The Top 5 Tech Trends for Bars & Restaurants in 2022

It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for the bar and restaurant industry over the past two years, but the good news is that 2022 is the perfect time for operators to steer a new course by investing in the digital restaurant revolution. New technologies are creating exciting opportunities that are helping bars and restaurants revitalize their business for 2022 and beyond.

As a lifelong restaurateur, I know firsthand that we have been waiting for the big restaurant technology transformation for more than a decade. While other industry segments jumped in full bore with e-commerce, we seemed to be stuck in limbo, not fully realizing the potential a digital restaurant landscape could offer.

Today we are in the midst of a fast and furious restaurant revolution, with QR codes, digital ordering, virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens, alcohol delivery, robotics and automation, and more (it only took a once-in-a-century pandemic to speed it along).

Here are some of the key technology trends that can positively impact your restaurant and bar business decisions in 2022 and beyond:

It’s All-in on Digital

The fashion and consumer goods industries taught us how to shop and order online. Now consumers of all ages are shopping online, for food. This means online ordering, delivery, curbside and pick-up must be factored into all parts of today’s restaurant business. Having a presence on multiple online ordering apps is a given, as well as direct ordering from your own website, and planning for a digital menu, with food quality and delivery taken into consideration. Even indoor dining bars and restaurants will be more digital with some opting for online menus and table ordering that is then delivered by runners. Digital is now part of the basic equation for a successful restaurant business today and must be considered for current and future decisions.

Virtual Brands Help Maximize Business

You are already paying the fixed costs for your bar or restaurant – real estate, operations, labor – so why not make the most of your investment? Within the fast-growing digital arena, any operator with a kitchen can now easily and affordably add a range of virtual brands for incremental off-premise business. Virtual restaurant brands – like the one by Cheech Marin – can increase sales and profit margins by using existing kitchens to whip up orders from a menu that is designed specifically for off-premise customers. Restaurants can run multiple brands out of their kitchen and expand their reach to totally different consumer audiences – maybe a different age demographic, a different daypart, or a different type of cuisine in areas with limited culinary options. We anticipate that more than 50% of restaurants will have multiple brands running out of their kitchens by 2025.

Streamline Digital with a Single Interface

Once you’ve begun adding multiple virtual brands, the next step is pulling it all together with the best technology to simplify and automate your entire operation. Today’s reality is that you must be on multiple delivery apps to make sure current and future customers can find you, but that can mean a lot of wasted time juggling different devices for each app and having to manage separate orders and deliveries. Technology that streamlines all of the delivery/ordering management services into a single interface tablet can help.

Additionally, when you are layering delivery items on top of an existing operation, it must be done without adding a bunch of new SKUs or creating new menu items with a short shelf life. From a tech perspective, that means having the flexibility to use a single device to efficiently pause service, add or delete a menu item, across all the different channels you’re selling to.

Make a Connection with Direct-to-Consumer Ordering

With a multi-channel approach, it’s important to augment your use of third-party delivery apps with your own direct-to-consumer ordering channel. If you are a restaurant and don’t have a first-party ordering option, it’s time. Restaurants should absolutely have some sort of channel where people can find you and order directly from you on your website/mobile app. You will save extra margin on these orders, and get more data on the customers to build repeatable business. It may not be massive numbers for you, but operators should look into strategies on how to incent people to download your app. It’s a must-have part of a multi-channel strategy.

Robots Key to Driving Down Delivery Costs  

The increase in delivery orders is great news for the industry, but the high percentages required to be on the main delivery apps (Uber Eats and DoorDash) is an issue facing many operators. That’s why ‘last mile delivery’ is key. Unfortunately, it’s reliant on a limited resource: people. In order to meet this skyrocketing demand, we must retool for future growth, efficiency and cost effectiveness. Driver staffing is stretched and the costs need to come down for consumers, so the opportunity is wide open for automation and new technology. Most major cities are already testing or using robots for delivery (such as Oakland, Los Angeles, Denver and Madison, Wisconsin) and by the end of 2022, dozens of additional cities in the U.S. will see robot delivery. While already the norm in many parts of Asia and India, expect it to emerge first in bigger cities, college towns, and then expand broadly.

The digital restaurant and bar era is here to stay and with so many new technology solutions, the opportunities are ripe for operators of all sizes, across the country. In fact, in other industries, many have called technology the great equalizer and I expect the same positive impact for bars and restaurants this year and beyond. I hope you have a good appetite, because tech is on the menu this year and it’s time to eat.

Alex Canter is a restaurant industry innovator, in-demand speaker, and passionate advocate for restaurant operators and workers. He is the 4th-generation of Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, where he and his team invented Ordermark/Nextbite, a restaurant technology company that helps thousands of restaurants succeed with delivery. A leader in virtual restaurants and the pioneer in online order management, the company is focused on helping restaurant partners successfully enter the virtual restaurant space with new delivery-only menus. Nextbite has more than $120M funding, led by SoftBank. He is a recipient of the Forbes 30 Under 30 and Fast Casual Executive's Top 25. 

For more information about cutting edge F&B technology, join us at the Bar & Restaurant Expo (formerly Nightclub & Bar Show) March 21-23, 2022 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Registration is open, click here get your tickets now!  

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