Restaurant Outlook for 2022

Due to the various uncertainties and challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, the restaurant industry is slowly but surely re-emerging. Many changes are being implemented to keep the food industry in business — as such, there are plenty of new trends to look out for in the coming new year. According to experts in the field, here are some highly anticipated changes in our restaurant outlook for 2022. 

More Protein on the Table 

Adding to existing protein options can help to offset challenges in higher food costs and the supply chain. Now is the right time to experiment with underutilized cuts of meat, along with cooking using the whole animal. This technique can also be used on fish. 

While plant-based meals using beef and chicken are now mainstream, plant-based food made from pork, seafood, and fish can offer plenty of opportunities for innovation. Moreover, seeds and nuts already used in Indian, African, and other cuisines can provide other ways of swapping out proteins. Just a few examples can come from subbing fried vegetables instead of chicken, or serving seafood for meatballs instead of beef. 

All-in-One Meal Preparation 

For the coming year, snags in the supply chain along with streamlined menus will force operators to bring something new to the table. The demand for innovative food using existing products and ingredients will be favored instead of bringing in new stock-keeping units (SKUs). 

Furthermore, we can expect added excitement on menus through the addition of nontraditional preparation for all kinds of familiar foods. Chefs may roast or grill items that are usually served raw to create new textures, and may even enhance flavors by aging, blistering, fermenting, or pickling known ingredients. 

Restaurants to Become More Digital 

Due to the pandemic, digital platforms and deliveries saw a sudden boom in the restaurant scene and have since become a regular part of the food industry. Experts now believe that virtual restaurant brands will become more and more prominent in the years to come and will play an important role to help restaurants increase in profits. 

Virtual restaurants make use of existing restaurant kitchens to create menus that will be loved by off-premise customers. By 2025, experts believe that over half of existing restaurants will have multiple brands using their kitchens. As such, online deliveries, as well as curbside pickup should be embraced in the years to come. 

Drones for Deliveries 

We all know that deliveries have grown quickly since 2020, with the number of Europeans using fast food delivery apps growing to 96.9 million by 2024. This unprecedented increase in demand came about right in the middle of the pandemic when lockdowns left diners unable to visit their favorite restaurants. By the start of 2021, dark kitchens took to the stage, becoming fierce competitors to established restaurants due to their low overhead costs and availability of major food delivery apps. 

Experts predict that by 2030, these kinds of kitchens will take up to 50% of the market share, both in takeaway and drive-thru services. However, the past few months have birthed yet another innovation in this industry: drone delivery. While it may seem a little far-fetched for some, it works exactly as it sounds like and meals are delivered by drone. It may not be an original idea, but it has taken some time before finally taking flight. 

Delivery is King 

Again, thanks to the pandemic, food delivery services have reached all-time highs. According to the Boston Consulting Group, delivery market shares leaped from 7% in 2019 to around 20% by 2020. Throughout the industry, 28% of all orders are now made via digital orders, compared to 10% before the pandemic where most brands have shown an increase. 

For many businesses, the presence of various online ordering apps has already been implemented along with the option to directly order from the restaurant’s website. If they haven’t done so, restaurant owners should prioritize plans for a digital menu where both delivery and food quality is given consideration. The digital world is now part of our day-to-day business in restaurants and should be included in both current and future decisions.

Continued Efforts on Sanitation and Safety 

While the pandemic may soon be forgotten, worries about sanitation and cleanliness are here to stay. These factors may have always been a priority for restaurants, recent events have taken them to a new level. A 2020 study revealed that 93% of participants agree on hand-washing to be an extremely important part of protection against COVID-19. 

Another 72% of the participants said that strict cleaning policies inside restaurants will make them feel safe against the virus during post-pandemic times. In other words, restaurant owners should implement careful cleaning regimes to cater to the needs of customers. Moreover, restaurants should always look for ways to eliminate anxieties regarding sanitation. 

Experience Vs. Comfort 

Because the future variants of COVID-19 are unpredictable, post-pandemic consumers have become fickle. This is why operators must offer multiple ways to serve their customers. 

Today, there is a desire to get the best experience while getting convenient service, so restaurants will need to figure out how to provide a balanced service. We need to provide fun and interactive experiences for in-house diners. At the same time, we need to emphasize takeout and delivery formats along with other services off-premise to strengthen safety and comfort levels for consumers. 

A Need for Staff 

With huge numbers of workers leaving the food industry, managers and operators are tasked with painting restaurants as an excellent place to work. As such, restaurants are competing to occupy a high number of vacant positions through new retention, hiring, and recruitment strategies. 

Experts predict that the coming year will bring a surge in companies raising hourly pay, creating virtual hiring events, and extending referral and signing bonuses. Moreover, many businesses will look into providing 401(k) and healthcare benefits, as well as giving perks like emergency healthcare. 

A Grain of Salt 

While the FDA has recommended for Americans to eat less sodium, salt can be a great flavor enhancer compared to using fat. Just a bit of salt can go a long way into making a dish much tastier. Because of this, foods and ingredients that are naturally salty are finding momentum, these include: 

  • Seaweed 
  • Purslane 
  • Salt-cured meats 
  • Condiments 
  • Spice blends such as za’atar and Tajin
  • Salt-forward sauces 

Because of this, chefs are turning to specialty sea salts more often, both to rim a cocktail glass or to finish a plate of food, which works as a low-labor way of adding flavor. 

More Robots in the Kitchen 

A great solution for the staffing shortages is robots, and they’re likely to become a lot more visible in the upcoming year — this is especially true for back-of-house processes. Today, robots are made to help with food prep, operate equipment, and clean floors. 

Due to their success, tech companies will keep rolling out robots to help with front-of-house jobs as well, where they can bus tables and serve customers. Leading the way in this switch to automation are QSRs, with various robotic drive-thru services already set up at select KFC, Mcdonald’s, and Domino’s units. 

The Future of Food is Now 

With many expecting the pandemic to be nothing more than a bad memory, restaurants are looking to get back in the game. All the trends and innovative ideas laid down here can be easily picked up to be applied to your restaurant. While the business may not pick up as fast as it once was, there are plenty of other options you can take to ensure that you aren’t left behind during post-pandemic times. 

Need Help?

Whether you’re starting a new restaurant and need equipment and small wares or in the circumstance where you’re closing a restaurant and need assistance with liquidation, contact us today. We can help!