5 hot trends in the restaurant industry right now

Two plates of food, and two glasses of wine on a wooden table decorated with flowers in a small vase.
Two plates of food, and two glasses of wine on a wooden table decorated with flowers in a small vase.
Photo: Stefan Johnson on Unsplash

Trends come and go year after year, some fade out while others stay and become the new normal. Our industry, the restaurant industry, needs these waves of new ideas to survive, thrive, grow and remain exciting for both guests and restaurant staff.

A new era for the restaurant industry

After almost two years of lockdowns and restrictions, the restaurant industry has entered a new era with an open horizon full of change. Let’s explore some of the 2022 trends that will benefit guests, restaurant staff and the climate for years to come.

1. Data insights and time-saving tech solutions

Online reviews, QR-codes, and restaurant analytics — the restaurant industry is starting to embrace technology like never before. 

The restaurant industry is a people-centred industry, where human-to-human interaction will always be an essential part of the experience. That said, there are more and more good reasons to look at tech solutions as ways to protect and improve the best parts of the restaurant business.     

Many restaurants are experiencing overwhelming workloads due to higher demands and understaffing. It’s great news that guests are flocking to the restaurants again, it’s what we want, but it’s tougher to handle during times when there just aren’t enough people to carry out all the tasks.  

By using technology in smart ways, it’s possible to make things a lot easier for everyone. For instance, an online booking system will reduce the workload for staff that’s handling individual bookings via phone or email, and at the same time, everyone gets a much better overview of the total number of bookings. 

QR codes can be time savers and business boosters for big and small restaurants. A restaurant with a menu of the day can make this menu accessible to guests with just a few clicks. No need to print new menus every single day.

Making the QR code scannable already before a guest enters the restaurant, such as in the window or on your website is another good way to improve the guest’s dining journey.  

Data insights from restaurant analytics can improve your business in many ways. It can tell you a lot about peak times, the popularity of your menu items, the user experience on your website and how well your marketing strategies are paying off. This translates to wasting less time, money energy and food!

2: Is this food good for me and the climate?

Cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, cabbage and other vegetables lined up next to each other.
Photo: Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

Another current trend in the restaurant industry is an increased health- and climate consciousness among guests.

The pandemic changed our attitude when it comes to health. Guests still want gourmet dining and comfort food, but at the same time, they want to indulge in these pleasures while doing something that benefits their health and the climate. It sounds like a difficult equation, but it doesn’t have to be.  

A menu with functional food options, such as kimchi, kombucha and other fermented delicacies, will cater to health-conscious guests. Moreover, because this is a growing guest demographic it’s also an area where it’s relatively easy to attract more guests to a restaurant.  

Plant-based foods are no longer just sought after by vegans and vegetarian guests. Many more people are looking to cut down on their meat consumption. Therefore, menus with greener protein options squeezed in among meat dishes are the way forward for restaurants that want to make guests happy. 

And speaking about vegans and vegetarians, let’s take a look at how many potential restaurant guests these amount to:

Denmark: 

10% of the population are vegetarians and 4 % are vegan (2020) 

Finland:  

12% of the population are vegetarians and 2% are vegan (2021) 

Estonia: 

6% of the population are vegetarians and 1% are vegan (2020) 

Norway:  

9% of the population are vegetarians and 4% are vegan (2020)  

Sweden: 

12% of the population are vegetarians and 4% are vegan (2020) 

Germany: 

10% of the population are vegetarians and 2% are vegan (2021) 

Hungary: 

5% of the population are vegetarians and 1% are vegan  (2022)

3: Less is more — simpler restaurant menus

When it’s busy in the kitchen and the floor is on fire, keeping track of orders is a lot easier with a simpler menu. 

With food prices getting higher and staff shortages hitting hard on many restaurants, large menus are shrinking and shrinking.  

But these aren’t the only reason menus are getting simpler. Among guests, there seems to be a general idea that a restaurant with too many options might not be able to maintain the same quality on all dishes. Sure, it’s great to have lots to choose from, but guests will be happy with fewer options if this means the food is tastier and the ingredients are fresher.  

The risk of food waste will also be significantly smaller if a restaurant doesn’t have to buy ingredients for 120 different dishes.  

Keeping the menu short and sweet just makes sense all around. It’s easier for the chefs to master each dish to perfection, the food gets more love, taking orders from the guests will be faster and there’s lots of money to save on ingredients. 

4: Mocktails and other alcohol-free drinks 

Two red mocktails served and low glasses and decorated with sprigs of thyme. There are two lemon halves in the background.
Photo: Rirri on Unsplash

Non-alcoholic cocktails, more festively known as mocktails, alcohol-free beer and other drinks without alcohol keep gaining popularity.

A fast search on Google Trends shows us that search terms such as “best non-alcoholic cocktails” and “non-alcoholic beer” have peaked in many countries during the last year.

Guests still want good wine and craft beer, but they also want to be able to pair their food with equally tasty alcohol-free options whenever that’s what their day and mood call for.  

Many restaurants are already offering a juice menu alongside their wine menus, something which is interesting to try whether someone is skipping alcohol for health concerns or just wants the flavour rush.  

Beautiful mocktails with fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs are in higher and higher demand. They taste great and add a luxurious touch to a regular weekday — a good way to make guests come in on a rainy Wednesday! 

5: Restaurant events and other ways to reduce no-shows 

Having to spend time, money and resources on guests that never show up is getting increasingly unacceptable for restaurants. 

No-shows are bad for business, and they increase the risk of food waste. But restaurants are finding many new ways to tackle this issue. Using prepayment is one way to make the guest feel more committed to the restaurant visit. Asking for prepayment as part of the booking process is getting more and more common, and most guests won’t mind as long as the terms and conditions are stated clearly when they’re booking.  

Selling tickets to dining events is a great way to make guests feel committed. This also adds to their dining experience and makes your restaurant stand out in the crowd. The restaurant guests of 2022 are hungry for more experiences and will happily buy a ticket for a dinner with live music, a wine tasting, a food workshop or other fun events — the possibilities are as many as your imagination can reach.  

Today’s restaurant trends are building blocks for the future

As we have seen, a lot is happening in the restaurant industry. Sometimes we need obstacles to find new and better ways of doing things. Trends are building blocks for the future. We try them out, and when we decide they’re good we build on them to make them better. If a trend doesn’t quite catch on it fades out. That probably means it wasn’t as good as we thought, but hey, we never find out if we don’t try.

Learning from each other, sharing experiences and finding inspiration by looking outward is the best way to keep the industry alive and thriving!