A new year always brings about opportunities for change. It’s a time for reflection on the past and an opportunity to gain inspiration to do better in the upcoming year. As we end 2021 and consider the vast increase in takeout, comfort food, and overconsumption of alcohol that took place during the throws of the pandemic, many of us are resolved to doing better in 2022.
We anticipate this sentiment will cause some shifts in consumer behavior in the coming year. Below are our 7 guest preference predictions for 2022.
Sustainability will be top of mind
During the pandemic the takeout market more than doubled. Many of the sustainability practices that we were committed to pre-COVID flew out the door when we entered this unprecedented era. With no sign of a slowdown for the demand of takeout, many of us now feel drawn to make smarter packaging choices rather than relying on one-use plastics.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great options when it comes to recyclable and compostable takeout containers and paper products. Reusable, recyclable, and compostable are the three major categories that fall under the sustainable packaging category. Each provides something different. Do some research to decide what is best for you based on the kind of food and beverages that you serve. Your takeout packaging choices directly affect your restaurant’s image and reputation, so it’s important to select containers that ensure all meals arrive to the customer at the right temperature and looking delicious.
Mocktails will make a comeback
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, many Americans turned to alcohol to cope with the stresses of the pandemic, job loss, working from home, and homeschooling.
In the new year, we predict that the sober-curious movement will make a strong comeback. With backing by celebrities, including Drew Barrymore and Chrissy Teigen, drinking less or not at all is becoming destigmatized. According to The New York Times, the nonalcoholic beverage market is going to be worth an estimated $1.6 trillion by 2026.
But that does not mean that customers choosing not to drink alcohol do not want to be social or celebrate with friends and family while dining. The key is to offer zero-proof drinks that are well-crafted and feel just as indulgent as the real stuff — just without the hangover. Festive concoctions like a cucumber ginger mocktail, a lemon lavender mocktini or a mock winter sangria are sure to be a hit.
If you are leery about diving into a specialized mocktail menu, Dry January is an ideal time to test your market. Try advertising a few creative options this month then run your reports, talk to your customers, and analyze your data to see if your demographic is interested in drink options that are sans alcohol.
Yet, alcohol-to-go will remain popular
While takeout and delivery options helped to recoup some lost sales, most restaurants were still missing out on alcohol sales, which generally are the highest margin items on the menu. A majority of states agreed to temporarily allow the sale of to-go cocktails, beer, and wine to ease the loss of that income.
We predict that consumers who enjoy an adult beverage with their favorite meal will continue to expect the convenience of to-go cocktails. Bundled sets such as “fajitas and margaritas” or “sushi and sake” on your to-go menu will continue to be a fan favorite.
Support of the local food movement
The local food movement can be a win-win for patrons and operators. For many consumers, it is important to know where their food is coming for nutritional and environmental reasons.
With the supply chain being out of sorts, many operators are receiving orders that contain subpar meat and produce. Sourcing locally reduces the distance the product travels, so your vegetables, beef, poultry, and seafood usually look and taste better than those grown in larger corporate farms.
Sourcing locally can also allow restaurants to offer seasonal menus that are often popular enough to bear a higher price, but are less expensive to produce, boosting your bottom line. If you are considering local sourcing, The Harvard Business Review offers this sound advice, “You have to bake into your cost structure a higher percentage of sales allowance for food safety and ingredient testing than if you are sourcing nationally from a few big suppliers. Obviously, that can have a bearing on your retail price, but, in general, consumers expect to pay more for locally sourced products, particularly if they have other attributes, such as being organic or natural.”
Healthy twists on comfort foods
Losing weight and getting healthy are two of the most common New Year’s resolutions. But with the new COVID variants keeping us home again this winter, many of us are not ready to give up the comfort foods we crave when we do venture out for a meal.
Advertising healthier versions of popular comfort foods as specials is a great way to provide the best of both worlds to your patrons. You can even take it a step further and offer dishes that cater to specific diets such as Whole30, Paleo, Gluten Free, etc. Turkey Sheppard’s Pie, Low-Fat Clam Chowder, and Paleo Swedish Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes (Whole30) are a few ideas for inspiration.
Plant based alternatives are on the rise
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) recently found that most Americans have consumed plant-based meat alternatives in the past year, with two in five eating them daily or weekly. With the high cost of meat we are experiencing, 2022 may be an ideal time to experiment with plant-based and vegetarian menu options. Meat alternatives do not have to be solely a burger alternative. Many chains are getting creative by offering plant-based hot dogs, meatballs, pizza toppings, taco fillers, and more.
If you are not a fan of meat-mimicking options, mushrooms, root vegetables, and seeds also serve as filling vegetarian alternatives. White button mushrooms and root vegetables create robust pasta sauces, stews, and appetizers. Portobellos are great grilled or baked and are an excellent substitute for steaks. Seeds can easily be added to salads for a pop of protein and a satisfactory crunch.
Customers will still crave convenience
Many customers got used to social distancing and are not ready to return to a full contact restaurant experience. QR codes are a great way to provide customers convenience while making up for gaps in labor. Customers can view the menu, order, and pay from their cell phone, allowing minimal contact between the guest and servers or cashiers. QR codes also track customers past orders, making it easy for repeat visitors to effortlessly re-order their favorite foods and beverages when they arrive at your restaurant.
Predictions are a dicey business. At Restaurant365, we understand that every operation is unique. We are committed to helping your business succeed by providing you with the data and tools you need to confidently set priorities and create long-term business strategies.
If you would like to easily track data and gain insight into your restaurant data to increase efficiency and boost profits, consider a comprehensive, restaurant-specific management solution. Restaurant365 is an all-in-one restaurant management system incorporating reporting tools, restaurant accounting software, restaurant operations software, inventory management software, payroll + HR software, and scheduling software into a cloud-based platform that’s fully integrated with your POS system, your food and beverage vendors, and bank.