Restaurant trends are evolving with new, innovative ways to serve customers better. The trends in the restaurant industry over the past year and a half were shaped by the pandemic, and many of them will stay around long after case numbers fall.

Eateries are innovative, and this is how many restaurants were able to remain operational, while non-innovators had to close their doors.

If you’re looking for new restaurant trends to follow, there are many great options available. You can also take the time to revamp your menu heading into the fall season. Menu changes should be subtle and well-planned so that customers still keep coming back.

However, we’re primarily going to list the leading restaurant technology trends heading into 2022.

restaurant industry trends

Delivery and Contactless Orders

Safety is a leading concern for restaurant-goers, and this concern is likely to stay for the long term. The pandemic has shown that safety is never a bad investment, and in 2022, there will still be a major focus on safety.

Restaurants should spend time thinking about ways to make their business safe well after COVID is gone.

Two main ways to improve this safety are:

  • Delivery. One of the major advantages of delivery is that it’s an extra revenue stream that didn’t lose business during shutdowns. In addition, multiple forms of order are an option, and customers relish the ability to stay home and eat a restaurant meal in the comfort of their homes.
  • Contactless Ordering. Whether your restaurant opens a drive-thru or offers other forms of contactless ordering, it’s a good option for consumers. You can create touchless menus, new pick-up areas for food, and even take payment without needing to come in contact with a person.

If you’re not already offering delivery or contactless ordering, it’s time to invest in these two areas. As a result, restaurants can retain more customers and improve the customer experience while safeguarding their business from future pandemics.

Revenue Stream Diversification

Diversifying revenue helps restaurants stay afloat even when there are seasonal dips in revenue. In addition, you should find ways to branch into other areas of business, such as:

  • Offering delivery even if you’re a high-end eatery known for indoor dining only.
  • Sell products or take-and-bake type of options for customers.
  • Teach classes, where possible, such as a pizzeria teaching customers how to make their own pizzas at home.

If you have a strong brand, you can opt to sell clothes or other items that people will wear. There are a lot of great opportunities for restaurants to start bringing in more revenue from multiple sources.

Restaurants with larger budgets are also turning to food trucks as another source of revenue.

The initial startup cost of the trucks can be between $100,000 and $300,000, depending on your needs, but you’ll be able to leave your brick-and-mortar location to serve customers. In larger cities, this may mean serving customers outside of concert venues or sports stadiums.

Automation

One of the biggest trends going into 2022 will continue to be automation. Kitchen automation helps restaurants lower overhead while offering a better experience to customers. You can work on ways to streamline your kitchen, such as:

  • Ordering terminals
  • Kitchen backend systems
  • Robot kitchens

Restaurant trends towards automation are expected to continue over the long term.

restaurant technology trends

Customer Loyalty Enhancements

One of the top restaurant trends this year is loyalty programs and engagement. As a result, more restaurants are looking for ways to improve their engagement with consumers and customer retention.

When it comes to engagement, many restaurants are reinventing concepts that have been working well for the industry.

  • Some restaurants are offering drive-thrus for easy and convenient pick-up options.
  • Park and dine is becoming popular at many eateries.
  • Some restaurants are taking a hybrid approach, offering dine-in and park and dining options.

Restaurants are also focusing on special events and personalized dining experiences for holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. In addition, many eateries also offer virtual tasting, cooking classes, and other dining experiences.

To help restaurants maximize customer engagement, many are planning to expand or launch new loyalty programs. Loyalty programs not only reward customers but also give restaurant owners insight into the wants and needs of their patrons.

Direct Ordering Options

Until recently, restaurants relied heavily on third-party services to handle their online orders and deliveries. While many establishments still rely on these services, many are turning their focus to direct ordering options.

Direct ordering allows the restaurant to control the customer experience from the moment they place their order until the moment they receive it. It also gives restaurants more control over marketing and loyalty programs.

Consumers also prefer the direct ordering option. Most want to skip the middleman and order directly through the restaurant itself. Consumers recognize that third-party service providers take a large piece of the pie, and they prefer to support local restaurants directly.

Direct ordering is one of the biggest restaurant marketing ideas and trends because it gives the restaurant complete control of the customer’s experience. It also allows restaurants to use better marketing strategies. Customer loyalty programs can be improved, which further improves overall customer service.

restaurant food trends

Community Engagement

Restaurants play an important role in the local community. They serve as the venue for birthdays, weddings, corporate meetings, reunions, gatherings with friends, and first dates. When restaurants are active in the community, locals feel a stronger connection to the establishment.

Many restaurants are planning to invest more time and resources into engaging with the community through initiatives like:

  • Donating food
  • Cooking for local community service providers
  • Supporting minority-owned businesses

Consumers favor restaurants and other businesses that give back and help out with good causes. Giving back to the community shows that the restaurant cares about its patrons and the locals.

Giving back is the right thing to do, and it also helps build brand recognition and delights patrons.

Final Thoughts

These are some of the top restaurant industry trends this year. The industry is still reeling from the ongoing pandemic, and many of the emerging trends are focused on making it easier and more convenient for customers to place orders and pick up their food. Much of the focus will be on gaining and retaining consumers as we move into the next year.