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Robot waiters, rubber shoes and 7 more trends set to take over in 2022




Robot waiters, rubber shoes and 7 more trends set to take over in 2022

Over the past year, we started figuring out how to live in an (almost) post-pandemic world. Behaviors that once seemed unnatural — working from home, living more digitally, feeling grateful for basics we once took for granted — became second nature.

In 2022, we’re ready for what’s next. And one thing’s for sure: We’re not going back to the old ways. So what can we expect from the new normal?

Here, experts give their predictions for the coming year.


“There are benefits to technology that go beyond quality and consistency,” experts say.
AFP via Getty Images

Staff shortages at restaurants are only getting worse — according to the National Restaurant Association, three out of every four restaurant owners can’t retain enough servers — but demand for in-person dining is returning. What are restaurateurs to do? Hire robots.

Last summer, the Cuban restaurant Sergio’s in Miami, Florida, introduced the newest member of their staff, Servi — created by Silicon Valley company Bear Robotics. Servi, which delivers food and clears dirty dishes, is leased by Sergio’s for around $999 a month — or about $2 to $3 an hour including installation and support — and doesn’t accept tips.

Flippy, a burger-flipping robot from Miso Robotics, made its debut in 2018 at Pasadena-based burger chain CaliBurger, but was fired after one day for flipping burgers too fast. In November, Miso unveiled Flippy 2, a sleeker and more independent version of the kitchen robot, which is poised to officially join the food industry workforce later this year.

“I think the big difference in 2022 is that we’ll likely see actual production deployment of specific devices, such as French fry or pizza robots,” said Jim Collins, President of Perfect Company, a leading provider of technology solutions for the restaurant and hospitality industries.

Adding robots isn’t just about streamlining the cooking process. “It can actually free the kitchen team to focus more on creativity and innovation,” said Collins. “There are benefits to technology that go beyond quality and consistency.”


Critics have described the much-touted 2022 Kia Carnival as “sexy.”

Since their debut in the ’80s, minivans have never been cool. They’ve been synonymous with soccer moms and considered the last resort for families not hip enough to afford an SUV. But something changed in 2021, with minivan sales jumping 84 percent, according to a Cox Automotive report. New minivan models — like the much-touted 2022 Kia Carnival (above), described by critics as “sexy” — have the same sliding doors and high seats beloved by suburbanites, but now come with a rugged, stylish design.

Part of the minivan renaissance is thanks to COVID. “Minivans speak to our current, pandemic-induced desire to simultaneously cocoon and escape,” said automotive journalist and minivan enthusiast Brett Berk. “They’re literally a living room on wheels.”

Berk also points to a generational shift. “For Gen-Xers who were weaned on station wagons, the practicality of minivans are a revelation,” he said. “And they can be knowingly, slyly contrarian. Like wearing wide-wale corduroy blazers, they’re so uncool, they’re cool.”


Wanderlust dating
Today’s daters crave more than dinner and a movie.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

After sitting at home for nearly two years, singles are “craving adventure and are up for anything,” said Talia Goldstein, the founder and president of matchmaking service Three Day Rule.

Today’s daters crave more than dinner and a movie, and they’re willing to travel further than a cab ride can take them. “Pre-pandemic daters would request a radius of 10 miles,” Goldstein says. “Now, clients are open to nationwide matches and even relocating for the right match.”

Tinder Passport, a premium feature that allows users to match with singles around the globe, has been around since 2015 but peaked in popularity last year. In 2021, Tinder members “passported” to an average of four cities and two countries. And 76 percent made matches in a country that speaks a language different than their own.

“To avoid flirtations getting lost in translation, we’ve partnered with [language-learning platform] Duolingo to give 100,000 Tinder members a free month of Duolingo Plus,” said a spokesperson for the company.


vending machines
Pizza vending machines have become especially popular — even in Rome.
Getty Images

Gone are the days when vending machines only sold soda, snacks or cigarettes. Now, a new wave of small business owners are using them to sell everything from $30 mini-bottles of champagne (Fort Lauderdale) to 45 types of hard pretzels (Delray Beach) to butcher-cut raw meat (Tampa). Northern Michigan recently opened the first 24-hour goat cheese vending machine, launched by goat creamery Idyll Farms. And cannabis vending machines have popped up in California and Colorado. A Japanese airline, Peach Aviation, has even started selling “mystery” domestic flights from its vending machines. (Customers don’t pick where they’re going, the routes are assigned randomly.)

Pizza vending machines have become especially popular — even in Rome, Italy (above) — with hundreds appearing around the country just last year. At the San Antonio International Airport, a pizza vending machine — which can cook 10-inch brick-oven pizza in just a few minutes — was added in late 2021 because terminal restaurants “were having a difficult time hiring qualified employees,” said Jennifer Mills Pysher, the airport’s Chief Commercial Officer.

The machine was so popular Pysher said they hope to add more vending machines across the airport and in the baggage waiting area, with a wide array of options like “coffee, ramen, smoothies, fresh salads and sandwiches. And we really want a cupcake machine!”


rubber shoes
Retail strategist Liza Amlani predicts that rubber shoes will “catapult to new heights” in 2022.

Rubber shoes are having a moment. Puddle Boots, a bright and chunky take on the classic rain boot created by Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta (above), are flying off shelves, with fans including Justin Bieber and “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross. Crocs, the foam clog so ugly that Time magazine once named them one of the world’s “worst inventions,” has seen sales climb 65 percent since 2020, after a mostly stagnant decade. Questlove wore a gold pair of Crocs to the 2021 Grammys, and celebrated sneaker designer Salehe Bembury introduced his take on the Crocs brand in December.

Retail strategist Liza Amlani predicts that rubber shoes will “catapult to new heights” in 2022, and not just because the infamous footwear is so comfortable and affordable, with an average price of around $45.

Rubber shoe makers are “aligning their values with customers on sustainability,” says Amlani. The Puddle Boot is Bottega’s first piece made with biodegradable polymer, and Crocs will introduce its first shoes made of biodegradable materials this year, vowing to become net-zero-carbon by 2030.


Visitor numbers for malls in 2021 were up 5 percent over pre-pandemic levels.

The pandemic very nearly rang the death knell for malls — visitation nationwide was down 91 percent in April 2020 — but according to transportation-data company INRIX, visitor numbers for malls in 2021 were up 5 percent over pre-pandemic levels.

Retailers are returning too — Toys “R” Us opened a new flagship store inside the American Dream mall in Bergen County, NJ, its first since closing all stores in 2018 — and real-estate brokerage firm CBRE predicts that 2022 will see a 10-year high for retail stores leasing at malls.

Some malls are offering perks to lure shoppers back. At American Dream, you can brunch with SpongeBob or shop with a “fashion industry icon” for just $3,000. “Shopping is still a social activity,” said retail consultant Georganne Bender. “In a world where many retailers sell the same thing, the experience has become more important than the product.”

Minnesota’s Mall of America, the largest mall on the continent, has tried to give customers “something they can’t find online,” says Jill Renslow, who is executive vice president of business development at the venue. That includes everything from yoga studios to luxury hotels on site.

But the real draw, curiously enough, has been inconveniences that online shopping was supposed to eliminate. Although 2021’s Black Friday was a weeklong affair, with deals not confined to a single day, “we still saw people wait in line early in the morning on Friday,” said Renslow. “They wanted the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.”


digital learning
Many colleges are offering steep discounts for online-only students.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Brick-and-mortar universities were forced to take their courses online during the pandemic, and now remote learning is increasingly becoming the norm. Online enrollment for undergraduates, in which students take either some or all of their classes online, rose by 367 percent this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Online MBAs aren’t always cheap, topping out at $140,000 at Carnegie Mellon University. But many colleges are offering steep discounts for online-only students. At the University of North Texas, for instance, the average annual tuition for out-of-state graduate students is $31,540. But for an online MBA, the estimated total cost for the entire program is just $19,464.

“The pandemic accelerated trends that were already in progress,” said Betty Vandenbosch, chief content officer at Coursera, an online-only education platform founded by Stanford professors. She cites a recent survey that found two-thirds of students want more online instruction.

“It’s not necessary for 400 students to sit in a lecture hall for two hours when a recorded video lecture can be as effective,” said Vandenbosch.

And it’s what employers want, too. Sean Gallagher, a Northeastern University professor and author of “The Future of University Credentials,” recently conducted an upcoming study, surveying thousands of C-suite executives. “They’re now more receptive to hiring people who earned educational credentials online,” he said.


pet travel
“Pet-friendliness” was the top search priority for travelers looking to book trips in 2022.
Getty Images

Pet adoptions reached an all-time high during the pandemic, and now that restrictions are loosening, people don’t want to explore the world without their new best friends.

Analytics company Zeta Global found that “pet-friendliness” was the top search priority for travelers looking to book trips in 2022. It was “more important than hotel cleanliness,” says Eric Bamberger, Zeta Global’s senior vice president of hospitality.

Travel companies are now shifting to accommodate animals, from Airbnb introducing AirCover insurance to protect hosts from pet damage, to Hilton Hotels expanding more
properties to be completely pet friendly.

“I suspect that more brands will follow Hilton’s lead,” said travel psychologist Kate Cummins. “People have reprioritized their needs during the pandemic, and staying connected to things they love, such as their pets, will be something we see people need in the upcoming year with travel.”


Nick Jonas eats popcorn
Celebs like Scottie Pippen and the Jonas Brothers are now selling their own popcorn brands.
The Naked Market/MEGA

With the rise of pandemic-era binge-watching, popcorn sales are up 9 percent in 2021, according to market-research firm Information Resources, Inc. And customers aren’t just buying the microwave snack that’s been around for decades.

New and sometimes bizarre popcorn flavors have overtaken the market, infusing kernels with everything from Cheetos-dust to booze. Celebs like Scottie Pippen and the Jonas Brothers are now selling their own popcorn brands, and in November, late night host Stephen Colbert created a two-minute commercial for a small Minnesota popcorn shop, narrated by Nick Offerman, who effused, “Damn, this stuff is good.”

AMC Entertainment, the largest movie-theater chain in the US, recently announced plans to start selling their popcorn — they make around 50 tons of it each day — in stores and mall kiosks around the country. They’re also launching a popcorn delivery service so you can munch away at the movies in the comfort of your home.

It remains to be seen if other movie chains follow AMC’s lead, but retail strategist Amlani suspects that in 2022, “popcorn could become the new pizza.”


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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