Restaurants and the hospitality industry are turning a pivotal corner, and some standout trends are awaiting them on the other side. What should our industry expect? Let’s read on to find out.
1. Technology trends
Consumers have been used to two years of online ordering and contactless everything, so it’s no wonder tech has taken over the hospitality industry. Hospitality tech is growing from virtual restaurants to QR codes and low-touch tabletop ordering systems. It seems as if every restaurant in every city, large or small, has access to or uses these technologies. But what about some new things to watch out for in 2022?
The first is something for both front and back of the house staffers: a digital kitchen “board.” Forget about lost kitchen tickets or broken ticket printers; digital menu boards are streamlining back-to-front-of-the-house operations. Directly linked to your POS system, these boards display food orders automatically in the order with which they were entered or flagged by priority. The board will also track kitchen expo times and item availability. If a menu item is out of stock, the staff will know in real-time without having to play a never-ending game of telephone. Say goodbye to lost in translation mistakes for good.
This next tech trend is for our quick and fast-service restaurant friends: drive-thru automation. The struggle to find entry-level restaurant workers is real, and we’ve all experienced the effects. Long lines at drive-thrus, closed-off in-house ordering, and shortened operating hours are consequences of this labor shortage. Drive-thru automation can help lighten this load by using voice recognition software to complete food orders. McDonald’s has already begun testing this technology in specific markets across the country. At the same time, other smaller chains have started using it with great success. So the next time you approach your neighborhood drive-thru, don’t freak out if a computer greets you instead of a human.
2. Menu trends
Let’s move on to some 2022 menu predictions. Up first, per usual, are cocktails. The last two years saw a severe uptick in alcohol consumption, which isn’t necessarily good. This is why I’m predicting a steady spread in the popularity of low-ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails this year. Now that people aren’t stuck in their homes and can go out and enjoy cocktails in a restaurant, they are being more mindful of what and how much they’re drinking. Low-ABV cocktails made with cordials like Aperol, St. Germain, and vermouth, to name a few, are an easy way to enjoy a delicious cocktail with half the alcohol.
As far as food goes, plant-based chicken is having a profound moment. Not only are quick-service chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken jumping on the bandwagon, but more civilized establishments with tablecloths and servers are joining in on the fun. Plant-based chicken from well-known brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have a similar texture and flavor to the real thing. You can grill it, fry it, and eat it any way you eat regular chicken. It’s the next significant movement in plant-based foods that even carnivores can get on board with.
3. Operation trends
The hospitality industry’s severe labor shortage may improve, but it’s not going away in 2022. Therefore, hospitality business operators need to develop long-term solutions for this country-wide issue. Wage increases, paid vacation, sick leave, and mental health support are a few offerings that will most likely be on the table in 2022. For operators, it’s not just about solving the current issue at hand; it’s about creating a lasting positive work environment that will keep staff churn low and retention high.
2022 is the year of green power. Consumers are tired of empty promises regarding hospitality businesses and their environmental footprint. They want real change and tangible results. Your customers want to know exactly what you’re doing to lower your carbon footprint and how changes benefit them. These changes can be as small as going completely paperless or as big as replacing all of your appliances to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Any upgrade with transparency, big or small, will positively impact how your business is viewed in a world full of greenwashers.
Try these trends with a dose of optimism
This is a pivotal year for the hospitality industry. We’ve managed to weather the storm (twice), but the work is far from done. It’s time to look at our future with optimism and introduce new tech and positive upgrades that will influence the industry for years to come; because it’s clear we aren’t going anywhere; we’re only getting stronger.