The COVID-19 pandemic made customers think more about their overall health.
As the years change, so do the trends that customers look for when choosing their favorite restaurants, bars, and eateries. To remain in the customer’s view and stay successful, a restaurant owner must be aware of the current trends so they can adjust their establishment accordingly.
Here’s a list of some of the emerging customer behavior trends of 2022 and ways restaurant owners can implement these changes to stay relevant.
Understanding Customer Behaviors
When customers are determining their favorite restaurants and the establishments where they will spend their hard-earned money, they aren’t simply picking a name out of a hat. Instead, multiple factors go into their decision, including their attitudes and beliefs, their perception of what your products may look and taste like, and even economic factors. After all, if a customer knows they can’t afford your food, they will likely avoid your restaurant.
Marketing agencies survey people all year round so they can learn their current behaviors, and then parlay those feelings into the trends of the year. As the world evolves, as will the feelings of potential patrons, restaurant owners need to keep their ears to the ground so they can be ahead of the curve. While many trends will be about food and service, there are also other areas a restaurant will need to consider.
For instance, new studies are showing customers are fonder of a hassle-free online shopping experience. Since the pandemic, more people are choosing to order online, so it is wise for eateries to develop their websites for maximum efficiency so customers can easily order online and pick up their food with as little fuss as possible. Customers also want to be sure that their data is safe when they order online, so bringing in a cybersecurity expert is also key in 2022.
In the new year, a growing trend will have customers looking for healthier food that comes from pure and local sources. More specifically, there is a growing desire for more vegan food options. As of 2017, some 6 percent of people have professed to be vegan, so a restaurant that does not offer these options may be losing potential profits. To appeal to these customers, an eatery doesn’t need to change its entire menu, but having several options will make a big difference. Examples of vegan dishes include a mushroom burger, tofu tacos, and sweet and sour tempeh. Many fast-food restaurants have seen success with vegan-friendly menus, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and even Taco Bell.
The COVID-19 pandemic really made customers think more about their overall health and how they can protect themselves from contracting a disease. Because of that, it is only logical that another customer behavior trend is immune-boosting foods, especially menu items that offer vitamin A, C, and D, as well as those rich in protein. Many common ingredients like citrus fruits, bell peppers, and garlic are known for their immune-boosting properties, so incorporate those into your menu when possible. A great example of a restaurant thriving with immune-boosting options is Smoothie King. They launched their Immune Builder Smoothie lineup in 2020 and customers love the options.
When customers start thinking about healthier foods, they will also want to avoid the ingredients that are not so good for their bodies. So, it makes sense that another upcoming trend that customers consider is foods that are low in sodium and sugar. Sodium may give food a flavor kick, but it is notoriously bad for our bodies as excessive amounts can lead to problems with blood pressure or an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. A restaurant that can find a way to reduce the sodium and sugar in its dishes and market its efforts may see a growing customer base in the new year.
Health and Safety
As mentioned, the pandemic has radically changed how we all think about life and health, and for the customers, that doesn’t end at what they eat. Patrons also want to know that they are going to a restaurant that cares about them and the health of the community. People want to know that their eatery is getting their food and ingredients from local farms instead of requiring gas-guzzling trucks to transport supplies from across the country. In addition to cutting down on pollution, shopping locally also helps neighborhood businesses and will result in overall fresher ingredients.
While customers are interested in their health, recent trends also show they care more about the earth in general than they did in the past. People like to know that they are making a difference by shopping and eating at businesses that prioritize sustainability, so a restaurant that tries to make a difference in this regard will likely see positive reviews. To become a more eco-friendly business, a restaurant can use less energy and lower utility costs by installing solar panels or making it a point to use less water when preparing food and washing dishes.
Add these sustainable practices in your marketing materials and customers may come calling. It is working well in places like Austin, where restaurants like Cafe Bon Appetit are remaining eco-friendly every day by using recyclable containers while also serving sustainable food.
Another trend that is becoming important to customers in the new year is physical safety, especially for older patrons who want to go to their favorite restaurant in this uncertain COVID-era. Restaurants can implement many safety processes for seniors, which might include opening an hour earlier so they can eat without dealing with a large crowd or ensuring that the restaurant is equipped with plenty of hand sanitizer stations.
The restaurant industry is still trying to recover after COVID lockdowns, so owners need to think about how they can get the most people possible through the door.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.