Our Top 12 Predictions for the Restaurant Industry in 2022

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December 30, 2021

In our 2021 restaurant trends recap, we covered the top trends the industry saw this year. But what about our predictions for moving forward? With the new year rapidly approaching, it’s time to look at our top 12 predictions for the restaurant industry in 2022.

Our top 12 restaurant industry predictions for 2022.

After some in depth restaurant research - we discovered, based on restaurant re-opening, existing trends, and expert advice, what the industry’s future might hold.  These are the our top 12 restaurant predictions for 2022.

1 - Top 2022 restaurant trend - meet  “the year of the climb”.

According to the experts over at Techonomic, 2022 will be known as the “Year of the Climb.”  The title represents the climb back up from the destruction of 2020 and 2021, and mental shifts that restaurant owners are making to make it happen.  Many restaurant owners have started to embrace the fact that resources are likely to be limited for the foreseeable future, as supply chain issues and labor shortages will take time to resolve.  But instead of waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel, they will now rely on their own innovation and resourcefulness to lead them steadfast ahead for years to come.

The title also represents good news - that the restaurant industry will continue on its path to recovery. Experts believe that Q1 of 2022 will prove to have particularly strong growth rates year-over-year. Restaurant sales are expected to increase by 10.4% for the year.

2 - Comfort food is here to stay.

The pandemic brought with it some dark and depressing days, to which consumers sought refuge from the harsh realities of what was going on around them in the foods they were eating. And, what better shoulder to cry on than comfort food?

Comfort food has been a significant part of 2021 and will continue its rise into the new year. But, in 2022, we anticipate seeing modern twists on comfort classics. With supply chain issues sure to be an issue still in 2022, chefs are relying more on locally sourced ingredients. This means those classic comforts like your chicken noodle soups are being made from the best, locally-sourced ingredients they can find.

Consumers have bonded with the comfort foods they know and love over the past year like never before. As the restaurant industry begins its recovery, they aren’t willing to part ways with it so quickly. Instead, the demand will be for the inspirational twists on their favorites brought to them by critically acclaimed chefs.

3 - Trending legislation supporting restaurant expansion.

In 2021 as restaurants began reopening, many took to roadside expansions to stay within local COVID regulations. Restaurants got creative in expanding their outdoor dining options, and in some areas, legislation allowed for the take over of public parking or street space to accommodate them.

The fact is, now that indoor dining is acceptable once again, many consumers aren’t ready to forego their outdoor options. Restaurant guests have fallen in love with the unique outdoor arrangements, whether it be bubbles, yurts, or greenhouses.

These more secluded areas that outdoor dining brings help personalize the intimate affair of dining out. We predict that many of these restaurants will find ways to keep these structures well into the future. And that legislation will support their efforts to do so.

4 - New internal layouts for the new era of restaurants.

Speaking of restaurant configurations -  we also anticipate changes to the design of indoor dining configurations in 2022 to be a hot topic - here’s why. 

Today, the standard layout of a restaurant consists of a 70/30 split - 70% of the layout is made for front-of-the-house dining, and the remaining 30% of the layout is dedicated to the back-of-the-house kitchen.

In 2022 and continuing to the future, in order to accommodate off-site dining, and more requests for take out, restaurants will likely flip this split to look more like a 30/70 split - 30% of the layout for front-of-the-house and 70% of the layout for back-of-the-house. We anticipate seeing these transformations by 2025 with the goal of better accommodating customers, staff, and the business overall.

5 - Trading beef for beets - veggies are on the rise!

Touching again on the supply chain issues of the past and present, chefs have transformed the way they are cooking based on the ingredients they can readily access. As sourcing local ingredients will continue to gain momentum, the result will likely yield an increase in dependence on vegetables over animal proteins.

In addition to adapting to supply concerns, plant-based diets have been and continue to become more popular. Between the health benefits and the environmental benefits, it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny that a plant-based diet is the evolutionary shift of our time.

Even for the omnivores who aren’t ready to give up their animal proteins full-time just yet, the role of vegetables in meals will continue growing. Thankfully, we’ve seen that vegetables don’t have to be boring. Chefs of today can use their artistry to craft up drool-worthy meals that are entirely plant-based.

Restaurant tips

Going back to an earlier trend we mentioned, comfort foods, for restaurants in 2022 we predict that chefs will continue to get creative by introducing more plant-based comfort foods into their dishes. While meat-lovers might turn their nose at the thought, the scientific evolution of more sustainable proteins will leave them no choice but to dabble sooner rather than later.

6 - Integrated technology will offset labor challenges.

There is no denying the effects of the labor shortage on the restaurant industry in 2021. And going into 2022, restaurants will be facing the same concerns as restaurant workers are asking for more money to compensate for risk and uncertainty.

Luckily, with the use of integrated technology restaurant owners will have the ability to lower labor costs and tighten margins thanks to data. 

Technology to streamline service. 

Restaurants are integrating tech features like tablets on each table for ordering, eliminating the need for a server or at least decreasing the demand for as many servers on the floor at any given time. 

Another way that these tablets are helping to cut labor costs is by cutting down the requirement for a server to be involved with the check transaction. Guests can close out checks on their own without any involvement from a staff member whatsoever.

Technology to optimize labor.

Using scheduling software that integrates with your POS system helps business owners understand who to schedule for what shift by using machine learning systems like labor forecasting (projected sales based on past data).  With this technology restaurant owners are able to schedule less staff for shifts that are predicted to be more slow.  And save on labor. 

Technology to reduce roles and redundancy.

Using technology that offers rules and automation allows restaurant owners to eliminate redundant roles and unworked labor costs.  For example, using time tracking technology with facial recognition and automation rules can automatically adjust staff members clock in times to their scheduled times means eliminating unworked hours or buddy punching. 

Or using HR software that allows employees to automatically onboard, or scheduling software that allows employees to request shift swaps or time off, means not having to manually hire an extra person to facilitate these tasks.  

Technology to streamline operations. 

Integrated tech in the form of payroll and workforce management software can help tremendously when it comes to cutting costs.

Software systems that offer cloud-based employee management, and integrated payroll and HR in one easy-to-system can replace the role of an entire payroll person or manager -  and eliminate errors. 

Time is money in all businesses, and where you are able to save time on administrative tasks, such as managing time-off requests and payroll, you are saving money.

7 - The rise of retail and restaurant hybrid concepts.

With the uncertainty of indoor dining still at the forefront of most restaurant owners’ minds, diversified business models will be a must in 2022. The indoor dining solution will no longer be enough.

One of the trends we expect to pick up pace going into 2022, and the future, is the rise of one-stop shops. Hybrid concepts blending retail and restaurant are going to continue to become more popular.

Additional revenue streams for restaurants will allow them to be a more healthy workplace while supporting their customers, employees, and surrounding community.

8 - The rise of the robots.

The restaurant industry has continued to see promise for the integration of robotics, but it’s looking like 2022 will be the year we see this come to life. All signs are pointing to kitchen robots as the future of the restaurant industry.

Back-of-house robotics.

Kitchen robotics will revolutionize service models and help ease the pain of the labor shortage, especially in back-of-house.

Front-of-house robotics.

Tech companies aren’t stopping at kitchen robots, though. Smart robots will hopefully help fill the gap of the labor shortage in front-the-house service.

9 - Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2022 Culinary Forecast, the number one trend to look out for in the upcoming year is sustainable, reusable, and recyclable packaging.

Consumers have drastically increased sales in takeout and delivery orders as a direct result of the pandemic, which has forced them to take a closer look at the sustainability efforts of the restaurants supplying them.

The challenge for the restaurant is to maintain consumers’ expectations of food safety, temperature, and quality while also finding an environmentally friendly packaging solution.

Restaurants across the country will continue working to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics.

10 - Bar menus will be completely redesigned.

Sober-curious consumers are on the rise as the population generally trends towards more healthy ways of living. Not surprisingly, one of the first restaurant trends to go is the cocktail list. The bar menus of the future will be filled with low- and no-alcohol drinks.

Sober bar managers.

Hospitality moguls across the globe are introducing zero-proof cocktail menus, like Hyatt Hotels with their new Zero Proof, Zero Judgment program. To show just how serious the company is about their efforts, they’ve even created a new job title of a “sober bar manager.”

We’ll see the retail sector follow suit with this increasing trend in bars. Liquor retailers will start selling these more developed zero-proof liquors and small-batch syrups and concentrate on making these mocktails from home.

Fermented drinks.

In line with this reimagined take on a cocktail menu, we’ll continue to see fermented drinks charging ahead. Kombucha has already taken the country by storm, but what’s next? 

Tepache in Mexico is another fermented beverage made from brown sugar, water, and pineapple. We see that fermented drinks are across the globe, and in 2022, we’ll bring them close to home.

11 - Going back to the origins of cooking.

The history of humans and cooking starts with the introduction of fire. As a 2022 restaurant prediction, we expect to see consumers seeking out meals from the beginning of time. Live-fire cooking will rise, likely to be intertwined with comfort food meals.

Live-fire cooking brings with it multiple depths, including smokiness and depth, while allowing the ingredients’ natural taste to shine.

In addition to live-fire cooking, we’ll see an increase in heritage ingredients. After being so restrained in dining options, the focus is going to be on rediscovering where food comes from. We’ll see a big hype on everyday staples like:

  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Grains

Only helping to support this trend is that plant-based alternatives for protein sources are more popular than ever and only gaining momentum.

12 - Fermented-forward approach.

Again with the hiccups experienced in 2021 with the supply chain, restaurants, and chefs across the country have begun re-thinking how they can source their ingredients. Naturally, preserved ingredients are becoming more popular once again. Some of the options for preserving ingredients may include:

  • Pickling
  • Canning
  • Brining
  • Fermenting

When restaurants are able to get critical ingredients in large quantities, they will need to get creative with how they can preserve them to keep them on their menus longer. Keeping these ingredients around in different forms will continue to be a popular trend in the future.

Final thoughts.

So, there you have it. Our top 12 predictions for the restaurant industry in 2022 show that there are exciting things ahead. 2022 restaurant predictions and trends show that as restaurants are on their path to recovery from the pandemic, we’ll start to see things never seen before. And we can’t wait!

Want to learn more about the current state of the restaurant industry? 
Download our report below!

2022 restaurant trends

Table of content

December 2021


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