The Industry

Safety, Delivery, and Plant-Based Ingredients: What to Know for 2022

From takeout and delivery to sustainable, plant-based ingredients: These are the restaurant trends 6 experts think will be big in 2022.

A new year is right around the corner—and with it, new restaurant trends.

Hospitality is an industry driven by trends. Each year, there are new ingredients, dishes, styles, and more that sweep the scene—and restaurants that don't keep up with the trends risk losing customers to spots that do. Guests want the newest, coolest foods and experiences when they dine out, and that's not going to change in 2022.

So, with the new year coming up fast, we wanted to know what's going to be everywhere in the food world next year. We reached out to chefs, restaurant owners, and other professionals from across the industry to ask what they thought would be the biggest restaurant trends in 2022. Some of their answers were ones we expected to see—trends like delivery and takeout and plant-based dishes are certainly here to stay.

But some of their answers surprised us. Here's what they had to say.

6 Industry Professionals Predict Restaurant Trends for 2022

Meet the 6 industry professionals who shared their predictions with us:

  • Damon Shrauner, Senior Sales Consultant at CKitchen.
  • Melissa Collins, Partnership Manager at Perfect Brew
  • Omar Torres, Food & Beverage Director at Bonsai at Hilton Pensacola Beach
  • David Bloom, Chief Development & Operating Officer for Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop and Wing Zone
  • Matthew Harding, Senior Vice President of Culinary and Menu Innovation for Piada Italian Street Food 
  • Guy M. Chirico, President of the Inflo Group

"Concerns about hygiene and sanitation will remain"

Damon Shrauner, Senior Sales Consultant at CKitchen, has been working in the food service equipment sector since 1994, so he's seen a lot of restaurant trends come and go. His top prediction for 2022? That health and safety changes that came with the COVID-19 pandemic are not going away.

"The coronavirus pandemic may be over shortly. However, concerns about hygiene and sanitation will remain," he said. "Members of the kitchen crew are urged to use hand sanitizer with an alcohol level of at least 70 percent. Besides, to reduce the danger of getting Covid-19, sanitizers should be readily available to all guests, in addition to social distancing techniques. A customer's decision to dine with you could now be influenced by a clear explanation of strict cleaning procedures. "

Some other trends Shrauner expects to stick around for at least another year are continued growth in online ordering and delivery.

"Restaurants should take measures about ways to keep their business safe even after Covid-19 is gone. Delivery ordering helps to improve the safety of customers," he said. "Furthermore, it can offer an additional revenue stream that is not affected by shutdowns. Customers appreciate the opportunity to stay at home and have a restaurant meal in the comfort of their homes. As a result, restaurants will be able to retain more customers and improve the customer experience while also protecting themselves from future pandemics."

"Restaurant businesses will not have to spend a lot of money hiring new staff"

Melissa Collins, Partnership Manager at Perfect Brew, is a chef and coffee expert who runs a cafe in Henderson, Nevada. She agrees that health and safety trends will continue to gain traction in the next year and beyond.

"One thing that this pandemic has taught everyone is the importance of health and sanitation. This trend will continue in 2022. Every table will have sanitizers available for the customers," Collins said. "Strict sanitation measures will also extend to the kitchen and wait staff. They will use sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Moreover, extra care will be given towards cleaning tables, chairs, and restrooms."

But that's not the only trend Collins sees being big in 2022. She also predicts that self-service will continue to grow in popularity, and that guests will start to expect faster and more customizable dining experiences. Self-service trends can also help address the ongoing labor shortage in the restaurant industry, she said.

"Self-service will be a major trend in 2022," Collins explained. "Restaurant businesses will not have to spend a lot of money hiring new staff. With QR codes and touch screen technology, people will be able to place orders themselves; thus, leading to a fast ordering process."

"Creative menus with local, sustainable products is what’s expected"

Omar Torres is an accomplished chef, currently serving as the Food & Beverage Director at Bonsai restaurant at Hilton Pensacola Beach. He predicts a number of restaurant trends in 2022, but his biggest prediction is that restaurant guests will continue to flock toward eateries that highlight local, sustainable ingredients in eco-friendly ways.

"2022 will be an exciting year in the restaurant business as restaurateurs will have to come up with very creative ways to operate in order to compete," Torres said. "Smaller, creative menus with local, sustainable products is what’s expected."

Torres pointed to the labor shortage as the main driver for the smaller menus he predicts will be popular in restaurants next year. But he said that shouldn't hold restaurants back.

"With the shortage of labor in the nation, successful restaurants will have to come up with smaller menus but very powerful, unique dishes to have guests come back," he said. "This is the type of year where new recipes and dishes are created that will become classics in the future."

Torres continued, "We’ll see new restaurant concepts that are smaller with fewer seats and the ability to sell to-go and delivery options even in fine dining. Yes, expect to have James Beard Award cuisine delivered to your door. The ambiance for 2022 is cozy with focus on small parties and dating rather than large parties."

As for what's going to be on those creative new menus? Expect new trendy ingredients, Torres said.

"Over the past few years avocados have been the main ingredient, but this year you’ll see more grains such as quinoa, amaranth and chia being added to recipes both in the kitchen and the bar."

"Challenges facing the industry today will continue well into 2022"

There's no denying the last few years have been hard on the restaurant industry. David Bloom, Chief Development & Operating Officer for Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop and Wing Zone, has an unfortunate prediction: Many of the challenges that emerged from the pandemic will not go away just yet in 2022.

"Certainly, many of the headwinds and challenges facing the industry today will continue well into at least the first half of 2022, while other new challenges and opportunities may actually accelerate," Bloom predicted. 

But Bloom quickly added that there's also reason for a lot of hope about the restaurant industry's future.

"With that being said, I believe we have already entered the early stages of the greatest period of both disruption and opportunity our industry has ever considered," he explained. "That will essentially mean that well run, innovative brands that are well positioned and prepared to absorb and even leverage the many challenges and opportunities coming at an ever accelerating pace will be greatly advantaged, while other brands may be disrupted much faster than was previously considered a normal pace of obsolescence."

In other words, restaurants certainly face more challenges ahead—there's no getting away from that. But the ones that can overcome and even grow from those challenges will emerge stronger than ever before.

"People will re-emerge from hiding"

Matthew Harding, the Senior Vice President of Culinary and Menu Innovation at Piada Italian Street Food, has a more hopeful outlook about 2022: He thinks some of the biggest restaurant trends will be returning to a "normal" that looks a little bit more like our pre-pandemic lives.

"People will re-emerge from hiding," he predicted, adding that certain kinds of restaurants that were hit harder by pandemic slowdowns are the ones most likely to see more guests return in 2022. "Traffic will return to special occasion, independent and fine dining restaurants."

But some pandemic changes are here to stay, Harding said. In particular, the emphasis on restaurants existing in digital spaces, with a focus on online ordering, takeout, and delivery, will continue in 2022.

"Fast casual and quick serves will still retain a higher share of digital and will keep building more of a digital presence and smaller dining rooms," Harding explained. Still, 2022 should be an exciting year. Restaurants are poised to innovate as they seek new ways to overcome the industry's many challenges, Harding said. "You will see a growth of new ideas and new thinking in restaurants as people abandon old conventional types of service and food."

"If you're not already using SMS marketing, you are late to the party"

Guy M. Chirico is the former owner of Scribners Catskill Lodge and The Prospect Restaurant. Currently, he's a food and restaurant consultant and president of The Inflo Group. Chirico has a pretty straightforward prediction for what he thinks will be a top restaurant trend in 2022.

"Everyone will move to text," he said. "Reservations, ordering, follow-up surveys after the guests leave. Emails are going to spam or unread. If you're not already using SMS marketing, you are late to the party."

Existing trends give more weight to Chirico's prediction.

Americans spend an average of 5.4 hours on their mobile phones daily, and studies show that over 95% of SMS messages are opened and read. A whopping 85% of customers prefer receiving text messages over a phone call or email, and 64 percent of customers say a text message gives them the impression that a company values their time.

That means restaurants that want to keep up with the trends in 2022 need to meet guests where they are: On their mobile phones. SMS marketing for restaurants doesn't have to be complicated—you can start sending automated SMS messages to guests using Popmenu today.

The Restaurant Trend that Isn't Going Away: Technology

Restaurant technology is still a growing trend—especially as technology becomes more advanced each year.

There's never been a better time to invest in tech that can help your restaurant level up its digital presence: Popmenu. Popmenu helps restaurants own their digital presence, with websites, interactive online menus, automated marketing tools, and more. Schedule your free Popmenu demo today.

Request your Popmenu demo today