are expanding their digital platforms. Customers, on the other hand, are taking ownership of the delivery process by picking their food in order to lower the off-premise cost. The demand for cheaper off-premise options has prompted restaurants to double their efforts in digital order pickups.
Consumers can now pick their food from the restaurant’s pickup shelves and lockers because it’s less costly and helpful to the industry that is still struggling with labor shortages. Creating high-tech lockers with refrigerated or heated interiors is not sustained because it requires collaborating with third-party companies.
However, restaurateurs are creating standard shelves that are not technology-intensive, easy to install, and organized by the customers’ last name. The only challenge is that there is a risk of customers picking the wrong order or food being stolen. As a result, there will be slower adoption of this trend than anticipated.
12. Alternative Revenue Streams
Most restaurants diversified their revenue streams to survive the impacts of the Covid-19. These include new products or services such as grocery and retail, subscriptions, meal and cocktail kits. As a result, there is a blurred line between retail businesses, services businesses, and restaurants.
It’s common to see a restaurant-bar-store selling food and drinks, mixology classes, tastings, retail gear, and serving patrons. As a result, customers purchase retail items on top of their standard meals when they visit restaurants. Branching outside their core business helps these businesses spice things up and increase their revenue.
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