The Future of Foodservice: Top Restaurant and Café Trends to Watch in 2022

Around the world, the changes that those in the foodservice industry have had to make to stay in business have shaped key trends going forward. As we emerge from the many challenges and uncertainties caused by the global pandemic, these trends will impact how restaurants, bars and cafés do business in 2022 and beyond.

Dining to Go Even More Digital

The pandemic prompted the revolution to digital and delivery. There is no question that it is a trend that is here to stay. This means online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup must be factored into all parts of the restaurant business.

Having a presence on multiple online ordering apps is a given, as well as direct ordering on a restaurant’s own website. Restaurant leaders must prioritise planning for a digital menu with food quality and delivery taken into consideration.

Even indoor dining restaurants will likely remain more digital, with some opting to keep online menus and table-ordering options, where meals are delivered to the table by runners. Digital is now part of the basic equation for today’s restaurant business and must be considered in current and future decisions.

According to an article by Boston Consulting Group, delivery’s market share in the U.S jumped from 7 percent in 2019 to about 20 percent in 2020. Across the industry, digital ordering now represents 28 percent of all orders compared with 10 percent before the pandemic, with most brands showing increases. Similar numbers are being seen in delivery markets globally, including here in New Zealand.

Variety is the Spice of Life – Consumers Crave New Tastes

In part driven by the pandemic, consumers have been seeking variety and new types of food choices like global cuisines, healthy meals, and unusual ingredients. The trend has increased thanks to social media. TikTok, for example, has been a huge influence, exposing people to new food ideas and spreading diversity. In fact, a recent viral craze featured “onigiri,” Japanese rice balls.

New ideas and trends travel faster around the globe now, and food is no exception. By adding virtual restaurant brands, a restaurant can quickly introduce new cuisines with a lower investment, and the restaurant’s partner handles menu development and marketing to drive demand.

Shifting Layouts to the New Era of Restaurant Design

As off-premise dining remains popular, restaurant owners must rethink how the physical layout of their restaurants will work best for their business, staff and customers.

Industry experts predict that what used to be a 70/30 split, with more front-of-the-house dining space and a limited back-of-the-house kitchen area, will flip to 30/70, with more back-of-the-house space, by 2025. This flip will accommodate the changing restaurant business.

The United States is seeing a huge increase in drive-thru setups, even for high-end eateries, this is a trend likely to see continued here, with almost all brick-and-mortar restaurants defining specially designated areas for delivery drivers and consumers picking up their takeaway orders.

Changes to the Typical 9-5 Open New Approaches to Catering

The shift from in-office work to a hybrid home-office split, as well as lingering concerns regarding the pandemic, have caused companies to rethink how they want to use catering in the workplace. This has also prompted restaurants to get creative about how to build back a healthy catering business.

Newer orders are more likely to be individually packaged — box lunches, for example, instead of large trays of shared food. In our new working world, managers with remote workers might want to send food gifts or treats to their employees, an opportunity for local businesses to increase revenue, for example, 100 individual packages of gourmet cookies.

The Great Breakfast Boom and Eggcellent Eggs

The crisis may have prompted some chains to cut back on breakfast over the past year, but the daypart is poised for a big bounce back in 2022. With recovery scenarios on the horizon, consumers are settling into a less-disruptive reality. For many, sourcing a morning meal from a restaurant is once again a part of the routine. Expect chains to employ subscription deals, multi-person bundles, product innovation and amped-up marketing to capture morning traffic and establish loyalty.

Eggs are the restaurant darling of 2022. Egg sandwiches are having a moment in many parts of the world and will soon dethrone the chicken sandwich as the next must-have-on-my-menu restaurant item. Operators will showcase eggs in more all-day sandwiches and handheld offerings, complementing them with premium ingredients, housemade sauces and elevated preparation methods.

Eggs are perfectly suited for a post-pandemic slot in the limelight—simple, universal, craveable, adaptable, suggestive of new beginnings. Eggs also create opportunity for punny concepts and quirky branding, bringing some fun back to the dining experience.

The Rise of the Cooking Robots

While not hugely prevalent in New Zealand just yet, the number one foodservice trend prediction for 2022 across the United States and Europe is the surge of robots and automation in the dining industry.

While the concept isn’t new, the notable acceleration results from labor shortages due to workers becoming fed up with working conditions, continuously inadequate wages, and contactless dining as a social distancing measure. At Miso Robotics, a robot named Flippy oversees flipping burgers and making fries at 11 White Castle locations. There’s also the “semi-automated” restaurant Sushiro in Tokyo, where machines cook and mold the rice, plus seasoning with vinegar, and human employees top the sushi rice with hand-cut fish.