For those involved in the restaurant business, there is no doubt that the past few years have ushered in exciting developments. Even before the pandemic, the industry was changing fast. The challenges that accompanied the Covid 19 pandemic also accelerated the pace of innovation in this sector. Since then, the momentum has not slowed. Here is our roundup of the trends that are worthy of attention.

Less personal service

The first trend is a bit of a negative one. Studies show that getting one-to-one engagement with the restaurant´s server is a significant part of the experience when eating out. To create a fantastic customer experience, restaurants need to employ enough people.

Hiring is becoming challenging for restauranteurs in many parts of the world. For example, the US restaurant industry still employs 1.2 million fewer workers than they did pre-pandemic, despite being fully open.

Currently, wages have risen by a further 10% during the first quarter of 2022, outpacing the wage increase in other sectors for five quarters in a row. Despite the wage increase, not only are they not attracting staff, but those who accept a job do not stay long. Retention is an increasingly significant issue. Quit rates have risen from an average of 3% to 6%.

This trend forces restaurants to look for more creative and innovative ways to run their businesses. One of the ways they are exploring is self-ordering. Self-ordering is fast becoming a norm because of the wide adoption of smart devices and software systems.

A self-ordering service allows customers to submit food orders autonomously. The first interaction of a customer with the server happens when the food or drinks arrive. This will enable businesses to manage orders efficiently and reduce customer wait times. In most self-ordering systems, payment is integrated, so the server does not need to revisit the table; this saves a lot of staff hours over a week.

Digital menu are now the norm

The push for an increase in the adoption of self-ordering is one of the reasons why digital menu boards have become the norm. Provided they are strategically placed, people can read them just as easily as a paper menu or a digital one on a tablet, which are more expensive.

Ease of use is not the main reason digital menu boards are becoming so popular. They deliver other benefits, including: The ability to change the price of each dish to reflect the true cost of a meal better. With paper menus, if the price of fish goes up by 20% in one week, it can take several weeks before the restaurateur can reflect this price change. They do not have the budget to have menus printed frequently. A digital menu can update the price change in less than a minute.

Customers hate ordering something off the menu only to be told it has run out. When a dish is no longer available, it is instantly removed from the digital menu.

Restaurants that can change the menu whenever they want can easily take advantage of low-cost seasonal ingredients, tailor the menu to suit the weather conditions, the customer demographic for a particular time of day, or tap into a new food trend. This is easy to do with a digital menu.

More plant-based food on the menu

In America and many other countries, veganism is starting to gain traction. In 2018, 3% of Americans were Vegan; in 2022, that figure is 5%. Currently, the most popular weight loss regimes rely heavily on vegetable-based dishes—for example, the 5:2 diet.

Restaurants are responding by offering more vegan or vegetarian-friendly options. This also makes economic sense; restaurants can keep prices low enough so that people can eat out. The profit margin will typically be slightly higher. The fact that there are more vegetable-based dishes on the menu will steer meat-eaters towards trying vegan options.

Simpler menus

With costs soaring, restaurants must work hard to remain profitable. Simplifying their operation is one way they do this. According to Technomic, the average number of dishes offered by restaurants has fallen by 10%. When you serve fewer items, it is easier to keep track of the cost of ingredients and waste disposal.

There is no doubt that the pace at which restaurant operations change will accelerate over the coming year. So, the trend for 2023 is likely to be even more radical and exciting.