Forecasting isn’t always easy, especially after the year the industry has tackled. But the sector is now moving into 2022 with confidence and certainty. Past months have shown us customers are looking to connect with businesses and the people behind them more than ever.
Dining experiences that veer off from the norm are also in demand along with a more casual offering; think bottled and packaged things to go. Technology will of course play a critical role in streamlining day-to-day operations, and a brand’s presence will extend beyond a physical venue as newsletters become the go-to medium for establishing one-to-one rapport.
Hospitality has curated 10 trends tipped to hit it big in 2022 — read on to find out what the future may hold …
Recent months have proven consumers are big fans of bake sales — especially when a team of chefs are behind them. The bakery spin-off has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, with many operators seeking out permanent spaces for their pivot concepts.
Word on the street is Sixpenny in Sydney’s Inner West is scoping out a full time venue for the General Store pop-up, which saw chefs create everything from crepe cakes and tortes to egg sambos.
A bakery concept allows venues that offer a certain experience to reach a wider market. While many diners are happy to spend their time and money at restaurants, some would rather keep it casual and grab a pastry to go. Operators can catch ’em all by running multiple concepts with different price points.
For some venues, a bake sale has reignited an interest in learning and discovery. At Marta in Rushcutters Bay, Owner-Operator Flavio Carnevale and his team have focused on producing lesser-known Italian pastries such as sfogliatelle and maritozzi. While the Roman restaurant has now reverted back to dine in, the bakery is now a permanent fixture to the Marta brand.
Making your own sourdough is so 2020: 2022 is all about buying it and supporting local instead.
Connecting with customers once they leave a venue isn’t easy, so how do you maintain a link to reel them back in? Write a newsletter! Patrons are increasingly curious about the story behind a business, and it’s not always easy to convey the big picture through an Instagram post or during a busy service.
There are multiple content pillars a venue can cover from newsworthy updates such as the launch of a menu to recipes, how-to videos, recommendations and mini profiles on team members.
Newsletters also provide a window to capture valuable customer information by offering an incentive such as first dibbs on special events or launches. Gelato Messina nails this approach by teasing limited product releases on Instagram that are only available to newsletter subscribers.
Customers need to sign up if they want in, and the product allocation is usually exhausted by the database before it becomes available to non-subscribers. The end result is a healthy and growing subscriber list, which can be used to communicate with customers about multiple topics.
Don’t hesitate to add a tick box to your booking form asking customers to opt in for the newsletter when they’re securing a table. Instagram has also allowed accounts with less than 10,000 followers to add links to stories, meaning you can rally your social media audience to connect further with your brand.
We’re predicting the next year will see venues jumping on board the newsletter train and working with content agencies to produce them or giving it a go themselves for a straight-from-the-source touch. The main thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be perfect — nobody is a jack of all trades, and customers aren’t expecting a novel.
Everyone enjoys a venue with a slick design and a stellar menu, but has the same attention to detail been extended to staff uniforms? A customer’s first experience when they step into a venue is usually with a staff member, and an increasing number of businesses are thinking twice about investing in uniforms that are comfortable for staff to wear and represent their brand. It can be as simple as providing a branded apron or as elaborate as a head-to-toe look depending on budget.
Before Momofuku Seiobo closed its doors, the entire team wore tie-dyed uniforms, which eliminated any separation between front and back of house. Neil Perry’s Margaret not only opened with a picturesque interior, but with a team decked out in aprons in the venue’s signature terracotta-ish colourway.
Whether it’s a formal or casual uniform, materials play a vital role in wear-ability and longevity, too. Linens and cottons not only look modern, but are also more pleasant for staff to wear for long periods of time. This also extends to footwear. White sneakers are a comfortable and classic option to wear on the floor, but we’re thinking personalised Crocs could be big in the kitchen next year.
We all spend way too many hours in front of screens in our personal lives and the same can be said for the business environment. Integrated POS systems are a time and space saver all operators need to switch to if they haven’t already. People management is one of the most challenging aspects of running a business in an industry with high staff turnover and a large casual workforce.
The ability to keep track of rostering, timesheets, payroll, reports and news within one intuitive platform can save you or your admin team hours. Most platforms have useful tools to help grow your business such as sales forecasts based on data. They also keep track of critical workplace changes such as wages, which are a must to ensure compliance in an industry that has struggled with underpayments.
It’s also a good idea to roll takeaway and delivery platforms into one system, too. Most venues work with a number of partners and multiple screens leave room for errors such as missed sales or cancelled orders. A jumble of screens also doesn’t look good at a front-of-house stand or in the kitchen. Pare it back and enjoy the benefits of simplification.
Tiny but mighty is the mantra going forward. Pocket-sized spaces provide an opportunity for restaurateurs to launch businesses on a smaller scale and decrease the amount of risk involved with opening a venue.
There are many perks that come with running such a space, from the number of staff required to creative control and lower overheads. Brisbane’s Joy is constantly booked out and sees 10 guests dine at the restaurant at a time. In omakase-crazy Sydney, a number of concepts seat around the same number of diners, with bookings often released months in advance. The odd cancellation is advertised on social media, but they’re snapped up in minutes, proving the tenacity of the customer base.
In an industry with a serious food waste problem, compact venues often forgo à la carte and offer a set menu. The approach enables chefs and operators to prepare in advance and order exactly what they need rather than what they might need to have on hand.
A set menu also provides more room to experiment and encourages chefs to create dishes that take advantage of what’s abundant and available that week. It’s no secret seasonal produce is cheaper, and the added bonus is customers are more inclined to return to a venue with a dining experience that’s always on the move.
For a time, product lines were the domain of breweries and retail brands, but cafés and restaurants have changed the landscape for good. Condiments, bottled cocktails and apparel have proven their worth in recent times, especially during state lockdowns when venues were restricted to takeaway and delivery.
The benefits extend beyond making some extra revenue. Ferments and pickles are a good way to reduce waste and can be incorporated on the menu, too. Tote bags, T shirts, hats and cups are evergreen and can be sold in-venue in a dedicated area as well as on your website and social media platforms.
Merchandise with a logo, catchphrase and vital information, such as location, is a great way to spread the word about your brand wherever the person wearing it happens to venture. Small Talk is one business that nails the merchandise brief. Shirts depicting its signature doughnut in illustrative form have been spotted not just in Sydney but as far as Byron Bay.
Low and non-alcoholic beverages
The market has made much progress when it comes to non-alcoholic and low-ABV beverages, moving far beyond juice and sugar-heavy options. Founder of Project Ambrose Consultancy Ambrose Chiang attributes the shift to a more health-conscious consumer base.
“The low- and no-alcohol movement brought forward by the wellness phenomenon [has] accelerated non-alcoholic beverage sales across the world over the past two years,” says Chiang, who is based in Hong Kong.
Zero-alcohol beers have launched to much fanfare and experienced near-constant demand. Independent brewers Heaps Normal took the Australian market by storm with the release of the hoppy and non-alcoholic Quiet XPA. Chiang names Drink’in the Sun from Mikkeller Brewery as his go-to and believes these products provide a balance between flavour and conscious drinking.
With a range of zero- or low-alcohol options from spirits to seltzers hitting the shelves, the non-alcoholic movement is well and truly underway, and venues should get involved. “It excites me so much when a sommelier’s mind is focused on non-alcoholic beverages,” says Chiang. “All that sensory training and flavour precision should be employed into other beverages, too, like tea, coffee and fermented drinks.”
Music in venues is nothing new, but the boom of audio sharing and streaming apps means a customer can take a restaurant’s playlist home with them. From slow jazz to classic hip-hop, communicating through music is a big part of branding and the dining experience. Music not only creates atmosphere, but conveys what a venue really stands for. At Butter, Sydney’s palace of fried chicken, sneakers and Champagne, the soundtrack is pure hip-hop and rap.
While many venues offered takeaway during lockdown, replicating the restaurant experience proved a challenge, but curated playlists definitely helped. Restaurant Hubert in Sydney’s CBD provided a QR code in their to-go meal boxes that directed customers to the venue’s jazz playlist.
Music can also offer an opportunity to connect with your customer base and collaborate. Maíz Mexican Street Food asked Instagram followers for recommendations to create a cohesive playlist that’s now live.
How-to video tutorials
Demonstrating how to replicate a dish or create a signature drink to a tee is not commonplace in the industry, but things are beginning to shift. Most venues have a social media presence, but photos can only get you so far. Publishing recipes and how-to videos is not only beneficial from an engagement point of view, but enables you to share your food and beverage with an audience from afar.
Behind-the-scenes content is candid and upfront, plus it’s a helpful tool in building
community among the dining public. Whether it’s a multi-photo step-by-step Instagram post, a reel on how to make a Negroni or a longer video on something more complex, such as pastry making, visual content showcases the skills of your staff and demonstrates what’s available at your venue beyond reading about it.
Continental Deli posted a tutorial on Instagram stories showing people how to plate up the Flan in a Can. While it seems simple, the video provided useful tips and tricks to get the sweet treat out of the can in optimum condition. It’s not as easy as it looks, and we’re sure the video went a long way to saving the integrity of a lot of flans.
Secret menus were first popularised by mega brands such as Starbucks and In-N-Out Burger as a tool to offer tailored and limited products to customers looking for something different.
Now, secret menus are emerging in a restaurant environment. A hidden menu enables venues to experiment with dishes or drinks that might not fit the current offering, but appeal to customers willing to order outside the box.
For example, an Italian restaurant could list a spicy margarita — it doesn’t work in a food pairing sense, but the drink is having a major moment elsewhere. It’s also an opportunity for bar staff to open the cellar and offer a taste of rare spirits or wines. The whole idea is to generate a sense of exclusivity.
When Dylan Cashman’s The Blue Door opened this year, there was an added Secret Sips menu of vintage Champagnes tacked on to the wine selection, which is curated by Angelica Nohra.
While offering additional items to a core menu comes with risks, such as keeping stock on hand for an item that may not be ordered, it does provide a window to offer something that’s one of a kind and alter the dining experience for the better.