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The Next Big Thing: A Practical Guide To 2022 Restaurant Industry Trends

Authored by: Dean Thompson (Chief Growth Officer)

Calling 2021 a wild ride for the restaurant industry might be the understatement of the year. Who could have predicted the rise of curbside pickup and ghost kitchens? At HungerRush we’ve kept our ears to the ground and, well, 2022 isn’t shaping up to be any less wacky.

The pandemic demonstrated the future’s always uncertain, but there are a handful of emerging trends that are already too difficult to ignore.

Here’s what trends we think are going to dominate in 2022 and how you can take advantage of them to keep your restaurants operating at peak competitive performance, including:

  • Why technology might just be the answer to any problem 2022 throws at us
  • What going green is going to mean for your bottom-line
  • And why more and more businesses will be deleting UberEats

Curious? Read on.

Why Technology Will Mitigate Labor Shortage Woes

In 2022 the labor shortage will continue to impact the restaurant industry—finding good, long-term staff won’t be easy. Plus wage hikes are dipping into already suffering profits. 

Technology really is the way forward when it comes to maximizing labor resources. And we promise it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are three things you can do right now: 

  • Streamline the order experience: Whether it’s self-ordering kiosks, line-busting tablets, or AI-powered voice and sms ordering, giving the customer more control over the order process can free up staff on the floor and the phone. Tech options also allow you to embed upselling and promotional offers that you’d otherwise need an employee to communicate. They even capture customer data, ensure order accuracy and generate leads for your marketing campaigns. What more could you want?
  • Invest in your employees: Committed staff will be hard to come by, so invest in the workers you do have. How’s your current training system–is it up to date with new processes and products? Is it comprehensive and clear? A smoother training process will result in more efficient employees.
  • Optimize takeout and delivery services: Customer preference for takeout and delivery will keep rising. But many restaurants still struggle with this—front-of-house staff are often pulled off the line to handle the delivery rush. Everything from pickup to delivery can be automated, with only one person handing off food and that same automation can enable different menus so you keep to items that travel well.

And did we mention that HungerRush has a digital ordering system that can sync all this together? We handle order streamlining, employee training, and delivery optimization. Up next: getting more out of your profits.

Learn more: Short On Labor? How Restaurant Technology Can Reduce Labor By 21%

Everyone’s Moving Toward First-Party Ordering

In 2022 the delivery model is going to see a few changes. More and more restaurants are realizing losing 20-30% of their order isn’t really a sustainable option. Plus it’s a missed opportunity to interact with and own the customer relationship. But what’s the solution? 

Smart restaurant owners will side-step the third-party delivery apps and create their own first-party delivery systems.

  • Doing so keeps customers on your website. And that means you can streamline the order process, capture customer data and send customized promotional opportunities their way.
  • It also allows restaurateurs full control over their brand. Because it’s the staff who are the ones who leave the lasting impression. Plus there’s potential for small talk at drop-off about menu items or loyalty programs.
  • Customers want to cut out the middle-man. In fact, 67% of people prefer to use a restaurant’s own app or website for food delivery. So what’s holding you back?

2022 is the year more restaurant owners are going to start deleting third-party delivery apps and retake control over the order process. If that’s something you want to take advantage of, we’re here to help.

Learn more: Food Delivery Management System | HungerRush 

The Drive-Thru is on Year Three of Renewed Attention

It’s easy to attribute industry changes to pandemic-related lockdowns. But the reality is that COVID just sped up what was already on the backburner. Seeing the major players, like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A expand their drive-thru and pick-up options is a strong signal that these services are here to stay.

Studies show restaurants are heavily shifting to align with customer expectations

  • 55% plan to add more pick-up spaces
  • 45% want to add extra drive-thru space
  • And 43% want outdoor on-site dining areas

It’s all about how much convenience—and the variety of that convenience restaurants can provide.

More Established Brands Are Launching Virtual Concepts

Ghost kitchens are another model we’re going to see more of this year, particularly from established brands that are looking for creative ways to reach new markets. Chick-fil-a’s piloting multiple virtual concepts in Atlanta. Five Guys, Wendy’s, Cotton Patch Cafe—it seems this is the new area of opportunity.

Here’s what Simon de Monfort Walker had to say about it:

“In 2022, we’re going to see brands increase their investments in off-premises business models, such as virtual brands or ghost kitchens, to keep costs down, protect the brand and maximize their labor force.” – Simon de Montfort Walker, Senior VP, and GM, Oracle Food and Beverage.

Next up: the future of fast food.

The Future of Quick Service Food is Green

Conscious consumerism is on the rise. Customers are becoming more mindful of not only the kinds of foods they’re eating but their carbon footprint as well. And while a number of factors come into play when making a final dining decision, we’re starting to see customers prioritize things like:

  • clearly labeled ingredients
  • fresh, local produce
  • healthy options and plant-based menu items
  • and even, a restaurant’s sustainability policy

This doesn’t mean you need to change your entire menu, but you might want to incorporate one or two items that fit these criteria. Don’t have a sustainability policy? Consider undertaking sustainable initiatives, like committing to decreasing your restaurant’s food waste, choosing a supplier with eco-friendly packaging, or supporting a local offset project. Packagers have a renewed focus on packaging that not only preserves food quality but in a way that supports your green initiatives.

Ultimately, customers are choosing to dine at places with a value mindset that goes beyond the kitchen. With 78% of customers willing to pay more for their meals in a green restaurant, it’s well worth it to have a sustainable focus.

Reputation Management is Going Omnichannel

Customers interact with restaurant brands everywhere these days. In-store, via email, on Twitter. We’re seeing a pivot away from the support email as the primary customer support channel and a move toward omnichannel help and service. 

Here’s what to keep in mind as you build a support system that spans customer touchpoints:

  • Negative reviews require speedy responses. 94% of consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business. Put out those fires quickly and aim to respond no later than one week from the review date.
  • Positive social media interactions are great for repeat customers. 71% of restaurant customers say they’re more likely to recommend a restaurant that responds quickly to them on social media. It might just be time for more restaurants to hire a social media manager.
  • A 4-star rating is necessary for your customer to trust you.  If your rating is less than four stars on sites like Google, TripAdvisor, or Yelp, that’s going to negatively impact your customer return. In fact, 33% of diners won’t eat in restaurants where the online rating is lower than 4 stars.  

Make sure you have a communication plan in place for dealing with customer engagement online. This can help mitigate any negative impact on customer return and relationship building that might arise.

Tech Enables the Speed That’ll Make or Break Restaurants

Trends come and go but those with the foresight to see them and act will reap the rewards. In the highly competitive restaurant industry, restauranteurs need to adapt quickly if they want to stay current.

At HungerRush, we have the products and solutions to integrate and synchronize technology across all your business platforms. Whether you’re looking for small or large-scale adaptations, we can take your tech to the next level.  

Don’t get left behind. Get HungerRush!

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