As a restaurant owner, it’s important to be “in the know” about what’s coming on the horizon. The last few years have been anything but normal for those in the restaurant business. So, what’s coming next? What can you expect to see take hold in 2022?
From decreased business hours to reimagined restaurant labor, many restaurants will be making big changes in 2022. Let’s dive into a few likely restaurant industry trends this year!
Changes have already started occurring in the weekly schedules of restaurants. Likely you’ve headed through one of the many fast-food drive-thrus and seen a sign mentioning shortened hours due to labor shortages. From major chain restaurants to small mom-and-pop shops, many have already had to begin shortening their hours, even closing for whole days of the week. As a result, we may even see a resurgence of food truck parks, as they require less staffing and overhead.
However, it’s important to note that understaffing isn’t the only factor contributing to this switch to shortened weekly hours. According to chef and owner of Frances and Octavia, Melissa Perello, more in the restaurant industry are prioritizing “‘…quality of life’ decisions for their teams.” Really this mindset has been a long time coming. Those familiar with the restaurant scene know all too well that grueling, no rest for the weary, weeks are all too common for those in the food industry. However, the pandemic, along with other disrupting factors over the past couple of years has brought a new realization that upending changes are likely part of the new normal in the restaurant industry. In order to adapt, and even thrive, under these challenges, it’ll be important for restaurants to cut back and even eliminate some of those unnecessary pieces that have been bogging down schedules for far too long. As a result, customers will be able to continue to receive superior customer service and quality food.
2022 is also going to see a shift in who performs restaurant duties, as the industry continues to struggle with labor shortage issues. It’s been reported that 41% or almost half of U.S. operators have experienced insufficient staffing and a whopping 87% contribute their continued survival throughout the pandemic to their adoption of technology. There will likely continue to be a major increase in reliance on technology to help contend with these issues.
The restaurant industry has often been technologically behind in the past, but the tides seem to be changing with this adoption of machinery. What brought about this shift? Machines have a notable appeal as there isn’t usually an issue with them needing to take a sick day or having an unwillingness to work certain shifts. This is a major plus for those dealing with tight finances and low employee counts.
So, what kind of technology are we going to see make an appearance? Most of the machinery adopted will likely be used for more basic operations like dishwashing. However, more exciting examples of robotic technology are machines that can be used to mix combinations of powders, liquids, and ice to create coffees, smoothies, and bowls. Additionally, AI is likely to become more prevalent through its use in voice automation for drive-thrus.
As you likely know, in 2021 there was a massive disruption in the supply chain. This upheaval created major changes in the sourcing of products. Changes that are likely to continue into 2022.
The effects of the short supply issues of 2021 have caused stress and disruptions for restaurants to be sure. However, there has also been a positive shift occurring. There has been an increase in the utilization of locally sourced products. Largely, this transition has helped restaurants to reduce costs and to deal with the availability issues of their usual products. However, this trend additionally presents a wonderful opportunity to support local farmers and other suppliers and to learn about which products can be obtained locally.
Relating closely to the shift towards locally sourced ingredients due to the supply chain is the transition to smaller menus. Due to the global supply chain crisis and rising prices, there has also been an increase in the cross-utilization of products along with a shrinking of menu options. In fact, the number of items offered on restaurant menus dropped by 10% by the end of Q3 2021.
This cutting down of menu items has allowed businesses to create a more efficient kitchen and process for pick-up and delivery orders. A smaller menu offers a great way to both save money on labor and cut back on food waste. The shift to shorter menus is also not likely to change anytime soon either, especially with the ongoing shortage of labor. Many restaurants are also getting to experience for the first time the ease of having a more efficient, tightened menu versus the numerous page menus of the past. Smaller menus have even been seen in drive-thru restaurants as they’ve served to reduce wait times as the demand for takeout increased after COVID hit. Big changes are clearly coming in 2022, many of which have already begun. Expect to see restaurant hours shorten, technology increase, ingredient sourcing change, and a continual condensing of menus as we plunge ahead after the tumultuous events experienced the last couple of years. But we should also be getting excited for these changes as the restaurant industry is able to use them to reduce hectic schedules, combat labor shortages, support local, and create a more efficient kitchen operation! Don’t forget, as we continue to navigate these changes, if at any point you’d like help with finding the correct foodservice solution, equipment, supplies, or expertise for your restaurant we would be happy to help out!