The Restaurant Business: Trends to Watch in 2022

The Restaurant Business: Trends to Watch in 2022

The restaurant industry has built a reputation as fast-moving, adaptable and attuned to consumer demands. But it’s rarely been tested as it has in the past two years.

As the world continues to re-emerge from its post-COVID stupor (or mid-COVID, depending on who you ask), and as new technologies, ethical priorities and economic conditions challenge industry norms, restaurateurs have been forced to face big changes on the horizon.

This article charts a few of the most significant restaurant trends in 2022: culinary crazes, consumer expectations, business-led sustainability practices and more. Join us in the kitchen.

The Continued Rise of Delivery, Ghost Brands

It’s tempting to attribute the rise of delivery and ghost kitchens to COVID. In truth, the trend was well-established before the pandemic hit. Consumers have become accustomed to on-demand service and app-enabled ordering for everything – and food is no different. On the business side, ghost kitchens make fiscal sense for many restaurateurs unconcerned with a brick-and-mortar presence.

Experts expect to see delivery apps, and the ghost brands contained therein, to continue rising in the coming year. But the trend might be stifled by a post-COVID enthusiasm for indoor dining.

Vegan Comfort Food

First on the menu is vegan comfort food.

On the one hand, the last two years gave rise to a renewed interest in comfort food, as consumers understandably sought comfort in nostalgic, rich and satisfying fare. On the other hand, more consumers feel drawn toward sustainable, eco-conscious diets like veganism. These phenomena come together to spur “vegan comfort food” into popularity. CNBC tipped it as a top restaurant trend this year, a forecast echoed by a Kroger’s annual report. But you can look at the ground level for evidence of the trend’s massive popularity.

Vegan comfort foods restaurants like Parka Food Co in Toronto are gaining lots of attention. Local and national outlets like BlogTO and Foodism have praised Parka’s menu – which includes comfort stables like mac n’ “cheese,” poutine and creative plant-based burgers – and consumers are similarly enthusiastic. Not only does the restaurant, and those like it, deliver comforting food, but they do so sustainably with local ingredients.

Price Changes, Simplified Menus and Increased Sustainability Efforts

It’s challenging to foretell what effect inflation will have on the restaurant industry as a whole. Or, for that matter, the effect of disrupted supply chains. In all likelihood, these economic and logistical shifts will have numerous, diffuse impacts.

Some industry observers predict simplified menus that work around common supply chain holdups. Others forecast an emphasis on sustainability and lowered food waste to maximize profits in the face of growing food prices. And, of course, many anticipate higher prices for menu items.

Mocktails on the Rise

Finally, expect to see more mocktails hit menus near you. Recently, mock alcohol products have undergone a renaissance, thanks to innovative craft purveyors pouring more attention into their products (no pun intended). These drinks – like mock gin and non-alcoholic herbal liqueurs –are a far cry from the standard dealcoholized beers that used to line the supermarket aisles. And they speak to a growing number of consumers looking to strike a post-pandemic balance with alcohol.

As consumers grow more conscientious about their diets, consumption, environmental impact and personal finances, these trends will continue to make a significant splash in the restaurant industry. Expect to see these trends dominate the fourth quarter of 2022 – and beyond.