‘Everything Matters’ – Experts Discuss 2022 Restaurant Outlook

Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine asked restaurant industry insiders to give us their insights into how the industry has been doing so far this year and where they feel it's going. 

“It is an extremely challenging time for the restaurant industry as restaurateurs grapple with the difficulty of operating within an uncertain post-pandemic sales environment while simultaneously combating historic levels of food inflation, labor shortages and ongoing supply-chain issues. Nevertheless, we do see signs of optimism within the current storm. Most notably, consumer spending at restaurants appears to be holding-up relatively well this summer despite aggressive menu-price increases in the first-half of the year."

– Paul Westra, Managing Director of Restaurants Investments Research at Capital One Commercial Bank 

Consumer spending at restaurants appears to be holding-up relatively well this summer despite aggressive menu-price increases in the first-half of the year.

“One of the big challenges that just will not go away is getting staff back to work. Those that are paying the most competitive wages and benefits, combined with a great work environment, are faring better than the others. “Work closely with your CPA and payroll provider to see what others in your area are doing. Some firms can tell you prevailing rates and benefits by job code and by zip code. This is valuable information to be sure you are not losing the best talent due to a non-competitive offer.”

I am seeing a significant increase in restaurant clients’ inquiries regarding adding various service charges as a way to  avoid raising menu prices. In many states, service charges are subject to sales tax and need to be added prior to sales tax calculation. These regulations vary by state and restaurant owners should be sure they are aware of their state’s policy before adding service fees to customer tickets.”

– Bob Patterson, Founder, Patterson & Company Certified Public Accountants

"Like so many industries, full-service and fast-casual restaurants are feeling the impact that inflation is having on their business and guest count. Diners are becoming increasingly discerning about where and how often they go out to eat, which means restaurants are having to work harder to ensure every aspect of the dining experience adds value.

Coming out of the pandemic and into an inflationary period, the bar has been raised in terms of diner expectations. 

Everything matters.

Thinking through every sensorial element is absolutely crucial — not just what does the diner taste, but also what do they smell, what do they hear when dining in your restaurant, what do they see, and what tactile elements do they feel? And how do all of those things reinforce what your brand is all about? Coming out of the pandemic and into an inflationary period, the bar has been raised in terms of diner expectations. Everything matters."

– Mary Nirenberg, Enterprise Account Director, Mood Media

“As a chef and as a customer. I tend to see things a little different from any other guest or customer that has not ever been in the industry. We all know the hospitality, especially the restaurant industry has taken a turn. Lack of hourly and salary staff, redesigning and adjusting menus to keep with the demand while not having enough help. Why do I say all this? It is to reinforce that tipping on take out or carry out however you want to call it will help a lot the team members of the business, by keeping the cooks and everyone else engaged in the process of making your food.

Tips are a way of saying thank you for making me a great meal while I go home from a rainy or stressful day at work. Thank you because even though you did not serve me and nevertheless you are getting paid to cook, you are still making my meal with love so I (the customer) can kick my feet back at home and enjoy it. So yes! Keep tipping as we were in the middle of the pandemic, our cooks, servers, or anyone else in the industry will deeply appreciate it.”

– Chef Manuel Rodriguez, Corporate Director of Food & Beverage with Innisfree Hotels

“The restaurant industry is facing a bit of a seesaw. The side that’s closer to the ground is being weighed down by economic challenges. Inflation is currently at 9.1 percent, wholesale food costs have seen double-digit increases, and energy prices are soaring.

Then again, other factors are pushing it back up, such as increased vacation, travel and restaurant spending. This good news is tempered by the continued labor shortage, which puts pressure on the industry to deliver the same exceptional experience, regardless of staffing numbers.

For these reasons, we are seeing an interest among restaurant managers in adopting or expanding their use of technologies that drive down costs, increase operational efficiencies, help prevent important health/safety issues, and eliminate energy and equipment waste that would otherwise go unnoticed. No-one can completely predict what’s ahead, but we are observing more demand for Internet of Things (IoT) and other solutions that improve management’s ability to maintain their momentum and sense of control.”

–  Jay Fiske, President, Powerhouse Dynamics