Top Dining Trends for 2022 — And They Aren’t What You Think

As we’re moving into the 2nd month of Q4 of the 2021 year, can we just pause and reflect on what a year it’s been? We’re a solid 20 months or so into post-Covid world, we’ve pivoted to contactless everything, and technology has taken the restaurant industry by storm in a way that would have otherwise taken years to accomplish. And that tech evolution might be one of the most prevalent of silver lining’s in the entire coronavirus upheaval in the world of the operator. Now that we’ve made the transition to digital, the ability to share information and reach your dining audience has become easier than ever before. On the same token, this new digital age is allowing restaurants to more easily grasp the desires and demands of their diner, and meet them in an efficient manner. That being said, here are some of the top dining trends for 2022, and you might be surprised to find out that they aren’t really about food at all.

Nutrition

This is arguably one of the most health-conscious times in the history of our nation. Since the COVID outbreak, Americans have been devouring as much information that they can about nutrition, food composition, superfoods and even healthy practices for consuming foods. There’s been an uptick in consumer demand for nutritional transparency as a result. Daily, more and more customers are coming into the dining room asking their servers for the information about individual meals that they want to try. And where questions may have previously centered around flavor, now they are about GMO’s, animal products, vegan options and even food allergies.

dining trends 2021

Nutrition has taken on an entirely new meaning as consumers demand nutritional transparency from their favorite dining spots.

It is officially beginning to hit our society that what we consume directly impacts how we feel and our overall health in general. This epiphany, if you will, has been the driving force between the consumer demand for nutrition information and healthier options. As a solution, many independent operators have begun to offer nutrition information on their menus to begin to field these questions. Some have chosen to categorize their menus by “plant-based” and other trending terms. But the most prevalent decision that’s been made by restaurant owners and operators is to provide the granular nutrition information for the customer to view prior to or during their dining experience. We are no strangers to nutrition analysis here at MenuCalc. We began working with large chains back in 2012 when the FDA required restaurants that have upwards of 20 locations to provide the nutrition information on their restaurant menus so that consumers could make educated decisions about the foods they were consuming. But now, instead of a painstakingly tedious requirement, nutrition analysis has become a source of relief for restaurant brands both large and small. And hey, we’re here for it!

Sustainability

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard someone utter the words “plant-based” in the last 12-18 months. And while a large part of going vegan, plant-based or even reducing the amount of meat one consumes (flexitarian), the root of this movement lies within environmental impact. And although plant-based might be the beginning of a consumer’s environmental effort, it doesn’t end there. It has now becoming increasingly prevalent that consumers don’t only care about what goes inside their food, they care about what their food comes in as well. And if you haven’t guessed what that means just yet, we’re talking about sustainable packaging.

Matter of fact, according to CNBC, the newest generation entering the consumer pool holds “environmental impact” as their number one concern (with Millennials close behind):

“This desire for sustainable products among Gen Z is robust. According to a 2020 report by First Insight, 73% of Gen Z consumers surveyed were willing to pay more for sustainable products, more than every other generation. And, despite being the youngest cohort with many still in school, they were willing to spend the most in added costs, with 54% saying they would pay more than a 10% increase in price for a sustainably made product.”

So if you’re a restaurant operator that has been hesitant to pull the trigger on sustainable packaging because of the increased price, there’s your sign. And we have a sneaky suspicious that this will outlast the top dining trends of 2022 and make it on trend-lists for years to come.

Personalization

The third and final trend that diners have been searching for in a dining setting is, you guessed it: personalization. According to an article released by Forbes, the more personalized a customer’s dining experience is, the higher the potential of them returning. They encourage the collection of customer details via online profiles in order to re-target the customer through digital marketing efforts. See for yourself:

“A restauranteur can’t embark on the journey of personalization without collecting the data necessary to accomplish it. Consider collecting data points such as your guests’ demographics and contact details, their food allergies and favorite menu items.”

With all of the options out there for collecting diner profile information, it might be difficult to choose the right option for your restaurant. But what if that data collection platform was free? That might make it easier right? Well, from what we heard, our sister company (FoodCalc) is weeks away from launching their latest consumer-facing dining app which gives restaurants an inside look into how diners interact with their restaurant menus. And a little birdie told us that all of that data, will be free to restaurant operators in order to connect with their customers and drive more traffic via smarter, data-backed promotions.

(Ok, it’s us, we’re the little birdie. And that platform? It’s called SmartMenu.)

We are counting down the days til the release of the latest foodie community/restaurant communication platform for food lovers everywhere! Head on over to https://www.instagram.com/my_smartmenu/ and give SmartMenu a follow to keep tabs on all of the launch deets.

We’re coming for you!

And if you need nutrition analysis for your restaurant menu in the meantime… make sure you contact us!

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