5 Restaurant Industry Trends That Will Shape Brands in 2022

The restaurant industry has faced unprecedented change and this year will be no different. Restaurant operators can expect these five trends for 2022.
Kamryn Elliott

As everyone is ringing in the new year, we’re already facing another transcendent climate in the economy and society. Inflation in December 2021 rose to 7 percent, the first time the main inflation index has reached 7 percent since 1982. Menu prices have increased to offset labor costs and costs for food and supplies. In October 2021, LSR menu prices rose to a record high of 7.1 percent, while FSR menu prices rose 5.9 percent, the highest on record. There’s a new COVID-19 variant: Omicron. To top it off, the supply chain shortage is impacting nearly every sector, with the restaurant industry feeling the brunt as it takes months to order essential appliances needed to equip a kitchen.

Over the past two years, we’ve grown accustomed to knowing how everything can change in an instant. For now, here are five trends restaurant operators can expect for the new year.

1) Mobile Ordering Has Become a Consumer Habit and is Here to Stay

Consumers have grown accustomed to on-demand service and expect more restaurants to follow the trend of direct online ordering. Restaurant technology has made online ordering as much of an experience as dining in. According to the National Restaurant Association, nearly 70% of American adults are now more likely to order takeout than they were pre-pandemic. Additionally, 64% prefer to order directly from the restaurant rather than a third-party app. Rather than sacrifice revenue and pay drastic fees to third-party apps, restaurants should invest in digital guest experience software to maintain brand identity, drive sales, and expand the business beyond its physical location(s).

2) First-Party Data Will be Used to Influence the Guest Experience

We know that app usage is not a problem for mobile online ordering. The number of new restaurant apps downloaded has increased substantially since the pandemic. For consumers who have downloaded two to three new apps, there’s a 45% increase. For three to five, 134%; and five-plus, an eye-opening 265%. With these consumers utilizing and expecting a convenient avenue for off-premise service, restaurants have an excellent opportunity to focus on the guest experience. Using their branded mobile apps, restaurants will have access to customer data such as when they visited, how many visits they make, their average order value, and much more. The data can be used to influence the guest experience by offering real-time communications like deals, promotions, events, and a brand-specific loyalty program.

3) Menus Will Become More Simplified if They Aren't Already

Almost every sector is feeling the effects of the global supply chain shortage. Because of this, rising food costs, and lack of labor, many restaurants have cut menu items. Hudson Riehle, senior vice president for research and knowledge at the National Restaurant Association, said 8 out of 10 restaurants offering table service had to shorten menus due to supply chain issues, while about 7 out of 10 QSRs shortened their menus as well. However, simplified menus aren't necessarily a bad thing. Shorter menus allow seamless production processes, labor cost savings, and reduced waste. According to the National Restaurant Association 2022 Culinary Forecast, menu streamlining will likely continue throughout 2022. 

4) Restaurant Apps Will Lead Over Third-Party Apps for Delivery

Third-party apps charge restaurants a hefty chunk of their revenue, between 15-30% in commission fees, just to use their service for delivery orders. These fees can take a toll on a business and the customer as they also pay extra fees, like delivery and service charges, on top of their food order. To keep up with the charges, restaurants have increased their prices for items on their delivery menu. Rather than sacrifice revenue for third-party apps, restaurants should invest in intelligent guest engagement software with DaaS (Delivery as a Service) integrations to utilize delivery services at a much lower cost while keeping customer data to build a comprehensive loyalty program.

5) Healthy Food Options Are Becoming More Popular

In the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 Culinary Forecast, guests' attention to health is at center stage. Immunity-boosting foods and plant-based sandwiches make up three of the top 10 trends for 2022, as consumers balance the comfort foods they demanded during the pandemic to refocus on better-for-you options. Due to this new demand, plant-based menus are skyrocketing, with Chipotle, KFC, and Donatos launching plant-based menus to ring in the new year. McDonald’s partnered with Beyond Meat to launch McPlant products, and Starbucks tested a 100% plant-based menu at a Seattle location. While this healthy trend is making waves and inspiring local restaurants to optimize their menus, plant-based products are also a great alternative to animal protein facing supply shortages.