The restaurant industry is in a constant state of change this year. Factors like supply chain shortages and lack of staff are causing disruptions to the systems that many restaurants have had in place for years. But, these changes aren't all bad. In fact, many restaurant patrons are learning that the new normal for their favorite restaurants is a major improvement over what they dealt with a couple of years ago.
There's a fine line that restaurants have to walk now between customer service and tiny profit margins. Throwing away expensive entrees isn't something that's going to happen often. The increase in food costs means that they'll have to take extra care to prepare things correctly so they minimize the chance of customer complaints.
1. Smaller, More Specialized Menus
A few years ago, customers could walk into a restaurant and receive a multi-page menu full of a variety of offerings. Since the pandemic, restaurants have taken to whittling down those menus into smaller ones that are easier to fulfill.
These smaller menus are often focused on a central theme. Many dishes share ingredients to make it easier to order food and cut down on food waste. This is necessary, at least in part, to the supply chain shortages that are making it harder for restaurants to get a long list of ingredients.
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2. Short-Term Menus
One of the new food trends of 2022 is having short-term menus. Some restaurants are changing the menu offerings weekly based solely on what's available to them. In order to keep the costs of this down, these restauranteurs are doing away with traditional printed menus. Instead, they're turning to digital menus that they can change quickly.
Using a QR code system enables customers to look up the current menu right from their smartphone at the table. Restaurants that offer delivery or takeout services must remember to update those menus when the offerings change.
3. Modifications for Core Menu Items
While these smaller menus are common this year, there's an entire market waiting to be tapped. Restaurants can allow for modifications of the core dishes to make them available to more customers. This could include offering plant-based options for any dishes that contain meat or having gluten-free bread in place of regular bread.
Customers going out to eat in 2022 aren't willing to compromise on what they eat, so having modifications available means that you can cater to groups who have multiple dietary requirements.
4. Farm-to-Table Dishes
The supply chain disruptions have been hard on restaurants; however, this has led some to turn to local sources for ingredients. The farm-to-table menu has become more popular recently. In 2022, this is expected to grow considerably because restaurants know that many patrons appreciate being able to support local farms and businesses while still enjoying their favorite dishes.
Many of the farm-to-table menu items are comfort foods that have a unique or interesting spin on them. Chefs are crafting menu items based on what's available to them at that time instead of trying to hunt down specific ingredients.
5. More Drink Options
Mocktails are the answer to having fun drinks available for delivery. The days of simply mixing fruit juices to create these cocktails is gone. Bartenders and restauranteurs are concocting new mocktails that are visually appealing and that use local, seasonal ingredients.
The mocktail movement isn't limited only to fruity drinks. Some other beverages, such as those with vegetables as the main ingredient, are wildly popular this year because people tend to see those as healthier beverages.
Fermented drinks are also growing in popularity. Kombucha, tepache, and other naturally fermented beverages are all the rage in some circles. Restauranteurs who include these beverages on the menu may find that they're able to reach a wider demographic of those who are into health and nutrition.
6. Order Delivery Through Apps
Delivery apps act as a go-between for restaurants and customers. You don't have to worry about hiring delivery personnel when you use these apps to get your food out to customers. Typically, the delivery driver will pick up the order and either hand it to the customer or place it at the customer's door. One important point to think about with this is whether the delivery driver will obtain proof of the delivery, such as a picture of the food by the door if it isn't handed directly to the customer.
One positive aspect about delivery apps is that they expand the restaurant's customer base considerably. Even people who are wary of dining in or unable to drive to the location can try out the food. For a struggling restaurant, this could be a lifeline, but restaurants must ensure they can meet the demands that come with delivery app inclusion.
7. Ghost Kitchens
Ghost kitchens, which are sometimes referred to as virtual kitchens, don't offer the in-person dining experience and often take place within other restaurants or temporary facilities. Some people do these kitchens out of food trucks. They must be fully licensed in accordance with local laws, so there is some preparation required. The benefit of this option is that you can choose to utilize only food delivery services with online ordering so that you can keep costs down.
8. Focused Menu Lists
While many restaurants once prided themselves on having a lengthy menu, many find that cutting down the menu to specific best-selling items is beneficial. It's expected that this whittled-down menu trend will continue long after the pandemic is a distant memory because restaurants will become better known for the items they are the best at making. This is also a good time for restaurants to find new creative takes on the things they serve.
9. Alcohol To Go
Changes to some laws because of the pandemic make it possible for restaurants to sell alcohol to go. This can increase the profits of businesses if the transactions are handled properly. Some choose to use food delivery apps to handle this so that they can ensure the customer isn't going to drink the alcohol on the way home.
10. Plant-Based Entrees
Plant-based proteins have been around for a while, but they're growing in popularity now. This is due partly to the scarcity of some meats, as well as the significant rise in the cost of animal-based proteins.
Not only do plant-based proteins help to keep the menu item cost down, they also open the door for a new group of customers. Many of these menu items are vegetarian friendly but chefs must be careful in the other ingredients they add to the dish if they're going to make the vegetarian or vegan claim.
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11. Chef Fusion Dishes
Many fine dining restaurants are offering fusion dishes created by their own chefs. These are being born out of necessity due to the supply chain issues, but they're also giving the chefs the opportunity to offer unique dishes to restaurant patrons.
There's no limit to these fusion dishes, but many of these options are bringing in an Asian flare. Chefs can work to create these dishes and offer them to the staff members to see how they're received.
Consider hosting a special night to introduce the new fusion offerings. This could be a one-time event, but having one night each week or each month that features only these dishes could put your restaurant at the forefront of this 2022 trend.
Boosting Restaurant Sales
Despite people becoming more and more familiar with dining in restaurants, the pull to ghost kitchens, food trucks, and delivery services is here to stay. Restaurants that want to be truly successful need to include delivery options so they can reach a larger group of patrons.
Services like Cuboh make it much easier for kitchens to keep delivery and takeout orders straight since they provide one easy app that pulls all the popular delivery services together. This can help to increase customer satisfaction since it can improve the speed of service and may help to keep order accuracy up.
Growing a restaurant in these market conditions will take time and skill. Restaurants that focus on a specific specialty and craft their dishes with skill, while balancing customer service, will have a one-up on others that are lax in one or more of those areas. Let's just say that 2022 is a year of balance for restauranteurs.