The Future of Restaurants – Part 6

The Future of Restaurants – Part 6

James Sandrini 3rd July 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 6 – The restaurant in disguise.

Restaurants are the queens of cosplay.

One minute they’re fancy, antipodean-edged brunch shacks, celebrating every moment of unrarefied communality with bottomless Bloody Mary’s. The next, they’re sophisticated, swanky destinations for people with prickly dispositions and names like Opal. And Gustav. And Xenia.

We probably wouldn’t trust a human that was quite so adept at reinventing themselves, and we’re not 100% committed to a restaurant or bar that possesses this kind of wizardry.

‘Wasn’t this the place that Gustav drank 16 Mojitos, passed out and only woke up to vomit on that woman’s shoe?’ asks someone that definitely isn’t advocating the place as a go-to set lunch option.

We’re judgemental creatures. We need to be to survive. We make immediate decisions that lead us away from potential trouble (and – woefully – into narrow, prejudicial phobias). Daylight and birdsong good, dark corners and shrill noises bad.

Restaurateurs have long been nervous about how their food looks and tastes when it leaves the restaurant. Rightly so in many cases; if your first experience of the brand is subpar, would you give it a second chance?

"When I suggest that the restaurants of the future will embrace all-day dining, I say it because they’ll have no other fucking choice"

Operationally, few restaurants are set up to shift gears between services. Sure, you might see a junior team member scuttle into the back with a tray of half-day-old pastries under their arm after breakfast, or a hurried head waiter frantically rewriting an A-board before dinner, but legitimate transitions are rare. Nor will it be widespread in the restaurants of the future.

Despite our longing for consistency and aversion to change, there are two, grim constants that we’d rather do without. Unfortunately, taxes are still inexorable, and death remains undefeated. Sobering. And you thought I was writing this drunk.

Not that this pair needs any additional company, but it’s fair to say that humanity has uncovered another inevitable certainty: Over a long enough period of time – and we’re only talking years, not millennia – populations will swell and, as a result, the land that we occupy will be worth more tomorrow than it was yesterday.

That means property prices will continue to jump up and commercial rents will probably not get down. And when I suggest that the restaurants of the future will embrace all-day dining, I say it because they’ll have no other fucking choice. Restaurants will have to maximise the cost of the space they inhabit to survive.

And they’ll do it by serving you breakfast, lunch and dinner, just not in the restaurant.

Restaurants of the future

Breakfast is the fastest growing daypart. Sure, we might just be hungry after our 75-minute journeys to work because we can’t afford to buy rent a place anywhere remotely close to central London, but whatever. In the future, you’ll still eat breakfast out – the avocado industry is safe – but it will be sent directly to your workplace, ready for you to enjoy when you arrive and personalised to your tastes.

For lunch, you’ll still be eating a sandwich at your desk – future or not, gluten and desktop dining aren’t going anywhere soon – but this will be less #BonjourArnaud and more #ThankFuckSomeoneMadeThisWithinTheLastHour.

Chances are, the same chef that made your breakfast had a hand in making your egg & cress (big flavour in the future, big). And this will be packaged together with an after-sandwich coffee at a local kiosk so you can stretch your legs, get some air and take a mandated, caffeinated lap.

"Restaurants will no longer need to camouflage themselves as generalists, putting on dodgy accents to pass as breakfast or lunch places when they speak fluent dinner"

Snacks? Provided by the very same restaurant. Dinner too: Wine to the office so you can share a glass with the team, before starters and mains on site, and dessert waiting for you in the fridge when you return home.

You’re eating restaurant food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but you’ll only be spending an hour or two of your day there – if at all – connected as you will be by systems that seamlessly synthesize distribution to your office, your home and wherever else you frequent. The restaurants of the future will transition from offline to online, using bricks & mortar venues to grow brand awareness and convert offline ‘guests’ into digital ‘users.’

Restaurants will no longer need to camouflage themselves as generalists, putting on dodgy accents to pass as breakfast or lunch places when they speak fluent dinner. Instead, they’ll open the front doors for their key service and send everything else they produce out the back, onto a bike and into your futuristic lap.

To read part 5 of the series, click here.