What’s On The Menu: 18 Restaurant Industry Trends You'll See in 2022

What’s On The Menu: 18 Restaurant Industry Trends You'll See in 2022

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Another year into the pandemic that's rocked the world means that there are even more changes coming within the restaurant industry.

Restauranteurs are fine-tuning their operations.

Customers are adjusting to the changes that have come with the pandemic.

Ultimately, 2022 is going to be a year of amazing growth for the restaurant industry. It's a year that should bring some relief to an industry that's been under a lot of pressure and suffered so much during shutdowns and limitations.

Here are the top 18 restaurant industry trends that you will notice during 2022:

#1: Local Sourcing Increases

Bare shelves at grocery stores and supply chain issues are leading chefs to have to come up with creative solutions to address ingredient shortages.

For many, this causes them to turn to local sourcing options instead of relying on national suppliers. This is good for customers because they're going to start getting more fresh options on the menu.

It also enables restauranteurs to cater to customers who are turning toward healthier eating.

#2: Menus Get Smaller

Vast menus at restaurants are a thing of the past.

Nearly all restaurant menus have shrunk in the past couple of years. This happened because of the supply chain issues and labor shortages. By shrinking the menu, chefs can focus on improving a few items to really wow their customers.

#3: Virtual or Pop-Up Kitchens Increase

Virtual, ghost, and pop-up kitchens are still increasing in popularity.

This enables restauranteurs to offer different sets of menu items using highly targeted marketing. For many rising restauranteurs, this is a way that they can increase profitability in a time when costs are increasing at an alarming rate.

#4: Fusion Menus Continue to Grow

Fusion menus aren't new, but they have become increasingly popular in the last year.

This food service trend's popularity isn't slowing down. Chefs and restauranteurs are using fusion menus to set their menus apart from others in the area.

Customers tend to choose specific fusion menu items that they love, which brings them back to the restaurant that offers them. It's one of the more effective ways to build brand loyalty at a time when restaurants are battling for customers.

#5: Delivery Services Thrive

People are still rather concerned about going into a restaurant for dining.

Some just prefer to eat at home. Delivery services are still popular with many customers, and this is going to increase this year. Restaurants that use these services are constantly improving their order fulfillment process, so the speed that the customers get their food should get better.

But, that will also depend on how well staffed the delivery service is at any given moment.

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#6: Pickup Services Move to Lockers

In areas where delivery isn't possible or when customers would rather pick up their food, restaurants are learning that traditional pick-up methods such as coming to the counter to get their orders aren't working now.

Throughout 2022, the use of lockers and similar pick-up options will increase. Customers will place their order online and then get a special code to open the locker that contains their menu. In theory, this should reduce the number of order mix-ups that restaurants have to deal with since each customer's items will be separated from other orders.

#7: Digital Ordering Becomes the Norm

Restaurants will place more emphasis on digital ordering.

This includes offering online orders for customers who opt to eat in the dining area. Some restaurants are doing away with printed menus in favor of using QR codes attached to the table to offer the menu. The downside to this trend is that people who don't have smartphones won't be able to access the menu; however, restaurants may choose to have a few printed menus on hand.

The upside to digital ordering is that it's easier for restauranteurs to change prices as necessary. Keeping pricing off printed menus is beneficial since prices will fluctuate during 2022.

#8: Fewer Employees With More Responsibilities

The labor shortage has forced restaurants to rethink operations within the staffing system.

Most restaurants have moved to models in which employees have more responsibilities, but this is usually balanced with cuts in other areas. For example, chefs might have to do more of the food preparation tasks, but they aren't having to cook as many dishes. Servers may have to handle more to-go orders but they aren't having to wait on as many tables in the restaurant's dining area.

#9: BOH/FOH Split

Historically, most restaurants have had a 70/30 split between the front-of-house space and the back-of-house space.

This is changing to accommodate the increase in take-out and delivery orders with the split becoming closer to even. The larger back-of-house space enables workers to take care of tasks in a more efficient manner since they aren't tripping over each other as they work. It also makes it easier for ingredient and order prep to occur.

#10: Customer Service Changes

"The customer is always right" is being replaced by "the customer might be right" in many restaurants.

While restauranteurs must still respect customers, they're starting to realize that the balance between making the customer happy and keeping the restaurant in operation is the most important thing. Things like asking for deposits for reservations and refusing frivolous order replacement requests are becoming the norm now. Restauranteurs must keep an eye out for trends in complaints or issues so they can address those when necessary.

Overall, restauranteurs should focus on growing their restaurants during this time of increased flexibility within the restaurant industry. This enables them to get their business to where they truly want it to be.

RELATED READING: Specials and Promotions You Should Be Including In Your Restaurant

#11: Lasting COVID-Era Innovations

Online ordering and food delivery certainly aren't the only COVID-19 adaptations that'll stick around.

Throughout this pandemic, we've seen incredible innovations and out-of-the-box thinking that will forever change the restaurant industry. These changes came from a place of necessity but ultimately improved the entire restaurant model by providing more revenue streams and opportunities.

Throughout the past year or so, many cities across the US amended liquor laws to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages for pickup and delivery.

This was a welcome break for restaurant owners, as alcohol sales make up a decent portion of overall sales. While these temporary measures do come with certain challenges, it's proven to be popular with both customers and restaurateurs, with many pushing for permanent alcohol delivery.  

Other innovations like prepared meal kits and virtual cooking classes are sure to stay as well. As restaurants shift their services and operations, we'll see their physical setup evolve, with smaller dining rooms and more space for takeout and curbside pickup.

The in-person ordering process will likely change for most casual eateries as well. Customers will be able to checkout and pick up their order using kiosks or their smartphone, freeing up employees to perform other tasks like increased sanitation — which is also here to stay. 

#12: Social Media and Personalized Marketing

The importance of social media in just about any industry can't be understated, but especially in the restaurant business.

It's been long known that online reviews and interactions are paramount to a restaurant's reputation, but owners can also gain valuable insights from analyzing customer data. These insights can be used to improve customer service, curate new menu items, and reach potential customers. 

Advanced analytics can take customer data from transactional records and social media interactions to accurately predict trends in consumer behaviors, such as eating habits. This can help restaurateurs shape their menu to meet specific demands, like adding more plant-based menu items. Restaurants can also use customer data to provide personalized email marketing with targeted offers, discounts, and coupons. They can tailor loyalty programs with perfectly timed promotions and suggest new orders based on previous purchases. 

Having a strong social media presence can also offer additional customer support while attracting new customers. Some social media profiles can even be utilized for online ordering. Facebook ordering has recently taken off, boosting online sales by allowing customers to order food directly from a restaurant's Facebook page.

The restaurant industry has been forever changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many restaurant owners were faced with the difficult decision to change or close, new restaurant trends began to emerge. Although the pandemic continues across the globe, in many ways the restaurant industry has strengthened, because restaurateurs have found innovative ways to get their food to people across the U.S. and within their own communities.

Your dining experience may look different once the dust settles in the United States. Here are a few restaurant industry trends that will most likely continue even after the pandemic is over.

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#13: Safer Packaging

If you've had food delivered, you may have noticed that it's packaged differently than before. Packaging has been altered for safety during handling. Your container or food may be shrink wrapped to ensure safer delivery.

Since the National Restaurant Association and the CDC are learning new information about how the virus is transmitted every day, it doesn't hurt to provide extra protection to something you're directly ingesting. Although it can be a pain to unwrap, consider it a healthier option than the alternative.

#14: Year-Round Safety Precautions

Even when there isn't a specific disease to worry about, it's likely that customers will continue to see the added safety precautions that have sprung up in restaurants due to COVID.

For example, when you're waiting to get your favorite beverage at your local Starbucks coffee shop, you may have noticed plexiglass partitions between you and your baristas.

Restaurant operators have put up these dividers to keep their employees safer from the airborne particles that spread COVID-19. There are many other nasty diseases, including the common flu, that are spread through sneezing and coughing. It's a safe prediction that the partitions may stay up in order to protect employees from less deadly diseases that can still require the worker to take time off of work if they catch it.

Speaking of safety precautions, we can't forget to mention masks...

#15: Masked Workers

Restaurant owners may continue to require their employees to wear masks even after the pandemic.

If you supply employees with the appropriate kind of face covering, and they actually wear it while interacting with customers and other workers, there's a smaller risk of spreading or catching any disease, like the common cold. Last year may have been the last time you saw unmasked individuals serving you at your favorite diner.

By requiring mask wearing at certain times, it could help to keep you and your loved ones in good health.

#16: A Closer Look at Wages

As the United States realizes the reality of the finances of many of its citizens, the hope is that minimum wage will increase. Workers, like bartenders, servers, and hosts, provide an essential service and should be paid a living wage.

These workers can come into contact with danger just, because they deal with the general public. As talks about minimum wage continue, whether you're ordering a burger or caviar from somewhere that serves fine dining, remember to tip generously.

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#17: Reducing Paper Waste

We can't talk about restaurant trends without talking about sustainability.

Paper waste is one of the biggest environmental issues caused by restaurants.

Each year, it's estimated that paper receipts account for roughly 1.5 billion pounds of environmental waste, and that's just in the United States alone. You also can't forget the napkins that come with takeout and delivery orders. Receipts almost always head directly for the trash, and there's no reliable way to know if customers really use other paper products or not. Fortunately, the paper receipts issue can be solved by a customer-facing point of sale (POS) system.

A POS system generally comes equipped with a computer, monitor, cash drawer, credit card/debit card reader, barcode scanner, and yes, a receipt printer. If customers can place their food orders via a digital customer-facing tablet or kiosk, however, then bills and receipts can be digitized as well. Customers can have their receipts sent to an email address or attached to their account on a mobile app.

Digital receipts are fine to send to the IRS as well, as long as they include the vendor name, the vendor's address, and the transaction fees. This solution isn't perfect, though. Independent restaurants may have a hard time making the investment, and not every customer has a smartphone or is comfortable using digital technology to place new orders. This is why you may still need to provide paper receipts as an opt-in practice, but you'll still greatly reduce paper waste.

RELATED READING: How Certain Types of Take-Out Packaging Can Reduce Waste

#18: Integrated Solutions

Reduced paper waste isn't the only takeaway for POS systems.

If you opt to go with a SaaS option in the cloud, you can expect POS integration with other services that will benefit your restaurant and your customers. For example, portals that link your ordering tools with a kitchen display helps to eliminate misunderstandings between your customers and staff, thus boosting customer service. This reduces paper waste even further by eliminating the need for tickets.

You can also integrate your restaurant POS with a customer relationship management solution.

This makes it easy to collect and retrieve customer data in real-time, so it's easier to assist customers with orders and other questions. You can even use your customer data to determine who your best customers are and send them personalized promotions and email marketing messages to invite them to your loyalty program for discounts, digital coupons, and other benefits.

This is an environmentally friendly way to advertise, and you'll likely see an increase in customer satisfaction. If your restaurant offers plant-based alternatives to meat, itself a great practice in sustainability, you can easily track sales data of these items and use it to create better marketing materials for the niche.


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A restaurant POS integrated with your inventory tracking software is likely your best way to reduce food waste as well. Becoming overstocked means that you won't be able to use all the products you ordered, and it will simply waste perfectly good food. With reliable inventory tracking, your POS system will automatically notify your vendors of any products you're running low on, so you only stock up when you really need to.

A New Restaurant Model

For many small restaurant owners, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the service several issues that have plagued the industry for years.

Opening a restaurant is a notoriously risky investment because margins are so razor-thin. This proved absolutely devastating when restaurants were forced to close by government-mandated shutdowns. Most independently owned restaurants can't survive being shut down for one week, let alone months. 

This glaring problem, along with structural inequalities like pay disparity between the front and back of the house and sustainability issues like excessive food waste, can no longer be ignored. During this moment of transformation, independent restaurant coalitions have formed to create positive change in the industry. Throughout all of the uncertainty, restaurant owners and chefs have found ways to give back to their communities and uplift other small businesses. 

With so many determined to embrace this tumultuous time to design a more equitable and sustainable restaurant model, it's clear that we've only begun to see the real revolution.

Speaking about these great unknowns, former pastry chef Lena Sareini says, “This’ll give the industry an edge—like the phoenix that bursts into flames and comes back stronger.”

Speaking about these great unknowns, former pastry chef Lena Sareini says, “This’ll give the industry an edge—like the phoenix that bursts into flames and comes back stronger.”


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