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Restaurant Industry Trends for 2022 (That We’re Already Doing at Our Seafood Franchise!)

The pandemic taught us a new vocabulary that included terms such as “social distancing”, “Zoom meetings”, and the ‘Great Resignation.’ However, it didn’t stop the fast-casual restaurant industry, which managed to weather the storm. Instead, it is poised to achieve an estimated 10.6 percent CAGR from 2021–2027.

As a casual-dining concept with a laid-back, fast-casual spirit, our seafood franchise is leading the pack by staying current with the restaurant industry trends- and, in some cases, leading the charge for other casual dining restaurants looking to rebuild. The lessons learned from the pandemic gave the industry a much-needed wake-up call to change course to stay afloat. Many of these shifts are already a part of the Shuckin’ Shack culture, which means our Franchise Owners are right on trend with what customers are looking for in the redefined restaurant experience!

Here’s what’s trending in the restaurant industry for 2022:

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1. Following the Fast-Casual Dining Wave

Many factors have influenced the fast-casual dining trend. The rising operating costs, the shift in the workplace, and remote learning have all affected how people view going out to eat. If you add in job insecurity, you have the perfect formula for affordable dining options to succeed. That has led to a surge in this market. That helps to explain the anticipated exponential growth and other 2022 trends.

2. Putting Sustainability First

Sustainability has become more than a passing trend. More than ever, consumers are scrutinizing businesses for their environmental impacts. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) survey, 71 percent of respondents view companies putting sustainability practices more favorably. It’s a message that Shuckin’ Shack’s CEO Jonathan Weathington has made the company’s mission.

Shuckin’ Shack’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program is a trend-setting example. Our commitment to sustainability has earned us certification as a James Beard Foundation Smart Catch restaurant, and we’re not slowing down in 2022!

3. Filling a Niche Market

Finding and filling a niche market is an excellent way to ensure a thriving business. It’s part of what makes a Shuckin’ Shack seafood franchise such a profitable investment. It isn’t just about getting a quick bite to eat. We believe that dining should be a fun experience and a mini stay-cation to enjoy with family and friends in a lively, enjoyable atmosphere. The seafood market is an under-represented niche in casual dining, which means less competition in general, with no restaurants even coming close to the experience we offer our guests!

4. Riding the Seafood Tide

People’s taste in food follows its own trends. Plant-based and gluten-free foods are more popular than ever, thanks to a rising interest in healthy eating among consumers. According to the Food Marketing Institute’s Power of Seafood survey, about 56 percent of respondents had seafood twice a month. While that figure may seem dismal, it also represents an opportunity to educate consumers about the health benefit and delicious taste of fresh seafood.

5. Maintaining Takeout and Delivery

The buying habits of consumers changed dramatically during the pandemic. Some shifts are here to stay, such as takeout and delivery. Much depends on the consumers’ comfort level with dining in, which makes paying attention to these trends so vital for the restaurant industry. Business owners will need to think outside of the box, especially when faced with double-digit fees from third-party delivery services.

According to BentoBox’s Restaurant Delivery Consumer Trend Report, the main points to keep on the front burner are consumer convenience and affordable delivery costs. While Q3 orders took a downturn, experts expect the tide to turn during Q4 and perhaps beyond. It’s worth noting that delivery orders doubled in 2020. It’s safe to say that it’s not going away anytime soon.

Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar Franchise

6. Taking Advantage of Downtime

It’s also imperative for restaurant owners to use their time wisely. If takeout and delivery orders stay stable, it offers an excellent opportunity to invest in employee training and career development. According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report, that is precisely what workers want from their employers.

7. Building an Online Presence

One interesting consequence of the pandemic was the growth of digital awareness. People who never used video calling or an online delivery service suddenly received a quick education. It also put a razor focus on a company’s online presence, including social media and mobile-friendly websites. This task is one of the primary goals of the Shuckin’ Shack seafood franchise program. Led by VP of Marketing and Creative Darren Keeler, our Marketing Support team helps Franchise Owners build and maintain a strong online presence, assisting with targeted local social media campaigns and more.

It isn’t a question of whether you’re going to have an online presence. It is a must-have in today’s digital world, and we’re here to help our Franchise Owners stay on top of their game!

8. Going Local

Another welcome consequence of the pandemic was the upsurge in consumer loyalty. Patrons realized the risks to local businesses and tried to support them through takeout and delivery. Experts expect this trend to continue. Restaurant owners can capitalize on it with loyalty programs and other incentives to create and maintain this safety net.

That’s particularly essential if a business has a seasonal surge. It makes nurturing a local following a vital part of riding the waves of revenue ebbs and flows.

Thanks to continued local marketing efforts, and now the roll-out of Shuckin’ Shack Athletics (more on that in future blog posts- stay tuned!) Shuckin’ Shack Franchise Owners are able to maintain that local feel of a hometown favorite while having the advantage of being backed by a corporate team- the best of both worlds!

9. Retaining Staff

One of the greatest challenges that restaurant owners face is hiring and retaining quality staff. The current employment situation is nothing short of dismal, with some fast-food chains reporting turnover rates up to 150 percent. The key is to keep them to the 90-day mark where this figure drops precipitously. That’s something that Shuckin’ Shack’s CEO Jonathan Weathington understands well.

It begins with understanding the situation from the employee’s perspective.

Individuals have faced long hours and job insecurity with mental health consequences. Employers must start with a competitive wage along with hiring incentives. The latter will not only attract talent but give people a reason to stay. It also helps to create a fun workplace environment so the employees can enjoy coming to work. The incentive program that we’ve set in motion has not only reduced churn and increased employee loyalty and satisfaction at Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar franchise locations across the country, but has also served as inspiration for other power players in the restaurant industry, setting Weathington up as a thought leader and influencer over the past several months, with appearances on Good Morning America and in the Wall St. Journal to discuss the labor shortage.

10. Adjusting the Sails

The pandemic caught everyone by surprise on so many different fronts. Suddenly, restaurants that didn’t have a significant takeout or delivery segment had to create one. Businesses with no online presence had to get on board or watch the ship sail without them. The takeaway message for the restaurant industry moving forward into 2022 is to stay focused on the trends and stay fluid. 

Anticipate what lies ahead because the pandemic isn’t over. Instead, heed the lessons that we all learned from the unforeseen upheaval. Most importantly, have a backup plan. For Shuckin’ Shack seafood Franchise Owners, making successful pivots will prove that much easier with our experienced corporate team at the helm to help navigate future storms as successfully as they did back in 2020.

Final Thoughts

As we get set to enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see that the restaurant industry is still charting its new course for the future. The pandemic took the world by storm and posed seemingly insurmountable challenges to the restaurant industry. However, like the shark in the sea, the only option is to keep moving. The trends for 2022 reflect the knowledge and experience that our seafood franchise, along with other businesses in the restaurant industry, have learned. They’ve opened up new opportunities to diversify and secure the future. They offer the lifeline for a changing world.

Interested in owning one of America’s fastest-growing seafood franchise concepts? Make 2022 the year you take control of your career with Shuckin’ Shack. Visit our website to learn more.