Along with the fashion, business, travel, health and other industries that changed in the course of the three years of Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that followed it, restaurant industry too adopted new trends as owners explored innovative ways to improve on-site and off-site experiences for guests and zeroed on strategies that stick, whether they own or run a fast-casual restaurant or a full-service establishment. To discover the strategies that will shape the restaurant industry in the coming months of 2022, we got a few experts on board to spill the beans.
From plant-based trend to locally sourced ingredients, par-cooked or pre-cooked meals in food kits, Instagrammable restaurants and cloud kitchens, there are plenty of exciting and hot restaurant trends that are defining the upcoming months of 2022. Talking about the plant-based trend in an interview with HT Lifestyle, Kunal Mutha, Founder of Only Earth, shared, “The majority of the leading restaurants today have vegan options or dedicated vegan menus to address the growing demand from health-conscious consumers. We have observed that oat milk has become such a popular option as it works very well with hot beverages such as tea/coffee, blends quite nicely with smoothies and also is being used as an ingredient in kitchens to make dishes. It doesn’t have an overpowering taste like other plant-based milk so people are more open to trying it. Hence, there is a high possibility that more chains will start dropping their surcharge being charged for use of plant-based milk. Some cafes have already made oat milk the default alternative to dairy milk.”
Highlighting the seltzer surge in restaurants and bars, Krupa Shah, Co-Founder of IST Seltzer, revealed, “Restaurants and bars are always searching for an innovative and new drinking experience and Hard Seltzers are the new trending beverage. Restaurateurs have embraced it as an easy day drink since it doesn’t make you feel as heavy and bloated as a beer, or often as a substitute for cocktails, which are high in sugar and alcohol content. Moreover, Hard Seltzers have also become highly sought-after as an alternative for so many who want to unwind with a drink but are still watching their waistlines! Particularly, Hard Seltzers are served in high-end restaurants in a gobbler over ice and decorative garnishing and community bars and pubs serve it as a refreshing, convenient and affordable choice to consumers for an elevated drinking experience.”
Elaborating upon what’s hot in the restaurant, Krishna Reddy,Co-Founder and Chef of Autumn Leaf Bistro Goa and Hyderabad, listed:
1. The growing trend of Instagrammable restaurants #myphoneeatsfirst: The way Millennials use social media, particularly Instagram, is one of the most noticeable changes in consumer behaviour. Restaurants have picked up on the trend, and a new wave of ‘Insta-friendly’ restaurants is opening all over the world with a unique, picture-perfect sense of place, from landmark murals to colour-changing lighting fixtures. From the kitchen to the dining room, social sharing is becoming more prevalent.
2. The mainstreaming of unconventional eating habits: The fixation with healthy food has gone popular in recent years, and special diets, generally centered on “free-from” meals, have proliferated. Most consumers appear to be experimenting with some form of eating style, from vegan to keto, paleo, macros, and gluten-free, and restaurants are now catching on to the trend. More main meals and menus geared to cater to this rising segment of diners are expected to appear in the coming months. More vegetable-centric and vegan main courses will be available, with plant-based replacements increasingly being utilized to make mainstays like burgers, spaghetti, and pizza more appealing to vegan, low-calorie, and low-carb consumers.
3. Technology-first: As more people look online for their next meal, being able to identify your business online is becoming increasingly vital. This entails being more tech-savvy and keeping up with current internet delivery trends. To maximize your online reach, use popular delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato.
4. Less traditional marketing, more digital: Digital marketing will take precedence. Having a solid digital presence for your business will be critical for years to come. You’ll have to focus fully on your digital storefront even if you have a physical storefront.
5. Solo diners: One set of customers, in particular, is proven to be a bright spot for expansion – solo diners. While most solo diners come for the food alone, quality service is also important and should not be overlooked. There are two categories of solo diners: those who want to participate and those who want to be alone, and the service personnel must determine which category they belong into.
Adding to the list, Pranav Dhuri, Managing Director at Tato’s Fine Dining and Petisco in Goa, shared:
1. Pop-ups: Restaurants, Chefs, and Bartenders would like to pop up in different cities across India, to have better outreach and get themselves into the market. Restaurants will pick up this trend to showcase their food beyond the boundaries of their location.
2. Focus on locally sourced ingredients: An increasing number of restaurants are already following this trend, and more will get on board to keep the freshness of products and also help local producers grow.
3. Focus on bar programs: Along with food, cocktails are becoming a big part of a dining experience. More bars will start focusing on improving their bar programs, and playing around with their spirits and concoctions to give guests a complete dining experience.
4. Deliveries and cloud kitchens: As we brace for another wave, according to predictions by the experts. The industry has shifted focus towards deliveries and cloud kitchens. High-end restaurants would like to focus on their own deliveries rather than relying on 3rd party applications due to high commissions and also handling of the food. Food kits might be the next trend to go around where the meals may be par-cooked or precooked and left for the customers to assemble in order to make it more interactive and also to keep the freshness intact by the time it gets delivered. Cloud kitchen will come into action where restaurants can start programs like bread programs, and dessert programs. This will help restaurants to expand their horizon, where they would be able to service and provide products to the dine-in guests plus also at the same time open up delivery options for base products like loaves of bread and pastries.
5. Smaller and simplified menus: The size of menus will continue to reduce in the upcoming months in order to save costs and also to focus more on the quality of the product than the quantity. We are seeing a rise in food costs due to the rise in ingredient costs, fuel costs, and other overheads, smaller menus might help restaurants in defining focus and lesser inventory and more SOPs.
6. Labour issues: Labour issues will torment the industry for the coming months, skilled labour is becoming scarce, and also rise in the number of restaurants and increased demand for skilled labour in the industry is at an all-time high, which intern has also increased the labour costs. This will also be another factor to go for smaller menus as it’ll reduce the man force requirements. Restauranteurs might even look for more automation, to reduce dependency.