Many industries globally have suffered losses, made adjustments, and changed their business models over the last couple of years. The pandemic touched many industries, but food service was as hard-hit as perhaps any other. As Covid restrictions have been relaxed, many industry trends, particularly in the sustainable food service segment, may be here to stay, offering business owners new opportunities and changing the way many have done business in the past.
The National Restaurant Association released the findings of its 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, which offers predictions of restaurant sales in 2022 to reach $898 billion, and the industry offering an additional 400,000 jobs. Employment issues, supply chain delays, and increased costs will continue to thwart the industry, coupled with the fact that since the pandemic, consumers are eating out less and expecting more. But all is not gloom and doom for the industry. Taking advantage of materials, suppliers, and technology that is readily available, can increase profitability and build brand recognition, bringing food service back to the level that it was pre-pandemic.
One trend sure to top the list this year is going to be placed on climate change, energy efficiency, and saving our planet. More focus will be made on buying local, which may result in more seasonal offerings, and reducing waste. Look for larger brands to promote their pro-environment efforts and suppliers to offer products that are more energy efficient. And expect millennials to become primary diners, who not only demand a more sustainable and even organic product, but also make choices based on environmentally sound operations.
As the cost of real estate skyrockets, look to see kitchens decrease in size. You may see storage space utilized in new and innovative ways. Stackable, reusable containers offer solutions to cramped spaces, decreased waste, and flexibility that can bring dollars right to the bottom line. By using these Flexcon containers, you can store and ship in the same container, offering easy recycling to the supplier and the customer. And having the flexibility of storing in cold storage as well as dry, gives you options that can optimize storage and kitchen space.
When dealing with Covid restrictions, the restaurants that remained open had to resort to food delivery and pickup. This option will probably increase in 2022, as more and more employees are working remotely, and social contact is still minimized over what it used to be. With the addition of delivery services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats, as well as home delivery offered by many chains, many consumers have gotten comfortable with eating at home. As our population ages, we find that Millennials are less likely to go out to restaurants and prefer deliveries over going out to dine.
With the increase in labor costs and the push for zero waste, it is more important than ever to benefit from available technology on the market. Even the smallest establishments have seen the benefits from increasing their technology. Millennials have changed the way we get our food, demanding automation in ordering and payment options. Also, on the rise is the increase in social media presence. Though it has been critical in the past, it is essential in 2022 as consumers are more and more dependent on social media as their primary information source.
In addition to greener, healthier offerings, look for more restaurants to offer smaller menus with fewer choices. This may be due to decreased square footage, employee shortages, or even supply chain issues. Many restaurants may begin offering specials based on local seasonal food that they can easily and inexpensively source. Fewer menu choices can also allow some restaurants to become more specialized.
If you are in the food service industry, you probably already know that, above all else, this industry is flexible and adaptable. Trends for this year are a result of the industry’s ability to adapt to a challenging situation and come out victorious. As operations think local, tap into technology and optimize space, they will be able to do more with less.