As the hospitality industry roars back to life after 2 years of uncertainty, diners couldn’t be more eager to start eating out more regularly again. This new chapter comes with emerging trends and new dining expectations, which foodservice businesses in Australia should leverage to evolve and stay on top of the competition. Let’s take a deep dive on key trends you can expect to see in the Australian foodservice industry.
Keen to make up for lost time, people are looking for entire experiences when dining out, rather than just a meal. In 2022, diners can expect more luxurious, unique, adventurous, and personal dining experiences from foodservice businesses in Australia. A study by OpenTable suggests that 40% of diners are now more willing to celebrate special occasions and are looking for foodservice venues that can deliver memorable experiences, such as three or more courses or pairings. An anticipated rise in fine dining restaurants and luxury ingredients such as fine wine and caviar is expected. Diners who have the ability to spend big at foodservice venues are more than happy to do so, following the same pattern that can be seen after past crises such as the Global Financial Crisis or 9/11.
After the past 2 years, we can also expect Australian diners to be more adventurous when eating out and more likely to order different meals. Furthermore, OpenTable found that 16% would be willing to spend more for limited edition or exclusive dishes. Finally, diners expect Australian foodservice businesses to create more personal dining experiences. Relationships between diners and venue staff has become increasingly more important, where 86% of diners will more likely to return to venues if they feel like a regular. This includes staff remembering meal or drink orders or customer names, where 82% of diners will return to restaurants where staff remember their name according to a study by OpenTable.
Focus on sustainability
Sustainability is set to be a core focus for foodservice businesses in 2022. Propelled by the dependency of takeaway and delivery throughout Covid-19 lockdowns, venues have become more aware of sustainable packaging, waste, environmentally conscious practices, and locally sourced ingredients now more than ever. More diners are becoming more aware and expect foodservice businesses to adhere to sustainable practices, thus becoming key deciding factors when deciding which venue to dine at.
Food waste is a big problem within the hospitality industry, venues who take steps to reduce their environmental impact and are transparent with their sustainability practices will have an edge in the eyes of consumers. The upcycling of food is gaining a lot of traction, where waste is recycled and turned into something that can be consumed again with a longer shelf life. In addition, how foodservice businesses handle their use of paper, plastic and packaging needs to be considered. For example, edible crockery and cutlery is something that we may see more of from Australian foodservice businesses, with the aim of providing a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic cutlery.
Plant based eating is a movement taking over the foodservice industry by storm. Dietary preferences such as vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian diets are trending and are set to continue to boom in 2022. The demand for plant based products and meat alternatives is rising, and so is the expectation for Australian foodservice companies to create menus that cater to their needs. The customer base of plant-based alternatives now goes beyond soy milk and tofu, where meal options that imitate the texture and taste of meat products are becoming more common. We can expect more venues to offer menus that feature plant based chicken schnitzel, beef patties, bacon, sausages, and meat mince to meet the needs of those with specific dietary preferences. With a growing number of foodservice venues and QSRs adding vegan options to their menu, vegan meals are more accessible than ever.
The trend towards plant-based eating can be attributed to a number of important driving factors. Firstly, consumers want transparency and are more involved and curious to know where their meals come from. This is brought on by the copious amounts of information available on the internet, influencers, and the media. Chefs are also being compelled to be more innovative with plant-based options to meet the increasing demand, this abolishes the ‘hippie’ stereotype and brings these dietary preferences into being more mainstream. Lastly, diners desire more creativity, experimentation, variety and flexibility when it comes to flavour and texture. This forces chefs to continue to create delicious and unique dishes that not only appease vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian diners, but can also win over meat-eaters.
Rise of technology
Technology in the foodservice industry has continued to evolve, even more so during the pandemic with the introduction of QR code check-ins and menus, contactless ordering, digital payments, robots distributing dishes to diners, and more. QR codes have deservedly earned a permanent place in many foodservice businesses due to the convenience and the ability to place an order quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, the ability to make table reservations online is becoming more popular. This reduces the admin tasks on its staff, allowing them to focus on delivering outstanding customer service and experiences instead. In fact, according to a study by OpenTable, 85% of foodservice businesses in Australia also see the importance of being able to manage a reservation online without needing to call the venue directly.
Another technology trend we expect to see more off is digital waitlists. This gives customers the ability to see real-time updates on where they are in the queue, how long approximately they will be waiting for, and allows them flexibility to roam around and come back to the venue once their table is ready. Finally, it is clear that online ordering and payment will stay for the long term in many foodservice businesses. Despite industry staff shortages, digital ordering and payments will help streamline the process and make it easier for both customers and venue staff. A study by OpenTable suggests that 73% of diners believe foodservice venues should continue operating with contactless technology, and 57% of diners state that the ability to order quickly without the need for a server is important as well.
All in all, the demand for experiential dining experiences, a focus on sustainability practices, the booming plant-based movement, and the rise of technology of advancements in the industry are key trends that we expect to see in foodservice businesses in Australia for 2022 and beyond.