by Greg Staley, CEO of SynergySuite
Now that we’ve (hopefully) gotten through the worst of the pandemic, better days are (hopefully) ahead for restaurants. While our industry still faces numerous challenges – including soaring prices, supply chain disruptions, and staffing shortages – I’m optimistic about some exciting restaurant trends.
My predictions for the coming months include:
- Ghost kitchens will surge in popularity – As the restaurant industry reacts to a shift in consumer dining preferences, many restaurateurs are embracing ghost kitchens, commercial cooking spaces without the FOH restaurant space, to reduce costs and concentrate fully on to go orders. Ghost kitchens are currently a $43 million industry, and that number is expected to rise to $71.4 billion by 2027. The opportunities and possibilities in this area are endless, and many prestigious brands are embracing this trend.
- Brands will adopt more integrated restaurant technologies – Using manual systems or disjointed software makes it impossible to get a good handle on your data or a holistic view across your business. We are seeing operators put more emphasis on not just having a vendor to solve a problem, but ensuring those vendors work together to avoid creating new problems. Moving forward, brands will rely more heavily on digital solutions, choosing to integrate software to boost visibility, efficiency, productivity, accuracy, safety, and quality – and make better, data-informed decisions.
- Restaurants will shift their business models. Due to the ongoing demand for to go meals, many restaurant owners are rethinking how to maximize their physical space. While some entrepreneurs are opening ghost kitchens, other restaurant owners are pivoting to an expanded back-of-house space and more BOH staffing, rather than the more traditional model that focuses more space, staff, and attention on FOH. Additionally, more restaurants, including some table service establishments, will offer drive thru options in the coming months. And those who already have drive thrus are expanding, adding more lanes, creating dedicated to-go or delivery spaces, and reimagining how the kitchen could change to better serve those off prem guests.
- We’ll see more adoption of AI and automation. Increasingly, restaurants will embrace digital innovations, including automation, which will help optimize workflow, boost productivity, improve margins, etc. Labor shortages will likely accelerate the adoption of automation, such as robotics, in restaurants. For instance, robochefs can augment your BOH staff, kiosks can take the pressure off FOH, and delivery robots are hitting the roads in major cities and on many college campuses.
- Restaurants will woo employees with higher pay and benefits. In late 2021, a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs, and 1 million of them were restaurant and hospitality workers. As the staffing shortage remains one of our industry’s most pressing problems, many restaurants are offering higher pay plus enticing benefits to attract and retain talent. By meeting this higher pay demand, restaurants must rely on tech tools to better manage food and labor costs and increase margins. Restaurants are stepping up to provide fun work environments, competitive pay, enticing benefits, and perks, like same day pay for faster wages, to attract and retain employees.
- We’ll operate more flexibly when it comes to menus. The continued supply chain disruption, combined with the massive inflation we’re facing right now, means restaurants will be more mindful, using foods more efficiently and creatively. While nose to tail cooking has been a trend for years, now we’re going to be thinking of how we can use every resource from pantry to plate for concepts where it makes sense. For others, digital menus combined with real-time inventory will make it easier to put some items on hold temporarily if an ingredient is out of stock and won’t be available for a few hours or days.
- Menus will be streamlined. As certain foods remain difficult to secure, and prices have skyrocketed across the board, restaurants will be simplifying their menus, focusing on available and more affordable products that can be used in multiple ways. Shorter, simpler menus can also reduce labor costs and food waste. According to the National Restaurant Association’s recent survey of industry trends, many restaurants will likely streamline their menus through 2022.
- Contactless ordering and payment will remain in demand. Contactless ordering and payment options, like digital QR-code menus and touchless payments, will continue in 2022. In a recent survey, 94% of restaurants said they offer contactless payment options.
Sometimes seeing the challenges the industry faces can feel disheartening, so it’s important to focus on the many ways operators are innovating and shaping a new and exciting future for restaurants.
Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-house restaurant management platform. Greg focuses on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of intelligent, integrated back-of-house technology. For more information, please contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.