Like many industries, COVID 19 greatly affected the restaurant industry. Since it was unable to operate normally for an extended period due to the lockdown and other restrictions imposed by the government, the industry faced a significant setback in 2020 that, for many, continued into 2021.
Lasting Restaurant Industry Trends in 2022
As we are coming out of the most significant pandemic in generations, restaurant owners still face many challenges operating their businesses. That said, I believe the most effective & positive trend in the industry is how restaurants of all sizes now embrace technology. Much of the technology, such as apps, third-party ordering, and direct online ordering, has been used for several years. Still, it took Covid 19 to force the industry to exploit its use to a fuller extent. This adaptability of technology is paving the way for recovery and growth in 2022. By the end of 2022, the food industry expects to reach $899 billion in sales.
Home Delivery System
Another trend carrying into 2022 is restaurant delivery. Food delivery services became immensely important but brought unique challenges. Trust of the food handling process, delivery methods, and demand for contactless transactions became front and center for those using restaurants for home delivery. Remembering that more than 900,000 people died in the U.S. makes the ongoing situation a long-term consideration for food service workers, field workers, and other employees related to the field.
From servers to cooks, and other restaurant workers to agriculture and the meatpacking production workforce, labor shortages still significantly affect the industry and the cost associated with running a restaurant—the number of employees willing to work is such a critical situation that many restaurants are forced to operate with shorter hours and fewer days. In addition, continuing trucker shortages and delays in delivery have created congestion in restaurants’ delivery processes, causing some restaurants to modify their menu.
Supply Chain and Food Supply
Supply chain issues also raised multiple problems for restaurant owners, from fresh produce to meats to paper products such as coffee cups, straws, and takeaway containers. As a result, restaurant owners continue to experience shortages and increasing prices as we approach the second quarter of 2022.
Taylor Morabito, the owner of New York’s famed Friend of a Farmer restaurant, said, “While labor shortages have begun to improve, I think the biggest challenge the industry currently faces is the drastic increase in food cost, specifically within the world of poultry, meat & fish.
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Products that used to cost $11 or $12 a pound have doubled &, in some cases, nearly tripled in price. Unfortunately, with the current supply chain issues & rising inflation, I believe that restaurant owners & management will be navigating around this particular challenge for quite some time.”
According to the National Restaurant Association, Wholesale food costs were up 7.9 percent in 2021, and hourly labor costs were up 8.6 percent for the year.
“Vaccinated Only” Restrictions Lifted
The “No Vax, No Entry” restrictions are changing in major cities like New York. The easing of regulations resulting from vaccinations worldwide and people following social protocols has finally started to move the restaurant business towards the pre-pandemic normal.
Over 68% of the American population has received complete vaccination. The fact is; the vaccinations led the government to lift restrictions allowing people to sit and enjoy meals in a pre-pandemic style.
Digital Work Models
The past two years have completely changed the way people think and function. The pandemic has also altered people’s expectations of the restaurant business. With contactless payment methods and online orders, people have become more dependent on technology than before. To survive during the pandemic and shutdowns, restaurants offered enhanced discounts as many customers shifted to online or app ordering. However, in 2022, many customers still expect restaurants to continue discounting, extra reward incentives, and other programs to connect to their favorite eateries.
Digitalization has helped all types of industries in different ways. Like other industries, the food industry gained numerous benefits by shifting to a digital working model. It helped them reduce costs and increase performance. With restaurant workers quitting jobs in significant numbers and business owners struggling to retain them, digital technology became helpful with recruiting, retention, and reducing the number of employees required to service the guest.
Regarding the data-driven trends in the industry, Fred Kirvan, the founder of Kirvan Consulting, a New Jersey based restaurant consulting firm, stated, “Now more than ever, it’s vital that you analyze the data available to ensure your business is fully optimized. As an example, valuable information exists within your point of sale to help you determine what changes could streamline your menu offerings. Streamlining your menu offering could result in improved profitability, the need for less staff, and fewer items from your distributor, so you’re using more of what you do use. But, so often, I find that business owners aren’t using the data to drive the decisions that could help them navigate these challenging times.”
The Restaurant Industry Impacts America’s GDP
Since the restaurant industry contributes significantly to America’s economy, one cannot ignore its difficulties for the past two years. Unfortunately, the food industry is still working to recover the losses. Still, unless there is a recurrence of Covid, restaurant sales in 2022 are trending in a very positive direction.
The United States Census report stated that the ongoing pandemic had damaged the sales of restaurants and bars up to $280 billion. Even though the restaurants, eateries, and bars managed to follow all protocols, the various mandates negatively impacted the entire food industry’s economy. Therefore, restaurateurs look to 2022 as the turnaround year.
Technology became a crucial answer in addressing issues restaurants faced during the pandemic. The tech-savviest operators shifted their menu online and increased delivery, which allowed them to stay open. However, to continue the positive trend in 2022, we need to address inflation, supply chain, and labor issues. Overall the first quarter of 2022 is proving to trend in the right direction, demonstrating the resiliency of our industry.