Imagining the Restaurant of the Future

A day spent musing on leading edge thinking at the Food and Drink Trends & Innovations Conference 2017 sparked many a thought about the future direction of this exciting and dynamic industry. One topic in particular (aside from of course the great presentation on innovation shared by Paul Gaskell and Steve Reeves) really got me thinking.

Listening to a discussion on restaurant trends, led by Anna Fenten from Levy Restaurants UK, I reflected on the following:

How different would a restaurant started in five years’ time look compared to now?

A focus on reducing food waste: Young Danish upstart Too Good To Go have recently launched in the UK. Their app connects restaurants who have surplus food at the end of service with customers wanting great food at a discount. It’s an excellent example of a business delivering a triple win; it gives restaurants a boost to their bottom line, it reduces food wastage, and is good for the end consumer who get a cheaper meal.

Further embracing of the takeaway customer: Deliveroo, Ubereats and JustEat have redefined the takeaway and enable consumers to enjoy restaurant quality food at home. Innovation in this industry is just getting started. Deliveroo have recently launched Deliveroo Editions last month, a series of “dark” kitchens for casual dining brands to rent and use solely for their takeaway customers. This allows restaurants to optimising their food for takeaway and take pressure off their own kitchens.

Greater use of technology to attract customers: Smart Home services like Google’s Echo and Amazon’s Alexa may soon be able to respond sensitively to the question “where shall we go for dinner?” by overlaying customer cuisine preferences, propensity to travel for food, and cross-reference with table availability (or takeaway delivery wait times). Surely this is more intuitive than panic Googling? The development of Facebook Messenger bot apps also enable restaurants to engage customers through new channels at just the right moment to entice them in.

A slicker in-restaurant experience: Eating out will mostly likely always need a human element, but soon many elements of service could become automated. Apps like CAKE and Qkr make paying the bill less of a pain, and brands like McDonald’s and Applebee’s are embracing self-service kiosks and iPads for great efficiency when ordering. Who knows, maybe your food will be delivered to your table by drone?

More flexible restaurant spaces: The rise of the pop-up restaurant allows for restaurateurs to trial new concepts more flexibly and at lower upfront cost. In fact, why shell out for a restaurant at all when you could host your restaurant in an inspiring space for a few months at a time before packing up and moving on? It helps make the high street more vibrant, allows for chefs to test more experimental ideas, as well as give established restaurant brands the opportunity to test their vision in new areas without investing too much first.

One thing is for sure. Disruption in the restaurant business is just getting started.

Originally published on The Value Engineers’ blog.




So, what to make of the news that eBay and Argos have decided to team up and offer customers the ability to order eBay goods online and collect them from an Argos store? The tie-up of these huge retailers is an exciting proposition, with both companies seeking to utilise each other’s points of strength to create a more well-rounded shopping experience. eBay will benefit from the vast network of physical Argos stores, whilst Argos will be able to leverage eBay’s expertise in online retail to boost its own online offering.

eBay are looking to humanise their shopping experience which until now has been almost completely online and offer their customers a physical point of contact when visiting an Argos store. The benefit of this is two-fold: eBay shoppers will not have to wait for their purchases to be delivered, and instead can collect them from an Argos store when convienient. This will surely be a welcome relief to those who have spent countless hours hanging around for the delivery man. Another weak point of online shopping currently is the inconvenience of returning unwanted goods. How many times have you kept something you bought just because it was too much hassle to send back and get a refund? Having a physical store will certainly make it easier to return items and for eBay to keep its customers happier.

And how will Argos benefit? The connection to the eBay brand will undoubtably add credibility to the Argos’ online offering, who themselves are operating successfully online but are traditionally seen as an offline, bricks-and-mortar retailer. The stream of eBay shoppers collecting their goods in-store will undoubtedly drive more potential customers into Argos stores too, who may previously have not considered shopping at Argos.

The key motivation of this venture for both companies stems from their competition with online behemoth Amazon. Both companies consider Amazon, albeit from slightly differing perspectives, as a serious competitor, and this joint venture could prove to be the first real challenge to Amazon’s dominance in the online space. By providing a physical point of difference and an opportunity to interact with consumers in the offline world, eBay and Argos can offer consumers a certain human interaction which Amazon currently does not. It certainly looks like in the case of the online shopping experience, two brands may well be better than one.

(Originally posted on The Value Engineers blog on September 26, 2013)