Few business segments are as affected by trends as the restaurant industry is. Fast food and salad bars were once innovations. Think about the changes that you’ve witnessed throughout your restaurant-going years. Formats like automats and smorgasbords have seen waves of popularity, as have menu items including Steak Diane and Pasta Primavera and fads such as car hops and dining in the dark. Don’t scare your kids with the news, but there was even a time before children’s menus were routinely available.
The most successful restaurants don’t just hop on the latest trends. They anticipate them and proactively prepare for their arrival. These trends are headed your way in 2023. Is your business ready?
Behind the Scenes: High Wholesale Costs and Staffing Remain Challenging
Everything will continue to cost more in 2023. In a Forbes article, Taylor Morabito, the owner of New York’s famed Friend of a Farmer restaurant, said, “While labor shortages have begun to improve, I think the biggest challenge the industry currently faces is the drastic increase in food cost, specifically within the world of poultry, meat & fish…I believe that restaurant owners & management will be navigating around this particular challenge for quite some time.” Government predictions back him up. An August, 2022 report from the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that food prices rose 11.4% in only a year. Staples were particularly hard-hit. Bread prices rose 16.2%; eggs were up 39.8%. Experts anticipate that, while factors such as the war in Ukraine, inflation, and actions by the Federal Reserve Bank will impact costs in 2023, costs will remain high. Some restaurants will have to raise prices in response; others will modify menu items.
During the pandemic, millions of workers quit their jobs, leading Dr. Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University to coin the term “Great Resignation.” All areas of the hospitality sector have been hit particularly hard and the labor shortage carried into 2022, when nearly 10% of industry jobs remained unfilled, especially at management levels. Heading into 2023, a majority of restaurant owners expect staffing issues to continue. Operators will be offering raises and bonuses to employees who stay and embracing technology to replace those who leave.
Diner Expectations: Off-Premises Dining and Contactless Ordering/Payments Continue to Expand
As the nation was locked down during the pandemic, many restaurants pivoted to options that allowed consumers to enjoy restaurant meals off-site. Even as restrictions eased, 60% of U.S. consumers continued to order takeout or delivery at least once each week in 2022. DoorDash, which launched in 2012 as a small local service in Palo Alto, was responsible for 40% of all food orders this year. Their marketshare continues to increase, even as that of other services declines. While it’s clear that many diners prefer to remain at home, it’s also evident that those who dine in have little patience for disruptions caused by online ordering. Restaurants will have to offer meals through various channels with equal dexterity.
“From the consumer perspective, there’s nothing more convenient than having the restaurant come to them. – Nigel Travis, Dunkin’ Donuts CEO
Diners remained apprehensive about restaurant safety and cleanliness in 2022. One way that restaurants have been dealing with that concern is by offering contactless ordering and payment options. One popular system is delivered via QR codes that patrons scan to access online menus. Staff delivers items to the table. At the end of the meal, checkout is simple with a credit card, essential as a majority of customers reduce their dependence on cash. Many systems even allow patrons to easily split the bill. This innovative technology, expected to expand in 2023, minimizes disease transmission by eliminating menus as germ vectors and even streamlines kitchen processes, saving time and money for business owners.
Food Trends: What Successful Restaurants Will Serve Up Next Year
An Oracle survey reports that diners are more interested in the environment than ever before. 93% want companies to reduce food waste. 42% would like companies to use reduced or zero-emission vehicles for deliveries. The most profitable companies will be those who respond to those demands. Restaurants who demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through meatless options, locally-sourced ingredients, effective waste management, composing, and even details like paper straws will fare well. Those that back up their commitment with visible donations to environmental charities and community organizations will do even better.
Diners are giving more thought than ever before to what’s in the food they eat. According to one recent report, “The Global Organic Food Market was valued at $89.8B in 2016 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 15.5% from 2018 to 2024, reaching $375.98B by the end of the forecast period. According to the report, North America was the largest contributor in terms of revenue to the global organic food market. The restaurant industry will respond by offering cleaner menu items than in past years, and by creating marketing campaigns to ensure that diners know they’re available.
It’s been a rough couple of years. It’s not much of a surprise that, at home and in restaurants, people are craving dishes that make them feel comfortable and well cared-for. Favorites like macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, and meat loaf are as beloved as ever. They are even more popular when they’re creatively elevated in dishes like lobster mac and cheese or chef David Burke’s Millionaire’s Meatloaf with chili shrimp.
Some businesses are thriving by eliminating the very thing that once defined the restaurant experience: a dining room. What makes them so trendy is the quality of the food. Especially popular during the pandemic, a ghost kitchen is a secret location that’s only used for takeout or delivery service, with no dine-in option. Now, many chefs opt for a ghost kitchen because it enables them to focus all of their energy on the food. They continue to be preferred by in-the-know patrons who enjoy top-notch food without the fuss of dressing up and going out for the evening.