Seven Restaurant Trends That Will Define 2022

Though many of the market forces that shaped the restaurant industry in 2021 were closely linked to disruption from the pandemic's onset in 2020, 2022 brings new challenges — and opportunities. 

Unprecedented labor and supply chain pressure will drive most of the restaurant trends that will define 2022, industry analysts say. This instability will push operators to trim costs by shortening menus and investing in labor-saving technology to free up cash for wage increases.

Restaurants will also explore delivery options beyond costly third-party partnerships, and hike delivery menu prices to make the channel more lucrative as off-premise demand holds steady.

Following are some of the major restaurant trends to watch out for in 2022.

Simplified Menus 

Menu variety plays a substantial role in every dining experience. A huge menu is the restaurant’s attempt to make something for everyone, rather than doing a few things well. The latest trends in restaurants show that restaurants are on board and understand the difficulties that long menus create. The days of never-ending menus are coming to an end. Diners simply don’t want the low food quality that often comes with long menus.

These restaurant food trends can directly impact a restaurant’s profitability. A short menu can slim down the food costs through streamlined inventory management, as well as reduced food waste. When trimming down the menu, also gives chefs the chance to build more proficiency with the menu items, ultimately, improving food quality.

Health-Conscious Food Will Dominate Menus

With the increasing customer inclination towards a health-conscious diet, even the restaurant industry has to adapt to the trend by adding dishes catering to their health-conscious guests. Younger generations are willing to pay higher prices for healthy meals specifically tied to buzzwords such as GMO-free, all-natural, or organic.

One latest trend that the hotel industry has to catch up with is the rise of vegan cuisine. With people eating less meat year on year, vegan cuisine is no longer an option limited to those with full vegan diets, and as variety increases, it’s become more appealing to people with flexitarian, vegetarian, and even omnivorous diets! 

Increasing demand will be met in restaurants across the industry with new items on their menus, and an attempt to offer vegan and plant-based dishes as a staple and not as a limited option for those with alternative diets. As per a report by Future Market Insights (FMI), the plant-based burgers market is predicted to rise exponentially, exhibiting a CAGR of over 22% between 2020 and 2030.

Restaurants will need to do the following to keep up with the above-mentioned trends:

  • Create healthier options for their menu 
  •  Consider, removing processed or pre-packaged ingredients from their inventory.
  • Focus on seasonal produce to ensure peak freshness.
  • Sourcing ingredients locally or from all-natural farms.
  • Serving smaller portion sizes.
  • Visibly marking vegan or vegetarian options on the menu. 

New trends in restaurants, specific to health-conscious eaters, include marking menu items that are additive-free or made with only all-natural ingredients. On the other hand, this may increase the operational cost to a great deal.

Green Kitchens and Environmental Concerns

When there is a mass awareness of a social issue, people will look at what businesses are doing about the problem. Customers often give companies an ultimatum; they can choose to be part of the problem or the solution. Trends in the restaurant industry aren’t always about food or service. 

The most recent issue which will no doubt lead to substantial changes in the food and beverage industry is the environment. Water pollution and plastic waste have made many people look at restaurants. 

Restaurant staples such as plastic straws, plastic cups, lids, or take-home bags have people asking why those things are necessary. The solution isn't to get rid of takeaway or disposable small wares. It's to find an eco-friendly alternative. This has led to a rise in the appearance of green kitchens, where the business focuses on reducing as much waste as possible and trying to recycle and reuse leftovers whenever they can.

Using biodegradable wares such as paper straws, wax paper cups, and fiber to-go containers are steps in the right direction. As per a study report by Future Market Insights (FMI) on Eco-Friendly Straws Market, Starbucks has announced a complete phasing out of plastic straws as its objective of contributing to environmental protection.

Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens are reliant upon another hot trend that will continue into 2022, food delivery. A ghost kitchen is a restaurant that only operates out of a kitchen with no dining space. For restaurant owners, this structure means much lower overhead costs, no service staff, using ghost -kitchen POS system, and delivery-only ordering. The main thing they should invest in is creating a good website for their restaurant and building a strong online presence.

It is possible to operate a ghost kitchen in less built-up areas, although the definition, scope, and expectation of ghost kitchens are changing. Ghost kitchens of 2019 almost exclusively referred to restaurants that worked only through third-party delivery services.

The ghost kitchen definition is evolving to include restaurants that have a small pick-up area for guests to grab their food themselves. Restaurants using ghost kitchens may directly provide delivery or use delivery services.

These restaurant business trends are changing the way the industry works. There are now restaurants that have to approach customer service, and brand management without ever actually meeting the customer.

Delivery Options

Delivery has increased again and again over the last two years. We’re way beyond ordering in on a lazy night. In fact, with apps like Caviar, you can have fine dining in your living room while you binge your favorite series.

What is changing in 2022 restaurant delivery trends is how small businesses look at delivery options. Pizza companies have long managed their delivery services independently. However, those new to the game mostly chose to let a third-party delivery company handle their orders. 

Small restaurants quickly learned that the terms of third-party delivery services were unreasonable. Uber Eats can charge as high as 30% to the restaurant on every order.

Other issues that are causing restaurants to leave third-party delivery services to include:

  • Customer service complaints on drivers and delivery personnel
  • Lack of urgency in delivery as the driver has limited accountability to the restaurant
  • Missed opportunities for customer impact such as having condiments or napkins on hand.
  • The delivery service takes the recognition leading to your brand losing its value and  reputation.

These customer trends will cause restaurants to make changes to maintain their customer base. In the past, these trends have included choosing certain suppliers, certain cleanliness practices, or even working as a "no-reservation" location. However current trends in the restaurant industry are less daunting than past fads. These trends are likely something restaurants are working on already anyway to raise customer satisfaction.

Strengthen Online Presence

This trend is a minor shock because it seems that Yelp and other online review forums have dropped in popularity.

It’s time that standalone, small-chain restaurants take a different approach to online reputation management. Not only should these restaurants be on the lookout for complaints to address. But, also need to make it easy for guests to request reservations online and review their menus.

Creating websites with catchy restaurant website design is a long-term solution, although it's a significant investment for many companies. Restaurants can also evaluate options such as OpenTable, Reserve, or even allowing guests to make reservations through Yelp. These companies aren't new, but they were struck by the no-reservations trend and struggled. Now, they're coming back into the light. 

Making it convenient for consumers to find a suitable restaurant, book a reservation, get directions, and review the menu. This will help the restaurants to strengthen their online presence and help in their marketing.

Self-Serve/Grab-and-Go and Use of Automation

Companies such as 7-11, Farmer’s Fridge, and IHOP have chosen to develop new pre-made menu items through vending machines and self-serve bars to reduce queues and cut down on FOH costs while at the same time benefiting from increased demand for ready-made meals. 

Since the seismic change caused by the labor market by COVID-19, many companies are rethinking how to tackle the problems they were experiencing before the pandemic: when employment was at an all-time high, it was becoming increasingly challenging to find and keep good staff, encouraging owners to turn to automation as an alternative. 

McDonald's has also been at the forefront for a while now with automation, with their kiosks and self-serve drink machines leading the way for automated solutions in the restaurant industry.

Taking part in the hottest restaurant trends can help get more people in the door, but then the restaurant and its staff need to make guests want to come back. Of course, quality of service and food are necessary to build long-lasting customer loyalty. To balance high-quality, consistent, and changing trends, restaurants need software that can give them an edge, and help them keep up with the top restaurant trends.

A POS software for the coffee shop, restaurant, or bakery can help a restaurant make easy menu changes, reduce costs, and control finances. Maximizing profit and remaining aware of what is trending in the restaurant industry are both critical in planning success for the restaurant.

Watch Out for the Trends: Only Way to Survive

Recovering from the slowdown in 2021 will require restaurateurs to re-examine all business aspects and bring significant changes at the strategy as well as operational levels. Identifying the restaurant industry trends that are likely to affect the business model, and adapting your restaurant according to the ever-evolving economic and social landscape is the only way to survive in the industry.