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STUDY: 54% of Say Off-Premises Dining is Essential to Their Lifestyle

Many operators will devote their tech investments to online or app ordering, reservations, mobile payment, or delivery management, according to National Restaurant Association's 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report.
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Off-premises dining options are becoming essential to consumers' lifestyles. That's according to the National Restaurant Association's 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report, which measures the restaurant industry's continued recovery and examines the status of current and emerging trends across key categories.

In fact, 54 percent of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is essential to the way they live, including 72% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z adults.

Off-Premises Dining: Improved by Technology

Technological advances are becoming table stakes for this long-term business channel, with more than eight in 10 operators saying the use of technology in a restaurant provides a competitive advantage, and a good proportion of operators plan to ramp up investments in technology this year. Many operators will devote their resources to online or app ordering, reservations, mobile payment, or delivery management, in addition to back-of-the-house technology. This is validated by a large number of consumers preferring the use of technology where it doesn't diminish hospitality.

For both restaurant and hotel customers, quality of service (as reflected in positive online reviews) remains a higher priority than technology features, reinforcing that the “human touch” is still at the heart of our industry, according to HT's 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study.

The past year has also continued to drive consumer demand for alcohol to-go and outdoor dining with nearly four in 10 consumers saying the availability of outdoor seating would make them more likely to choose one restaurant over another similar one. Other operational takeaways include:

  • Roughly half of U.S. restaurant operators think the availability of seating on a sidewalk, parking lot, or street will become more common within their segment this year.
  • 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.

Other key findings include:

  • More than half of restaurant operators said it would be a year or more before businesses conditions return to normal. Food, labor, and occupancy costs are expected to remain elevated, and continue to impact restaurant profit margins in 2022.
  • Ninety-six percent of operators experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items in 2021 – and these challenges will likely continue in 2022.
  • The foodservice industry is forecast to reach $898 billion in sales in 2022.
  • The foodservice industry workforce is projected to grow by 400,000 jobs, for total industry employment of 14.9 million by the end of 2022.

"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 & CEO 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."

Help (Still) Wanted 

While the restaurant and foodservice industry added back 1.7M jobs during 2021 for an end-of-year total of 14.5M employees, many restaurants remain severely understaffed, and this will continue to constrain industry growth in 2022.

Despite some gains, 7 in 10 operators across all major segments say their restaurant currently does not have enough employees to support customer demand and most operators expect their labor challenges to continue through next year. Key figures on the restaurant workforce include:

  • Roughly 50% of restaurant operators in the fullservice, quickservice, 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.

Streamlined Menus 

Wellness has gained mindshare, with chefs ranking food believed to boost immunity and plant-based sandwiches highly in a list of Top 10 Trends for 2022. Sustainable, quality- and temperature-retaining packaging options also reign in 2022. Meanwhile, restaurant menu offerings remain scaled back compared with pre-pandemic levels due to supply delays or shortages of food and beverage items, and elevated food costs. 

  • Eighty-eight percent of adults (including 94% of millennials) say they would be likely to try ordering an expanded variety of food items for takeout or delivery if the restaurant used packaging that helps the food maintain the same temperature, taste, and quality as when it's served in the restaurant.
  • Six in 10 full-service operators say their menu contains fewer offerings now than it did before the pandemic.
  • Fifty-seven percent of adults say they would likely participate in a meal subscription program if it was offered by one of their favorite restaurants. Eight in 10 millennials and Gen Z adults say they would use this option.

Click here to download the 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, sponsored by DoorDash and Paradox.

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