* About 2 of 3 consumers hope to get one
* The industry gained about 11k jobs in November, still short of pre-pandemic levels
* Surprising beverage trends for 2022
* Delivery-only brands took off in the pandemic, but what happens as life gets back to normal?
* 38% of operators expect Holiday sales to top pre-pandemic levels
* Expect a Year of Hybrids
In many ways, foodservice trends in 2022 are expected to play out as if picking up where 2019 left off—realigning after the massive disruption of ‘20 and subsequent aftershocks of ’21 have finally waned.
But, now that the industry is largely recalibrated, experts also agree that the last two years will clearly have a thumbprint on what’s ahead, primarily creating a landscape of polarized preferences that are more complementary than competitive to one another.
1. Operators with Dual On- and Off-Premises ‘Degrees’
The off-premises rocket was already rising fast before it got a hypersonic boost from the pandemic. But, by the same token, at the first signs of lockdown relief this past May, the dine-in flood began, with Yelp recording its highest monthly number of seated diners ever (up 48% against May of 2019).
Given that the convenience luster of takeout and delivery will not fade, and the pent-up hunger for restaurant experiences is equally strong, what will be unique about 2022 is a growth in hybrid operations.
Those not previously in the off-premises game before the pandemic are now fully invested. And those that already were invested are now really good at it. Mobile apps are more engaging than ever and by-the-way options like curbside have evolved to another service level.
That said, many insiders—even those successful with off-premises—believe brick-and-mortar destinations will continue to represent the heart of foodservice going forward and still more argue that the sudden, thundering herd of virtual brands will thin out.
The end result? Expect more dine-in restaurants that have augmented their business with top-notch off-premises services, whether delivery-order cooking is conducted on-site or through a separate off-site ghost kitchen.
2. Independents Stepping Back Up to the Chains
Chains will remain strong, thanks to the financial footing they had through the worst of 20/21. But the vacuum left by hundreds of thousands of restaurant closures will accelerate the ‘picking up where 2019 left off’ with respect to the trend demand for new and unusual experiences.
Independents already started bounding back this past year and, as more wallflower consumers and entrepreneurs continue feeling comfortable on the dance floor, expect that rise to continue as well.
Where the evolution will really ramp up is at the concept level, as independents explore more ways to differentiate in competition against both chains and delivery-only models.
Look for trends such as smaller, more intimate venues, more outdoor dining with unique ambiance, and more entertainment, if not on-site then, perhaps, through more hospitality and entertainment partnership promotions, given both suffered so dramatically in the shadow of March 2020.
3. Healthy Ambitions Meet Comfort Cravings
Diversity of menu might be the biggest ‘hybrid contrast,’ with operators looking to satisfy two opposite, but equally robust, trends coming out of the pandemic.
Many restaurant-goers will be gravitating to healthier decisions—another ‘pick up where 2019 left off’—but with a keen eye specifically on immunity-boosting plant-based foods and spices.
At the same time, 57% of consumers say they’re interested in more comfort foods, an unexpected trend inspired by 2020’s stay-at-home anxiety that should have operators gearing up for more sales in bacon and ham, fried favorites, and cheesy items.
Content courtesy of Indiana Kitchen
Sources: Restaurant Dive, Yelp Records Its Highest Seated Diners Total Ever, June 15, 2021, Nation’s Restaurant News, Lettuce Entertain You President Sees the Future of Restaurants…, June 4, 2021, Restaurant Dive, Independent Restaurants Make a Comeback in 2021, June 2021, BakeryAndSnacks.com, Trends That Will Shape the Industry in 2022 and Beyond, May 19, 2021.