The last two years have been nothing short of transformative for the food and beverage industry. But if this tumultuous time has proven anything, it’s that people are resilient. Whether you’re the owner of a small, independent restaurant, operator of a national chain or first-time manager of a local craft brewery, these changes may have disrupted your plans, but they have not hindered your dedication and passion for the work that you do.
An October 2021 Acosta Report identifies a number of insights that continue to shape the foodservice landscape relative to how consumers are dining out. From increased carry-out and a greater demand for menu item variety, to more interest in outdoor dining options and ghost kitchens, consumers still want to get out and support their local restaurants and bars.
Although the desire to return to a sense of normalcy is strong, the ability to adapt to this ever-changing landscape is even stronger. Here are 6 foodservice and beverage trends expected to continue into 2022 and tips on how you can stay prepared while continuing to serve your faithful customers.
#1 Curbside Pickup, Delivery and To-Go
When a large percentage of your customer base wants nothing more than a night out – enjoying great food with friends and family – but still feel uncertain and cautious about dining in at their favorite local restaurant, curbside and delivery service is still your best option.
From a manufacturing perspective, new and innovative products continue to be developed that directly support the growing need of takeout. Updated to-go packaging and equipment directly improve the quality of the food, as well as the service being provided. As such, this part of the foodservice industry continues to see growth by providing restaurants a greater variety of options to work with.
The biggest focus – one that restaurant owners should be most concerned with – is providing their customers with an experience that closely resembles what they have come to expect when they would otherwise be enjoying their meal from the dining room. The gap in time between when the meal is boxed up, delivered to the customer’s home or handed off at a curbside point of sale, and actually sitting down and eating it is at the heart of the issue. Regardless of whether it’s a five-minute delay or a thirty-minute journey, the experience needs to be the same and of the highest quality.
In addition to the importance of food quality is the safety and security measures that are tied to it. As third-party food delivery operators own the greatest share of this space, consumers seek reassurance that the food they ordered is untampered and safe to consume. Thankfully, products that focus on tamper-resistant packaging, as well as adhesives and tamper-proof paper strips, are common throughout the industry. These products provide a greater sense of safety and peace of mind for both the consumer and the restaurant owner.
#2 Addressing Labor Concerns
The advancements in the field of robotics continues to be integrated into several industries. At a time when finding and hiring qualified candidates to fill a variety of important roles has become difficult at best, looking to robotics to enhance the efficiencies and operations of your restaurant or bar is worth considering.
Robotics advancements in foodservice technology are helping to ease the burdens associated with a reduction in staff. From salads and pizza to coffee and wine, foodservice robotics are enhancing touchless operations and finding their space in restaurants across the country. Now might be a good time to start considering these technological innovations to assist with your busiest time of the day.
Smart equipment, combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) in the kitchen, also remain front and center. These devices have become more user-friendly and provide interface and connectivity options that focus on efficiency and sustainability. Programming this kitchen equipment frees up staff to work on a variety of other functions that may otherwise have been ignored.
#3 Digital Waitlist
Offering a digital waitlist provides many benefits. For customers, using a digital waitlist allows them to be free to go about their busy schedule without fear of losing a spot at their favorite restaurant. Foodservice operators are better equipped to accurately manage the busiest times of the day, seamlessly engage with their customers – keeping them up to date on their reservations – and enjoy the opportunity to turn additional tables on a regular basis.
Waitlist technology assists restaurant and bar owners to better manage their customers’ needs by establishing more accurate wait times based on table size and number of guests. Integrating this mobile technology with your website allows customers to easily refer to current specials, take note of any planned events and begin to peruse the menu, well before they arrive or are seated.
A digital waitlist refines and automates the previously manual process of taking and managing reservations while freeing up your staff to concentrate on providing your guests with enhanced customer service and memorable experiences.
#4 Patio Dining to Meet Changing Demands
When given the option, diners often choose to eat their meals and enjoy their beverages in an outdoor setting. It’s an opportunity for them to experience a more relaxed atmosphere, accompanied by fresh air and sunshine. For restaurants, bars and craft breweries, the outdoor gathering is a great way to engage with their customers and increase profits.
Whether you're in the Midwest – where making the most of every spring day and summer night is a priority – or you’re fortunate enough to experience comfortable weather year-round, expanding your restaurant or brewery with a patio or rooftop terrace requires more than simple access to additional square footage. Adequate preparation, design work and planning are also part of that recipe for success.
Keeping your customers comfortable is just as important as the meals they are served. Balmy weather can quickly and unexpectedly turn to cooler temperatures. Be prepared and consider the variety of patio heating options that will not only keep your customers comfortable and content, but allow you to extend your patio season as summer days inevitably transition to fall temperatures. There are several heating options – electric, natural gas and propane – available to ensure your guests stay longer and help boost the bottom line.
#5 Ghost Kitchens
With the continued demand for delivery and takeout, many restaurant owners are moving away from the traditional dine-in restaurant model and toward the concept of a centralized kitchen – an idea that, over the years, has taken on a variety of names: production kitchen, delivery-only kitchen, delivery-only restaurant, cloud kitchen, kitchen incubator, commissary kitchen, community kitchen, and ghost kitchen.
According to Statista, the global ghost kitchen market size was estimated at 43.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and is currently forecasted to reach as high as 71.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2027. This predicted growth is a direct result of the rise in available and enhanced technology, an increase in mobile food delivery services and a continued realignment of traditional, in-person dining restaurants moving their business models to more of a delivery-focused format.
Virtual restaurants have also caught on with many of the more-established chain or multi-unit restaurants as an expedited alternative to expanding their existing portfolio. It allows for new franchisees to enter the restaurant business without the added risks often associated with investing time and money into the more traditional operation. Franchisee owners can maximize their delivery business without needing to maintain and manage a brick-and-mortar restaurant – whether that’s an existing building or the buildout of a new location – or worry about the associated monthly leasing and overhead costs.
#6 Adjusting to Supply Demands
Working closely with your supplier is the best opportunity for you to overcome today’s ongoing supply shortage issues. Be open to the idea of alternate (and available) product solutions that will help you through the coming weeks and months.
At Boelter, communication is our number one priority – communication within Boelter’s organization, between Boelter and our various suppliers and, most importantly, with our valued customers. We are taking a much more proactive stance in the face of these supply and shipping issues.
Boelter has its finger on the pulse of this continuously changing environment. We are taking the necessary steps to better maintain a focus on your needs, while actively preparing for the next busy industry season, whether that’s the next holiday or major event. By understanding which products will most likely be in the greatest demand, we are doing everything that we can to plan accordingly and work with you to ensure you’re able to continue serving your guests.
When keeping up with the latest commercial kitchen trends, there are a lot of factors to consider. A seasoned professional can help you make the right decisions for your business. Reach out to us to get started.