While some restaurants have managed to thrive during the pandemic, a large proportion have had time to think about new approaches to their business. Likewise, customers have also used this period to change their expectations.
In this short blog, we look at some business-driven and consumer-driven trends we're likely to see in 2022.
Ingredients - all change. Rising costs within the supply chain are likely to result in chefs seeking alternative high quality ingredients in order to preserve already squeezed margins;
If you can't eat it… The increased focus on allergens during the last decade has seen a welcome recognition of key triggers as the science behind them as improved. Consumers have become far more aware of their food sensitivities which in turn has driven more transparency within the F&B sector, with restaurant owners increasingly adjusting their menus and providing customers with more allergen information at the point of sale. This could be set to change in 2022.
Faced with a decline in business, ever-changing regulation and a myriad of operational challenges such as labour shortages, a new “if you can't eat what we serve, please don't ask for alternatives” attitude is emerging among the restaurant community, spearheaded by some very high profile chefs.
Plant-based foods and vegan cuisine look set to be in great demand as consumers change their lifestyles and eating habits. Those looking to make a personal contribution to the debate around food and the environment, or wishing to eat more healthily, are more than ever expecting a wider choice of dishes which will fit their needs. Consequently, we are likely to see more specialist restaurants opening and restaurants adding vegan foods to their menus.
The rise of the dessert. Desserts, often seen at the bad boy of menus, are on the rise perhaps in response to consumers yearning for some treats in what have been very austere times. A lack of feel-good factors has resulted in the demand for sticky extravagances across the board, resulting in many restaurants offering entire courses of desserts featuring a spectrum of savoury and sweet ingredients. Look out for a slew of dessert-only restaurants opening in 2022.
Can-do wine. Viniculture has long been the preserve of discerning diners who sought – and continue to seek – high quality wines served in the traditional way. The seismic change in how customers access information has resulted in a public knowledgeable and in some cases expert in all things wine, including its associated micro and macro cultures.
The result has sometimes been a rather traditional and somewhat “stuffy” approach to wine, but as has been seen with the gradual acceptance of the screw cap, enthusiasts are beginning to embrace and ask for more contemporary flourishes.
One such innovation, wine served in cans, is a relatively new phenomenon which would previously have sent connoisseurs' blood pressure sky high. However, as restaurateurs introduce canned wine the response from diners has been generally favourable, once they realised that the product itself is as good as its bottled equivalent and ticks a number of environmental boxes.
Mind and soul. The low-ebb now widespread among the general public could dissipate in 2022, as pent-up demand reaches fever pitch and diners scratch their eating out itch. Restaurateurs therefore have an opportunity to rebuild their business model by recognising the part they can play in improving customers' health, wellbeing and mindfulness on a visit to their establishments.
Never before has “customer experience” been so important: savvy operators will re-position their venues as the centre of memorable good times, augmented by nice touches such as live entertainment.
Getting tough. Restaurants have always taken a flexible approach to transactional protocols, with no-shows and cancellations regarded as an occupational hazard within the industry. While previously losing revenue over implementing more rigid rules has been something which goes with the territory, this is rapidly changing in the face of the pandemic as operators become more rigid in their terms and conditions.
For once, however, this appears to be less of an uphill struggle than was expected due to consumers themselves now conditioned into using their smartphones, laptops and tablets to interact with their favourite brands online, whatever the sector. The normalisation of online booking, menu pre-ordering and the taking of deposits and pre-payments is here to stay, resulting in restaurants adopting new technologies.
All year long. Previously the preserve of the summer months only, outside dining is a natural extension to a restaurant's experiential offer. 2022 is likely to see the need for restaurants to extend the availability of their outside spaces into the whole year, whatever the weather, in response to consumers wanting what they see as safer dining spaces. Assuming they have the physical infrastructure to do so, offering year-round outside dining could be the financial answer to restaurants currently experiencing reduced booking levels.
The financial impact of the pandemic on the restaurant sector have been hugely damaging, as bookings slump to new lows and businesses struggle to survive. From high profile celebrity establishments to long-standing local favourites, permanent closures have been widespread. Some restauranteurs however have not been slow to adopt new thinking to supplement their incomes with the introduction of new, previously untried, sales channels. These range from a segway into providing high end take-away and delivery (pioneered by favouritetable's “Dine@Home” software) to selling merchandise (restaurant-branded T-shirts etc) and local products including jams, chutneys and so on.
We're not suggesting that these activities will restore income to pre-pandemic levels, but they may just provide the backstop needed to stay open.
The pandemic has driven behavioural changes in the world's dining public as they seek new ways to enjoy the restaurant experience. This offers an opportunity for restaurant owners to capitalise, adjust their business models and product offers to suit and introduce new innovative concepts capable of stimulating business continuity in what we hope will be a better year.
favouritetable is the leading provider of easy to install, easy to use restaurant management software. For over a decade, favouritetable has provided world-class and commission-free systems to enable restaurants, pubs, bars and other businesses to wow and engage technology-native staff.
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