forecasts from D.C.’s National Restaurant Association

Restaurant Industry Trends: What’s New in 2022

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The restaurant industry has been in a continual state of evolution. From the reinforcement of restaurant inspection requirements in the 20th century to the introduction of digital point-of-sale systems in the 21st, the last 100 years alone have been an exercise in adaptability for restaurateurs.

But no one could prepare for the monumental changes the industry has witnessed in the last couple of years. Rapidly advancing technology, decisive new alcohol service mandates, shifting consumer expectations, and a seismic global health event have conspired to create big changes for American restaurants.

As with most changes and innovations, the results should be a net positive for the industry. This article details a few notable restaurant industry trends and headlines defining 2022.

In the Long Shadow of COVID – Disruptions and the Road to Recovery

Decades from now, restaurateurs will probably look back on 2022 as the tail end of the COVID era (one hopes, at least). While the last three years were marked by sizable disruptions to service, supply chains and labor markets, 2022 appears to be on the road to recovery.

Granted, some restaurants are still feeling the strain – the supply chain and labor shortage whiplash of a country emerging from its pandemic stupor. But forecasts from D.C.’s National Restaurant Association indicate that restaurant sales are back to their pre-COVID upward trajectory.

Changing Regulations and Certification Requirements

For restaurants in California, 2022 will probably be remembered as the advent of the RBS era.

Back in 2017, the California State Legislature passed AB 1221, requiring the Alcohol Board of California (ABC) to create a Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) program for alcohol servers and managers. In July of this year, we saw the culmination of those efforts as the new law went into effect.

As of July 1st, California alcohol servers and managers are required to successfully complete a RBS training program and pass an ABC exam. The program teaches servers and managers topics like how to avoid overservice and service to minors, as well as the greater societal impacts of alcohol. All told, it’s a relatively simple and inexpensive program; servers and managers can complete courses through Userve in an evening on their computer or mobile device.

More states may follow suit. If you’re wondering, where is RBS certification required? Visit the link provided, which also has an enrollment option.

Restaurants in the Mobile, On-Demand Era

The rise of on-demand ordering apps is undoubtedly one of the biggest trends in the industry recently. The popularity of apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, etc., has prompted several restaurants to swerve their attention toward delivery sales. It has also precipitated the rise of ghost kitchens, cloud kitchens and pop-up delivery brands operating out of conventional kitchens.

Statista reports that online food delivery revenue will climb to US$466 billion by 2027, an impressive annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6%.

Sustainability and Eco-Consciousness

Finally, the industry has started to slowly but surely place a greater emphasis on sustainability. You see the trend manifested on menus across the country, many of which are embracing local and organic products.

But the trend is most noticeable as a response to the rise of delivery services (see above). As delivery skyrockets in popularity, consumers are demanding more sustainable packaging options: recycled materials, compostable packaging, and fewer single-use plastics, for instance. According to McKinsey, the majority of American consumers say they are willing to pay extra for sustainable packaging.

These are just a few trends currently defining 2022. If you are a restaurant owner or manager, research these items in greater detail to learn more about where the industry is heading.