The past two years have been difficult for the restaurant industry. Many in the restaurant industry survived by finding creative ways to stay afloat, and some of these strategies have become a permanent part of the restaurant industry.
One change restaurants have implemented is in menu offerings. Restaurants simplified their menus. A January 2022 article in the online publication The Manual reported that logistics forced eight out of 10 restaurant operators to shorten their menus.
In the past, long menus provided patrons with more variety. Today’s diners favor shorter menus featuring top-quality entrees and food that caters to their tastes.
Restaurant operators benefit from switching to shorter menus. Menus with fewer offerings cut food costs through streamlined inventory management and reduced food waste. Further, shorter menus give restaurants the opportunity to improve the quality of the food on the menu.
Another trend that started a few years ago was implementing plant-based foods into menus. According to a January 2022 Restaurant Dive article, the appearance of plant-based items on menus will continue to increase. Plant pretender products are made from plants but look and taste like meat (shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef). Pure plant entrees consist entirely of plant-based ingredients.
Some experts say the increase in plant-based items relates to mainstream restaurant chains adding these offerings in their menus. In the past few years, McDonald’s, a major fast-food chain known for its beef hamburgers, has ventured into plant-based products with some success.
According to 2022 estimates from research firm BTIG, McDonald’s has sold an estimated 500 plant-based sandwiches a week at each of eight of the chain’s test restaurants, which works out to about 70 sandwiches a day. Furthermore, experts expect the compounded annual rate for the plant-based market to grow 22 percent from 2020 to 2030, which also will include restaurant offerings.
Including plant-based meals is one way that restaurants can build up their menus by offering new and interesting items. More importantly, it can lower food costs and provide restaurants with simpler menus more variety.
In addition to the increasing demand for plant-based menu items, diners are seeking establishments that offer healthier menu items. Younger people in particular are investing in their health by choosing restaurants that offer healthier food, whether the food is organic, all-natural, or GMO-free. Many people are willing to pay higher prices for these menu items. Some of the steps restaurants are taking include removing prepackaged and processed ingredients from menu offerings, using seasonal produce to make sure food is fresh, and sourcing ingredients locally or from farms that use all-natural processes to produce food.
In fact, another trend that became permanent was restaurants locally sourcing foods. This particular trend grew from the pandemic, when many restaurants faced supply-chain issues and had difficulty stocking their pantries.
Furthermore, the rising costs of menu ingredients is creating a situation where it is cheaper to buy locally as opposed to shipping food across several links in the supply chain. Finally, restaurant operators are becoming increasingly concerned about the carbon footprint their establishment is creating, and sourcing their food locally helps support sustainability.