Restaurants that are operating today have managed to survive uncontrollable external factors like the pandemic, staffing shortages, supply chain delays, and inflation. Although restaurants should begin to regain more financial stability and see a return to indoor dining in 2022, industry trends from the past year will still maintain a lasting effect into this new year. According to Yelp’s 2021 Annual Report, last year had an increase in new business openings, despite how many restaurants in the U.S. permanently closed the previous year. A record high of inflation-related customer reviews appeared on Yelp, all while consumers began to return to buffets and communal dining.
Being conscious of consumer and industry trends such as these allows restaurants to make informed business decisions on what they need to do to adapt. Accessing precise data from Brizo FoodMetrics gives restaurant industry vendors and foodservice operators better insight into trends as they emerge, and what technologies and features are needed to support restaurant businesses.
Inflation and consumer spending
In 2021, inflation in the United States hit a 39 year high. Luckily for restaurants, various types of foodservice operations, and other businesses, this has not yet affected consumer spending habits. However, Yelp’s gathered data did find that customer reviews that mentioned inflation or higher prices were at an all-time high in Q4 of 2021. Phrases such as “more expensive”, “higher prices”, and “used to be cheaper” appeared frequently in reviews.
Despite this, customers are seeking out higher-priced businesses. According to Yelp’s 2021 Annual Report, searches for businesses labeled as “$$$$” (the highest price point on Yelp) surged by 56%, while searches for “$$$” pricepoint increased by 31%.
Inflation, Restaurant Businesses, and Menu Items
The pandemic on its own was enough to deal with, but it has also caused delays in the global supply chain, therefore leading to inflation. Even though customer spending habits have yet to be affected by inflation, it has increased operating costs for restaurants.
What types of foodservice operations does inflation affect? The rise in the price of ingredients is being experienced by all establishments, from quick-service operations to fine dining concepts.Top-grossing restaurants may feel the effects less, but others that operate on razor-thin profit margins will likely have to adjust how they operate.
In response to inflation, menus can be simplified, with dishes making use of more affordable ingredients. Prices will likely need to be raised, and for now, customer spending habits will stay the same despite higher prices.
Inflation has even affected dollar menus and value items at quick-service chains; these particular items often have the tightest margins. McDonald’s quietly removed some of its Dollar Menu items, while increasing the prices of other items on this menu. Lil Caesars raised the price of their Hot-N-Ready pizzas for the first time.
On the flipside, Del Taco found a way to take advantage of the inflation. This month, the quick-service Mexican food chain launched a $2 value menu to attract customers that are frustrated with inflation.
New Restaurant Business Openings
It seems counterintuitive, but 2021 saw an influx of new business openings throughout various industries. How many restaurants in the U.S. are newly opened? Restaurant and various types of foodservice operations openings increased by 10 percent from 2020, totaling 74,616 new establishments. Southern states led the U.S. in new business growth, with Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana in the lead.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report, more than half of restaurant operators said it would be a year or more before business conditions return to normal. New business openings in 2021 demonstrate continued resilience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Reliance on technology will continue to be a necessity for restaurants that opened last year, and those that will open this year. Top-grossing restaurants will be the ones that employ technology such as kitchen management software, automation, streamlined online ordering, loyalty programs, and customer personalization.
Return to Communal Dining and Buffets
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on buffets, communal dining, and food hall concepts. Sharing serving utensils with strangers at a lunch buffet or a hot pot meal with a large group of people is not exactly “COVID safe”.
As we start to see indoor dining restrictions lift throughout the nation and a gradual lessening of coronavirus cases, these shared dining experiences are increasing in popularity. There is a pent-up desire for consumers to once again dine out with loved ones – according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report, 51 percent of adults say they aren’t eating at restaurants as often as they would like.
Restaurants have now had the time and opportunity to incorporate appropriate safety measures and contactless technology to accommodate this style of dining.
Yelp determined what communal dining experiences increased in popularity based on users viewing business pages, posting photos, or writing reviews. Based on this, one dining category that saw the largest increase in consumer interest from Q4 of 2020 to Q4 of 2021 was “dinner and theater”. Following this category, “conveyor belt sushi”, “hot pot”, “buffets”, “dim sum”, “tapas”, and “food courts” also saw a surge in consumer interest.
Using Data to Stay on Top of Industry Trends
As all types of foodservice operations continue to navigate the complexities of the pandemic and other external factors in 2022, paying attention to industry and consumer trends is crucial. Brizo FoodMetrics offers data from over 500,000 data sources, delivering three unique scores for over 1,200,000 eating and drinking establishments. With this insight and our technology, you can stay on top of industry trends and consumer preferences as they emerge. Top-grossing establishments, industry vendors, and successful restaurateurs know that data is gold. Reach out to us today to experience a free trial of Brizo FoodMetrics.