The Future of Restaurants – Part 1

The Future of Restaurants – Part 1

James Sandrini 8th May 2018

Restaurants are in flux. Sweeping change is transforming the landscape at a frantic pace, which got us to thinking: What does the future of restaurants look like?

From time to time, we’ll be outlining the improbable, imperiled fortunes of the industry. Part 1: The restaurant with no chef.

“Beer?” Sarah asks.

“Sure” I offer, as I turn my head slowly, eyes struggling to separate from the queue that’s formed since we sat down mere minutes ago. It’s 6.03pm. The restaurant has just sprung into life. It’s upsettingly early for dinner but, so Sarah tells me, 6.30pm might as well be closing time.

“It’s a great concept” Sarah introduces. “To be honest, I don’t know why it took so long for this to become a thing.”

Our food arrives here before my second beer makes it across the bar. Sarah is eating Ceviche. Surprisingly, it’s held up pretty well. By the time I’ve asked how it is, there’s very little of my Aloo chaat still lingering on the plate. I nod in approval while we order our mains – from our phones obviously. I’m switching to Deliveroo this time; they’re running a promotion on sides and, while tasty, my Indian starter has left me ravenous.

Donnie’s – a somewhat tired name for a new opening – is the talk of 2020. ‘A restaurant that doesn’t serve any food’ read the headlines; who needs PR when you’ve got press that punchy?

48.1 - The future of restaurants

Once upon a time, Netflix bought content from Comcast. Now, the American networks – Comcast’s NBC included – are scrambling to include Netflix’ created content in their subscriptions. Uber are vying to build the leading fleet of electric cars. Amazon and Google are building the next wave of transformative hardware.

If the early 2010s were defined by product developers trying to pivot to platforms – in order to catch the disruptors – then the turn of the next decade will prove that platforms know that their software is best delivered in hardware they build themselves.

If anyone takes Deliveroo at their word – that they don’t have plans to create their own content – then they’re either naïve or stupid. If you work in and around the trade and play along with this charade, then go read some recent history. Pronto.

"Tables will feature a miscellany of dishes from kitchens 30ft and 3 miles away"

The restaurants of the future will serve drinks; they may even have waiting staff; they’ll still operate property (I’m guessing on a short-term lease, more about that in another post) and you’ll be able to eat there – it’s a restaurant after all.

But there won’t be any chefs. Because they’ll be ferrying in the food from nearby delivery kitchens. You can eat Peruvian, while I eat Indian, while we both share a cold, fresh beer from the tap.

Don’t worry, wine bars will be unaffected (my story, my rules).

And if that all sounds rather palatable, wait for the kicker: Places you know and love will allow diners to order food from other restaurants to eat in theirs. Tables will feature a miscellany of dishes from kitchens 30ft and 3 miles away. Oh, and owners will be begging to do it. Of course, they will; they won’t have a choice. Welcome to the future of restaurants.

To read part 2 of this series, click here.