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The Top 9 Restaurant Industry Trends for 2022

by | Jan 5, 2022

There’s no denying that the restaurant industry is bound to take several bold steps this year. Digital transformation is behind nearly all of the top restaurant industry trends for 2022, with more and more restaurant owners coming up with new, innovative ways to improve the customer experience both on-premise and off-premise.

Additionally, tenuous economic conditions and ever-shifting customer preferences will shape how restaurants must formulate their strategies to stay in business.

As a restaurateur, you need to understand what to expect in the upcoming year to safeguard your bottom line. That’s why we scoped out the top 9 restaurant industry trends for 2022 to help get your year started on the right foot!

1. Off-Premise Dining Isn’t Going Anywhere

Americans were largely accustomed to eating out before the pandemic, but many of us have been forced to rely on alternative dining methods over the past two years. Therefore, delivery, curbside pickup, and drive-through dining have become the new norm. Due to a continuing need for social distancing, this is not going to change anytime soon.

According to a Boston Consulting Group article that highlights recent restaurant industry trends, the delivery market share spiked from 7% in 2019 to more than 20% in 2020. Similarly, digital ordering rose from 10% before the pandemic to 28%. Looking ahead, Nextbite estimates that delivery sales will continue to rise 17% yearly through 2025.

The bottom line: Restaurant owners need to continue embracing (and expanding) off-premise dining or risk lagging behind their competitors.

2. Restaurant Tech Is Helping to Manage Labor Shortages

Technology will play a crucial role in helping restaurants navigate ongoing labor shortages in 2022. Currently, almost 3 out of every 4 restaurants are experiencing a labor shortage. 28% of restaurant owners also report that there are several open positions within their business.

While the outcome of these shortages remains unclear, restaurant owners need to find long-lasting solutions that can help them stay productive in the meantime by speeding up manual tasks. For instance, automating your online ordering can fill the gap when your restaurant is not operating at full capacity. One example of this is 9Fold’s ability to auto-accept incoming online orders, which means no one has to stand by waiting to do it manually.

Automating customer transactions and communications can also help fill the labor gap. For instance, when you leverage tableside ordering using QR codes, dine-in customers can order food and pay right from their table without servers needing to manually write things down or fuss with credit cards while juggling multiple tables.

Additionally, you can automate your restaurant marketing so you don’t have to hire a dedicated staff member or assign your existing staff time-consuming tasks outside of their usual workload.

3. Customer Cravings Are Fueling the Need for More Variety

More and more Americans are monitoring events through social media, including Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube. Because most people have had more time to spare, these platforms are shaping consumer tastes and preferences. People are craving more unique and exotic foods thanks to the numerous foodie influencers on these platforms — and we all know foodie trends lead to new restaurant industry trends, now more than ever.

For starters, foreign foods are heavily trending, with more Americans looking for restaurants that offer new and exciting cuisines. At the same time, with health being a major concern across the board, many folks are abandoning fries and burgers in favor of more healthy alternatives.

Therefore, restaurant owners need to start thinking about reinventing their menu to suit the current needs of today’s consumers. Doing this could include going outside your comfort zone or investing in new cooking methods that better suit the consumer.

4. The Increasing Need to Diversify Revenue Streams

Sometimes, the best way to secure your bottom line is through pivoting. A savvy restaurant owner understands that diversifying revenue streams can help keep a business alive. If there is something that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we all need to be ready for anything.

Therefore, 2022 will see a lot of restaurant owners branching out from their primary offerings. Some great places to start are retail, grocery, cocktail options, and subscriptions. Luckily, consumers are receptive to new products and services being offered at restaurants. It is a strategy that is bound to stay because it means more revenue generation for restaurants and more convenience for the customer.

5. Kitchen Automation Is King in 2022

Delivering a more consistent customer experience is getting more and more difficult, with many restaurants dealing with the aforementioned labor shortages on top of the increased demand for off-prem options. Add to that the ongoing burden of keeping everything clean and everyone healthy, and you get a lot of stressed managers. Luckily, automation is helping streamline operations to meet demand.

Many restaurants are looking toward technology to help improve the processes within the kitchen itself. For some, this means automating parts of the actual cooking process, from pizza robots to automated fryers and grillers. Even something as simple as automating ingredient prep with machines that can measure everything recipe by recipe can save cooks time.

It’s not about replacing human employees with robots, of course, but rather streamlining operations. A streamlined kitchen means improved efficiency; thus, restaurateurs get the confidence they need to roll out relatively new concepts without sacrificing quality and output.

6. Shift in Restaurant Layouts as We Embrace a New Era

As stated earlier, off-prem dining is here to stay; of all the restaurant industry trends, this is likely to be the most permanent. Therefore, restaurant owners have no choice but to rethink their physical restaurant layout. It needs to be something that will work effectively for their consumers, staff, and business. The current 70/30 split – large front-of-house and small back-of-house – will likely shift to 30/70.

The change to a larger kitchen area will help accommodate the shift to more takeout and delivery. There will also be more drive-through areas for certain kinds of brick-and-mortar restaurants and high-end eateries. Pick-up customers and delivery drivers will need more room to operate within the premises.

7. The Rise of New Approaches to Catering

There are still many concerns about COVID-19, even in 2022. Restaurants who offer catering options may need to rethink their catering approaches in the workplace. It’s all about getting creative, considering that many businesses are still dealing with social distancing and the shift to hybrid home offices.

Newer orders may need to be individually packaged moving forward – for instance, lunch boxes are preferred to large trays with shared food. Managers are also more likely to send food treats or gifts to their remote employees, so being able to handle a large local delivery volume will come in handy. It’s just the way the world is changing, and everyone needs to adapt or get left behind.

8. Delivery Robots Will Become Huge

Last-mile delivery is vital in the restaurant industry due to the ever-increasing amount of delivery orders. It is, therefore, best to retool for efficiency, future growth, and cost-effectiveness. Automation — already at the heart of many restaurant industry trends as we mentioned before — is an excellent way to bring down delivery costs while filling the void of driver shortages.

A few cities began initiatives to start testing out delivery robots in late 2021. These include Denver, Los Angeles, and Madison, WI. Parts of India and Asia are already using delivery robots to streamline last-mile delivery. It is projected that more US cities will have adopted the use of robots for deliveries by the end of 2022. 

9. Restaurants Are Rethinking Strategies to Boost Customer Loyalty and Engagement

Retaining consumers is proving to be rather challenging due to the rising number of available options in the market. Consumers can quickly shift to a different restaurant at a moment’s notice, since it’s now easier than ever to find and test out multiple establishments before picking one that suits their needs.

Restaurant owners are therefore having to rethink their strategies for building customer loyalty. According to ResearchGate, a company’s reputation increases by 73% by implementing a loyalty program for customers. Loyalty programs also help owners gain deep insights into consumer preferences and needs — something that can help you improve the customer experience down the line.

Start 2022 Off on the Right Foot

Restaurant managers and owners have stayed resilient despite the numerous challenges over the past two years. There is no slowing down in the restaurant industry – whether you’re talking on-premise or off-premise, speed matters. Therefore, staying on top of trends and adapting your operations whenever possible is crucial, as it helps meet consumer demand while offering a better customer experience.

Adapting to the above top restaurant trends for 2022 starts with supercharging your online ordering platform. At 9Fold, we offer a fully branded online ordering system and white-glove restaurant marketing services that boost repeat business while getting you more direct orders. Book a demo today to take your restaurant business to the next level in 2022!

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