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Restaurants Slim Down Menus and Target Innovation Ahead of 2022

As another challenging year for the restaurant industry winds down, operators continue to push back on the permeating impacts of COVID-19. All the while, innovative prospects glimmer on the horizon.

Reduced Menus

Increased food costs and staffing shortages are limiting chefs to dishes that are practical and cost-effective, reported The Wall Street Journal. (Dec 14)

Sixty percent of restaurants reduced their menu size in 2021, according to Datassential. The menus at fine-dining establishments were hit especially hard, with the number of items declining 23% over the course of the year.

Fast-food brands including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and most recently, Burger King, have also discontinued menu items to relieve the growing pressure on its kitchen staff and drive-thrus, reported CNBC. (Dec 1)

In his 2022 predictions for the industry, published in Forbes, Datassential CEO Jack Li notes that these supply chain and labor issues will continue to pressure restaurant recovery for the next 12 to 18 months. (Dec 13)

“Our data showed a big dip in restaurant openings during COVID, then it started to recover. It has since flatlined and trended downward,” Li told Forbes. “That surprised us and I think it has everything to do with people not being able to open restaurants because of the supply chain or labor.”

This outlook serves at the backdrop for Li’s other industry predictions, which include:

  • Increased Menu Innovation

Although many operators are still in survival mode with trimmed down menus and streamlined operations, the creative wheel has started spinning again. Li expects 2022 to mark a “significant” boom for new products.

  • An Uptick in Global Flavors

The top five regions expected to influence menus in 2022 include Southeast Asia, South American, Caribbean, North African and Western African.

  • Big Plays in Plant-based

Li expects to see expansion not just with meat analogue products, but also with creative uses of vegetables and plants. “We’re into plant-based 2.0, which is an expansion of meat replacers,” he said. “There’s a long runway of creative ideas.”