Menu Trends: Sustainability Will Be In Style in 2022

Restaurant menus in 2022 will focus on healthier planet and healthier consumers, according to National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot survey. Plus, packaging is in the spotlight.

Sustainability will continue to influence menus and how restaurants make decisions in 2022. That’s according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, which offers a detailed look at the topics, trends and products expected to drive restaurant menus in the coming year.

From reusable and recyclable packaging to zero-waste options, restaurants are continuing to prioritize sustainable initiatives. As consumers continue to utilize off-premises options in all dayparts, restaurants are looking to translate their dine-in experience outside the four walls of the restaurant with thoughtful packaging that maintains food quality, retains temperature, and is tamper-proof.

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a hand holding a green frisbee

Sustainability for the Planet

Restaurants and hotel brands alike are touting their better-for-the-planet positions. launched its Travel Sustainable badge, a sustainability measure that will provide information to travelers to make more sustainable travel choices. Chipotle aims to reduce its carbon emissions 50% by 2030. Also leading the charge is Panera Bread, which has a goal to become climate positive by 2050.  According to HT’s 2020 Customer Engagement Technology Survey, few were focused on recycling and environmental sustainability in 2020, but operators cannot and should not forget the importance of the environment to their guests and to the overall future of the hospitality industry. 

Diners can also expect to see health taking center stage on restaurant menus in 2022.
After demand for comfort food surged during the height of the pandemic, consumers are refocusing on better-for-you options, with foods that are believed to have immunity-boosting qualities and plant-based sandwiches making up three of the Top 10 Trends for 2022. Plant-based proteins are growing increasingly popular on menus and less expensive cuts of protein, such as thighs instead of wings, will have a greater presence in the year to come.

“In addition to a return to health-focused menu offerings and more eco-friendly, improved off-premises packaging, all of which rated high in the top trends, we’re expecting operators to look across their menus for transformative opportunities,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research for the Association. “Look for trends that fuse the traditional meal daypart items with other dayparts and an increasing popularity of snacking and its allied items. Also, with the popularity of cocktails-to-go during the pandemic, restaurants will look to expand both alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft beverage options.”

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Menus will become more refined and streamlined going into the year ahead, while chefs anticipate alcohol-infused desserts, globally inspired items, and even upscale potato chips to find spots on the menu.

The What’s Hot survey was conducted in October 2021. More than 350 professional chefs of the American Culinary Federation rated 109 food items and culinary concepts compiled by Association experts and Technomic’s Menu Research & Insights Division. Download the full report 

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