The restaurant industry has been in a very interesting place since the start of the pandemic. Government policies and prevailing customer attitudes have contributed to immense changes in restaurants across the board. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep up with restaurant trends and be ready to adapt.

Such trends help us to know what’s going on in the industry, including the latest technologies and best practices that you need in order to stay relevant in the current climate.

These trends can even provide valuable insight into what your customers are thinking and feeling, as well as how that might impact your bottom line. 

Let’s look at a few of these restaurant trends for 2022 and how you can adapt your restaurant strategy to meet these trends head-on.

10 Restaurant Trends to Think About for in 2022

1. Contactless is Here to Stay

As the concern over emerging COVID variants continues to rise, contactless pickup and delivery are becoming an essential requirement for restaurants.

And contactless has even trickled down into other areas of the dining experience. This includes QR menus and contactless payment. According to one recent survey, 94% of restaurants offer such contactless menus and payment options and 45% reported that they plan to continue.

How do customers feel about this? 77% of customers report that they prefer restaurants to continue offering contactless services.

If you haven’t yet adopted these contactless strategies, now’s the time to look at how to fit these into your business.

2. Online Ordering Is a Must

There’s no arguing that online ordering spiked through the beginning of the pandemic — a trend that is expected to continue through the years to come.

There are several options open to restaurants for online ordering. One such option is to use third-party apps, which offer varying fees depending on which one you choose. Another option is to integrate online ordering into your restaurant website.

3. Diversify Your Revenue Stream

As restaurants continue to face a decline in sales, many have looked to other revenues sources to fill the gap.

Such diversified revenue sources include:

  • Branded merchandise, such as t-shirts, tote bags, and mugs
  • Cooking classes
  • Meal and cocktail kit subscriptions
  • Tastings

4. Restaurant Tech Meets the Labor Shortage Challenge

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen rising labor shortages across the nation — a problem that has hit the restaurant industry particularly hard. And though the situation has improved a little, a considerable shortage still exists.

But, happily, restaurant tech has risen to meet this challenge.

Technology such as tablets to display online orders, software for automatic customer payments, and delivery apps have all helped restaurants to streamline many activities. This tech frees up your existing staff to focus on other necessary tasks.

5. Online Reviews Maintain Their Importance

According to one report, 94% of diners use online reviews to make their decisions about where to eat. Another survey showed that many diners will even filter out restaurants who have less than a four star rating on such review sites. This reveals how very important it is for your restaurant to shine on review sites.

How can you do this?

Encourage customers to leave reviews on such sites as Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor. You could even include a tactful message on the bottom of receipts or take-out menus to remind people of how such reviews help your business.

6. Emotional Connections Are Important

One study from Harvard Business Review revealed that companies who formed a purposeful emotional connection with their customers increased profits by 27%!

Take the time to learn about what’s important to your customers. What causes are they passionate about? Are they looking for a sense of belonging or community? Do they crave thrill and adventure?

Then, reflect how your restaurant can meet these emotional needs. This will help your customers to feel closer to you and be willing to go that extra mile to support you.

7. Invest in Good Food Photography

We’ve all seen the vast spectrum of food photography — from the delicious to the downright horrible.

And restaurant guests notice it as well.

In fact, 45% of respondents in a recent survey reported that they specifically look for photos of food on a restaurant’s website — and 36% reported that some food pics even discouraged them from eating at a certain restaurant.

The takeaway? Take the time to really look at your food photos and honestly ask yourself, “Do these look appetizing?” With so many people visiting restaurant websites before ordering their food, you cannot afford to have any food photos that are less than amazing.

8. Customers Want Rewards for Loyalty

Looking for a way to motivate customers to come back? Restaurant loyalty programs have been growing in popularity for the past few years. Such programs give people extra motivation to come back to your restaurant.

In one study of restaurant diners, 47% of customers participated in at least one restaurant loyalty program.

Create a rewards program that provides real value to your customer. For example, in one study 36% of respondents noted a preference for loyalty programs that provided exclusive deals and discounts. Think about what you could include in your loyalty program that would truly excite your customers.

9. Vegan / Vegetarian Options

Every year, increasing numbers of people are going vegan or vegetarian. Some are motivated by a moral duty to avoid animal products, while others enjoy the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Whatever their reason, many are looking for restaurants that offer plant-based menu options.

While there’s no need to switch to an entirely vegan menu, you should consider adding vegan and vegetarian alternatives that make your menu more accessible.

9. Going Green

Going green is an ever-growing social issue — and restaurants face some heat for this issue when it comes to plastic waste and water pollution. In fact, studies have shown that 78% of customers are willing to pay more to eat at a restaurant that has made the effort to go green.

While it’s not really feasible for restaurants to switch to zero-waste, there are ways that restaurants can show their support for these environmental causes.

For example, think about switching to bio-degradable takeout containers, straws, and other common products you use.

Let your customers know what you’re doing to reduce your restaurant’s waste and promote the environment.

Concluding Thoughts on These Industry Trends

No doubt, you’re nailing some of these trends already. Perhaps you’ve already implemented online ordering on your website. Or maybe you provide an expert level of contactless service.

But, there are probably a few of these trends that you could improve on.

And that’s what’s so beautiful about looking at trends. They help you to see areas where you can improve — and such improvements can have major impacts on your bottom line moving forward.

We hope these restaurant trends help you to make 2022 a shining year for your restaurant.

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