Much has changed as we wrap up our second year of the pandemic. Vaccines are readily available, and things started to feel that they were back on track. However, new variants are causing the restaurant industry to continue to feel the impact through supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and reinstituted mask mandates in many areas. Whether running a fast-casual or full-service restaurant, the industry has had to innovate and adapt to survive. In conjunction with Wakefield Research, Square shared its data and strategies to shape the industry in 2022 in its Future of Restaurants report.
Contactless Ordering & Delivery is Here to Stay
As operators look for ways to improve the customer experience while meeting changing expectations, contactless ordering and payment options like digital QR-code menus and touchless payments will become mainstream in 2022. When thinking ahead, online ordering, delivery, and curbside pickup must be factored into all parts of the restaurant business.
Smart Restaurant Technology to Help Fill the Gaps
Restaurant operators are exploring technology that can help staff be more efficient. These solutions can help fill the gaps when they are short-staffed by automating customer payments and customer communications. Additionally, guests have started to embrace tech as a tool to enhance a more seamless experience. Digital options are now part of today’s restaurants and must be considered in current and future decisions.
Diversified Revenue Streams
Over 50% of restaurant owners added new products or services due to the pandemic, and we expect to continue into 2022. Offering subscriptions, grocery, merchandise, and meal and cocktail kits. David Rusenko, Head of eCommerce at Square, shares, “A restaurant-bar-store, might be a place that sells mixology classes, retail gear, and tastings in addition to serving patrons food and drinks.” We expect that using ghost kitchens with menus designed for off-premise customers will continue to be a growing segment.
Kitchen Automation & Shifting Restaurant Footprints
Streamlining kitchen operations can help deliver a consistent and quality guest experience, so operators should invest in digital technology to improve back-of-house systems and processes. According to Forbes magazine, “as off-premise dining remains popular, operators must rethink how the layout of their restaurant will work best for their business, staff, and customers. We will likely see more drive-thru setups, and virtually all brick-and-mortar restaurants will define specially designated areas for delivery drivers and consumers picking up their takeout orders.”
Direct Online Ordering
Many operators want to take charge of their online ordering and delivery, and we expect this will continue into 2022, with less reliance on third parties. This allows restaurants to control the entire guest experience from beginning to end. Consumers also want to skip the middle person and support the restaurant directly, rather than a third-party app. Direct ordering allows operators to maintain their customer’s data, which can help develop and deliver better marketing and loyalty programs. According to BentoBox, restaurants saved $38.5 million by switching to direct online ordering last year.
Rethinking Customer Engagement
Restaurant operators are developing creative ways to boost customer engagement and loyalty. Nearly 90% of operators plan to implement customer engagement initiatives focused on rewarding customer loyalty into 2022.
Importance of Community
Restaurants play a unique role in communities. Strong community ties translate to stronger connections with patrons, so we expect to see more investment in community service initiatives in 2022. This can include cooking for community service providers, donating food or money to community organizations, or offering support to local minority-owned businesses.
More Variety to Meet Consumers Evolving Appetites
Restaurant guests have been seeking a variety and new types of food choices, globally-inspired, healthy meals, and unique ingredients. Thanks to social media, specifically TikTok, which exposes people to new food ideas and spreads greater diversity, this trend will likely continue into 2022.
The new year allows restaurants to take what they’ve learned from 2021 and use it to drive their business forward into 2022. Have you adopted new technology, transformed your restaurant space, or responded to guests’ behavior changes? Need help preparing for the new era of dining? Synergy can help!