With almost two years of restrictions behind us, Canadians have developed many new habits in how they go about their daily lives, access their food, and interact with restaurants. Amid this environment of uncertainty, the questions from the industry continue as they have since this pandemic began. When will we recover, and what will the industry look like when we do? Looking ahead, here is an outlook of how 2022 may unfold:
- Digital Engagement – Digital growth has accelerated during the pandemic, and this trend will endure after COVID. Going beyond the apps on our phone, digital has also been a catalyst for the gig economy, enabled operators to offer loyalty programs, and helped restaurant owners make up for labour shortages.
- Closer to Home, not the Hubs – Our stay-at-home lifestyles these past two years have impacted restaurants that rely on a transient flow of potential customers – workers, shoppers, students, travelers. Even as the economy reopens, some of these activities will continue in the home, causing a shift in where, when, and how restaurant consumers access their next meals.
- The Lines are Blurring – Restaurants experimented with new business models during the early days of the pandemic to survive, providing offerings like meal kits, groceries, and bottle shops. Now, as this trend endures, grocery stores, meal kit companies, manufacturers, and third-party delivery providers have jumped on board, offering new options for consumers to access the food they want, when they want it.
- From Functional to Experiential – As our stay-at-home lifestyles endured and restaurant visits diminished during COVID, Canadians moved away from routine/functional visits. They began seeking more indulgent meals when they accessed a meal outside their home. Restaurants will need to consider how to satisfy this demand for “something special” as we move through 2022.
- Shifting Demographics – As younger consumers see their spending power grow and older consumers age out of the workforce, how these cohorts spend in restaurants will likely cause a dramatic shift in the market. Consumers’ demands for brand loyalty, social consciousness, and food exploration will impact how restaurants engage with their customers.