Sales, jobs, tech spend to increase in 2022: State of Restaurant Industry Report

53% of consumers say carryout, delivery essential, 23% want to see tech that improves customer service as sales to hit $898B

According to the National Restaurant Association’s just-published 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, sales will increase to $898B this year and the industry will add 400,000 jobs. In addition, the report highlights restaurant operators’ concerns about the current economics of running a restaurant. A total of 96% of operators experienced supply delays or shortages in 2021.

An industry adjusting to a new normal

Plus, more than half of restaurant operators predict it will be a year or more before business conditions return to normal. Another concern is restaurant traffic. On this topic, the 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report found that 51% of adults indicate they are not eating at restaurants as often as they would like.

By every stretch of the imagination there is pent-up demand, but diners want to feel safe and comfortable when dining out. Six in 10 consumers with incomes lower than $50K would like to be going out to restaurants more often. Meanwhile, 30% of those with incomes over $100K would like to be dining out more. The latter is responsible for 40% of dining occasions so any upside from them is good news, the Association posits.

“The restaurant and foodservice industry has adapted and is carrying on with absolute resilience, so we’re optimistic about the path toward recovery in the coming year,” said Marvin Irby, interim president and chief executive of the National Restaurant Association. “We still have work to do to ensure that those operators struggling the most can survive. The Association will continue to champion the necessary government support needed at the federal and local levels to help keep these businesses—cornerstones of our communities—on a path to better days.”

Importance of technology

The Association notes that a few years ago, restaurants could not have handled as much demand for off-premises dining. Now, technology is helping strengthen this long-term business channel. In fact, more than 80% of restaurant operators say that technology offers a competitive advantage.

Not surprisingly, a significant portion of restaurant operators plan to increase investments in technology this year. Online & app ordering, reservations, mobile payment, and delivery management, in addition to back-of-the-house technology, are target areas. What’s more, a sizable number of consumers prefer the use of technology where it doesn’t detract from hospitality.

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Consequently, consumers are adopting tech, but have opinions on their future role in the restaurant industry. Above all, 23% would like to see technology that improves customer service. A total of 19% would welcome technology that would make order and payment easier in the restaurant. Another 19% would like to see technology that provides more detail about food, such as nutrition, allergen information and sourcing.

About 40% of consumers want alcohol-to-go options, as well as outdoor dining. This trend only continues to gain traction. Moreover, fifty-four percent of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is essential. This includes 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z adults.

Approximately half of US restaurant operators see a future where the availability of seating on a sidewalk, parking lot, or street will become more common in 2022. “Seventy percent of Gen Z adults (age 21+) and 62% of millennials say the option of including alcohol with a takeout or delivery order would make them more likely to choose one restaurant over another similar restaurant,” according to the 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report.

The restaurant industry added back 1.7M jobs in 2021, to finish 2021 with 14.5M employees. Despite this, seven out of 10 operators across all major segments say their restaurant does not have enough employees to support customer demand. Many restaurants are severely understaffed. Furthermore, most operators expect their labor challenges to continue through next year.

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The Association also released key statistics regarding workforce trends:

  • Roughly 50% of restaurant operators in the full-service, quick-service, and fast-casual segments expect recruiting and retaining employees to be their top challenge in 2022.
  • Between 2023 and 2030, the industry is projected to add an average of 200K jobs each year, with total staffing levels reaching 16.5M by 2030.
  • Seventy-five percent of operators said they plan to devote more resources to recruiting and retaining employees.

To download the full report, navigate here.

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