UK Restaurant trends to look out for in 2022

The past 12 months saw the appetite for eating out return amongst diners as we emerged from lockdown, and it looks like you can expect more of the same going into next year. But which restaurant trends will be all the rage for 2022, exciting diners and helping businesses evolve to meet demand? That’s the purpose of this piece, which looks at emerging restaurant trends and what you can expect throughout 2022.

The festive season leads the way

Christmas is the first real nationwide celebration to take place since the end of lockdowns. It offers a glance into the future, with restaurants able to gauge diner behaviour and get a better idea of how the next 12 months may look.

So far, the outlook is promising, with a recent OpenTable survey revealing that diners are eager to get out and celebrate this winter. And there’s no reason why that mindset won’t continue into 2022, as restaurant-goers make the most of being able to dine and socialise without restrictions.

If 2021 signalled the recovery stage for restaurants, then 2022 is all about maximising potential as life gets back to normal.

It’s all about the experience

Creating a unique restaurant experience will be a recurring theme throughout 2022, especially as far as one of the UK’s most important consumers is concerned. Research reveals that millennials have the greatest spending power of all demographics and spend 13 per cent of their income at restaurants and bars.

For millennials, it’s all about the restaurant experience, with 78 per cent saying they prefer spending their money at a spot offering them a unique experience. That’s why it’s important to give your guests more than just a meal, no matter their age range. People are seeking out an alternative from the norm and are ready to tell their friends and family about the unique experience they had at a restaurant.

You can feed into that desire for new experiences by ensuring your place offers something different, whether it’s curated menus for specific occasions or transforming part of your restaurant temporarily.

With OpenTable’s Experiences feature, you can customise meal moments for diners and promote them in advance. Offering unique experiences in your restaurant is fast becoming an expectation from customers, and it’s on course to be one of 2022’s biggest trends.

Be more than a restaurant

It’s time to flex your creative chops and go beyond the food. Restaurants mean a lot to diners, and they often want to feel a connection that transcends menus. One way to do that is by offering restaurant merchandise.

It grew in popularity during the pandemic, as businesses looked for alternative ways to generate income. And restaurant merch has proven to be a successful venture, with diners happy to snap up t-shirts, jumpers, tote bags and more in an effort to support and represent their favourite spots.

Offering merchandise gives you a chance to upsell and add new revenue streams. Previously, merchandise was only really something larger restaurants with multiple locations did, but now smaller establishments are getting in on the act. In fact, a whole host of eateries of all shapes and sizes are enjoying success by selling merchandise, including spots like Ottolenghi with its limited-edition linen tablecloth.

With restaurant-related merch, you can add another dynamic to your business model and hop on a trend that looks set to grow next year.

Taking delivery to the next level

The pandemic supercharged delivery, but it was already taking off long before Covid became a regular word in our vocabulary. You only need to look at the rise of Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat to see demand for food delivery increase exponentially, and getting meals delivered to diners’ doors will become even more accessible in the future.

Enhancements to technology continue at a rapid pace. One way that restaurants can benefit from the use of tech is through drones, with improvements to the tech leading us to the point where we aren’t far away from drone-led deliveries becoming normality.

UberEats is already at an advanced stage with its delivery drones, while Just Eat has previously trialled airborne delivery services after partnering with drone manufacturer Manna. Getting deliveries from the sky is becoming a reality, and it’s something we can expect to see more of next year and beyond.

Drone deliveries are particularly helpful for people who want food delivered to their homes but live in remote locations – a drone can reach them much faster than a human driving a vehicle. There are already air-drone delivery services happening in some parts of the United States, and it won’t be long until you’re handing over the dish of the day to a drone for a speedy delivery.

The digital revolution continues

Digital and delivery were two key trends from the pandemic, and both look set to grow further in the next 12 months. That’s especially true for digital approaches, with restaurants that are tapped into the digitisation of food set to benefit in the short and long term.

Expect more eateries to have a presence on multiple online delivery platforms while also offering direct ordering on their websites. This doesn’t just apply to deliveries, with indoor dining also benefiting from a digital approach. Two-fifths of millennials want to be able to book their table via an online service.

Diners also want as much information as possible before visiting somewhere, and having a strong presence online allows you to connect with guests long before they arrive at your restaurant. Digital is now part of the fabric of restaurants and will play a key role in current and future decisions.

OpenTable continues to be a digital outlet for your spot, adding convenience and increasing exposure to both local and international diners. Features like digital ordering gives guests contactless menus and the ability to order and pay digitally, while boost campaigns increase the number of eyes on your restaurant. Plus, you can edit menus in real-time and keep customers updated with the latest dishes, all while giving them direct digital access to your restaurant.

Moving towards sustainability

A Waitrose survey revealed that 70 per cent of its shoppers are thinking about carbon footprint and its relation to food. People are becoming more conscious about the environment while looking to organisations and businesses, including restaurants, to lead the way.

People are making more sustainable choices which has led to a change in food habits. In 2022, offering vegan options on your menu should be a given. But restaurant-goers will also be keen to see how else you’re going green and reducing carbon emissions while meeting the needs of guests.

From cooking seasonal ingredients to partnering with the right producers and going plastic-free, there are plenty of ways for restaurants to be more sustainable. You don’t need to transform your spot into an eco haven of food, but 2022 is time to start making small steps if you haven’t done so already.

Summary: 2022 and beyond

In an ideal world, 2022 will see the back of Covid, with restaurants able to focus on offering unique experiences to diners while growing their business. So whether you’re getting ready to deliver with drones, continue embracing digital or equip your menu with the latest ingredients, next year offers the chance to take your restaurant to the next level. And the trends on this list can help you along the way.

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