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.




Along with my colleagues at The Value Engineers we have put together a list of 15 Food and Drink Trends we think will happen in 2015! Over the next few days I will be publishing three blog posts describing all these trends, from the realistic to the outlandish! Do you think we have got it right? Are there any we have missed?  And so for our final instalment…

11. Click here for your Lunch

2015 will see food and drinks brands using digital channels in increasingly innovative ways to deliver better service and reduce their overheads. Starbucks is trialling a “click and collect” service for coffee through their app. In Australia McDonald’s offer a fully customisable burger you can order through a tablet- and collect in real time! Some restaurants will even begin letting guests order and pay for meals through their phone to free up waiter time!


12. Gamey Meats hit the Menu

With consumers becoming increasingly adventurous in what they eat, expect meats outside to standard chicken, lamb, beef and pork to gain a following. Nutritious, delicious and exciting, expect venison, partridge and other game birds to hit mainstream menus: no longer just for the top table!


13. Bubble Tea Explosion

This trend has been bubbling under the surface for a while, but bubble tea looks set to explode into the mainstream. Tapioca balls at the bottom of iced tea? It shouldn’t work but it does, and already has a loyal following in the UK thanks to the likes of Bubbleology and Cuppacha. Expect a high street chain in the UK to begin offering the drink- in Germany McDonald’s began trialling bubble tea in 2012!


14. Seaweed Salad

Super sustainable and with enormous supplies available just off-shore of the British isles it’s a wonder seaweed hasn’t found its way on to our plates sooner. This is one to watch over a longer period of time, but seaweed is already being experimented with in different formats from trendy London restaurants to wholefood and health stores.


15. Lunch on Bugs?

Cricket anyone? Bugs may be pushing our predictions, but with the global price of meat rising and health conscious western diets slowly shifting away from the meat and two veg formula consumers are looking for new sources of protein. Soya has had it’s hey-day, and the cost and environmental impact of land-intensive farming is fuelling a shift towards alternate sources of proteins – where better to look than the insect world?


To read about our first 5 Food and Drink trends for 2015 click here. To read about our second 5 Food and Drink trends for 2015 click here.





Barcelona. Istanbul. Paris. Rome.

I’ve visited these four cities in the past two years, and sampled for myself each with their own distinctive and rich food cultures. Each is filled with a plethora of markets, restaurants and cafes. As a food enthusiast, I have trawled through spice bazaars, lamb kebab in hand, sat on the end of piers eating sea-fresh crab, sampled authentic Roman pizza while wandering alongside the Coliseum and scooped out of their shells garlic-scented snails in a French bistro.

And on day 2 I walked into a McDonalds and ordered a Big Mac.

Why do I do this? What possesses me to forgo all that authentic, local cuisine for a meal I am so accustomed to? I can (and do) have a McDonalds any time I want in the UK. As I write this, I am a mere 20 minutes away from a McDonalds. Yet surely, when I am on holiday, I should experience the native food of the country I’m in, and not succumb to the Golden Arches? Does it not speak of my cultural ineptitude, the fact that I can’t last so long as a week away from my beloved burgers, French fries and chicken McNuggets?

The tendency for me to walk into a McDonalds despite myself on these occasions has often amused and baffled me. Could it be that I am simply scared of trying new foreign food? On seeing a McDonalds in another country, it becomes more than a fast food chain- it becomes a symbol of a reliable food. McDonalds is the wearer traveller’s comfort blanket- a safe haven from the uncertainty of foreign tap water, poorly translated menus and unaccredited hygiene standards. The core to the McDonalds brand is its reliability. Whatever time, wherever you are, when you see a McDonalds, you can rely on the fact that a Big Mac will taste like a Big Mac. And that is true for any McDonalds, anywhere else in the world.


Think about that. This reliability of product delivery in food is unique and unprecedented- think of the logistical difficulty of being able to deliver exactly the same product across cultures, across market conditions, and with different levels of local resources. It is truly impressive.

Now the thing is, I love trying new foods. I have no real issue with eating off the beaten track- in side-street restaurants, from market stalls and all that malarkey. I don’t run to McDonalds because I don’t feel safe eating anywhere else. So I don’t think that’s the reason.

Some would argue that the ubiquity of McDonalds globally is a symbol of cultural homogenisation, and the fact that I can be in almost any country in the world and have almost exactly the same food experience is a bad thing. The reason I enter into such establishments, the logic goes, is because I am culturally naive and, further, arrogant that nothing I sample locally could ever usurp the superiority of my beloved Filet O’ Fish. I am a Western traveller with an unsophisticated palate and no more.

I don’t really buy that either. I don’t eat McDonalds as a replacement to a local meal, rather in conjunction with it- swinging by a McDonalds to refuel rather than actively choosing it instead. McDonalds is simply there, when I’m hungry, and will suffice. And, well, what is really wrong with there being McDonalds restaurants across the world? If the demand is there, does it not seem reasonable for McDonalds operate? Even the mighty McDonalds will have to open a few more restaurants around the world before they risk threatening the global food landscape.

Of course I go on holiday to eat food I’m not used to. Of course the whole point of going abroad is to broaden your horizons, experience new things and come back home renewed, refreshed, and with a new perspective.

But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. Call it cultural fatigue. Call it capitalist dominance. Call it whatever.

Screw it- I’m supersizing the next one.