Home' Hospitality Business : HB OCT 2017 Contents We’ve come a long way since the mid-1900s,
when the very few dining options available to New Zealanders largely
consisted of meat, three veg and tomato sauce at the nearest hotel.
Now with globalization and technological innovation, we’re
overwhelmed by choice. Which begs the question, what will dining
look like in 2030?
Even now, the incursion of technology into the dining experience,
food production and consumption is having an impact on the industry.
With technology enabling more efficient forms of food delivery,
we don’t even need to leave the house to enjoy a restaurant quality
meal. Just look at the fast-growing subscription-based offerings, with
companies like My Food Bag, Fresh Catch and Woop taking the home
delivery service from niche to mainstream. The convenience and
comfort offered by these services, and indeed the likes of Uber Eats,
could well mean the decline of dining out.
We’ve already seen robots
and automated services replace
the reliance on humans in many
industries and the restaurant
industry is no exception. In fact,
while robots serving tables and
preparing food may sound like the
premise for a sci-fi film, many of these digital dining innovations
San Francisco based Artificial Intelligence (AI) firm Momentum
Machines for example, has already started experimenting with
a robot that can press patties, chop toppings, and assemble a
sandwich. In a restaurant in China, robots whip up steaming bowls of
ramen in 90 seconds and closer to home, Auckland’s innovate gelato
genius Giapo Grazioli’s uses 3D printing technology to create some of
his ice cream artwork.
Unsurprisingly though, automation can’t replace highly skilled
human workers. While robots may be efficient when performing
repetitive tasks like preparing bowls of ramen, it turns out they’re not
so great at interacting with people. Many of the robot-run restaurants
in China have since shut down due to the incompetence of their
robotic staff. While the whole idea was to reduce operation costs,
the restaurants actually began to lose money because the waiters
couldn’t perform simple tasks like taking customer’s orders, pouring
drinks and delivering food to tables.
Still, all of this does suggest the future dining experience is
likely to be lacking in personal interaction. Jeremy Julian and Ryan
Williams, a.k .a The Restaurant Technology Guys, predict people
of the future will see fewer humans and more
computers operating their favourite restaurants –
and it’s not a farfetched forecast either. In San-
Francisco for example, an eatery named Eatsa is
almost fully automated - customers order from an
iPad, and collect the food from a cubby with no sign
of human involvement.
New Zealand isn’t quite so
advanced yet, but it’s only a
matter of time. The Air New
Zealand Koru lounge at Auckland
Airport allows members to order coffee
through an app. McDonald’s touch screen kiosks are also available
here, allowing customers to digitally build their own gourmet burgers
and avoid queues.
Of course, there’s inevitably a downside of all this automation –
namely to our wallets (and our waistlines). Research suggests that
when your server is a screen, you order more and spend more money
because there’s no risk of being judged. Think about that extra side
of fries or dessert you add on to your Uber Eats order – if no one sees
you do it, it doesn’t count, right?
While we may prefer to keep those greedy eating habits to
ourselves, is human interaction really something we’re willing to
sacrifice? Restaurants, cafes and bars are, for many of us, a break
from our digital, fast-paced lives and a chance to engage in some
good, old-fashioned human contact.
According to data from Statistics New Zealand, in the three years
prior to June 2016 the amount of
money we spent in restaurants
increased by 50 percent while the
proportion of households eating out
increased by almost 10 percent. It’s
hard to imagine a restaurant full of
robots could ever satisfy the basic
need for social interaction that today’s dining experience provides.
Of course, technological innovation won’t only influence how we
eat, but what we eat. We can already see the changes in both the
supply and demand of food, with a focus on sustainability. Plant based
products will continue to grow in popularity and the protein-centric
dinner plate may become a culinary anomaly with grains, legumes
and even insects taking center stage.
Some studies suggest meat will no longer be grown on farms but
in a lab. Scientists are already experimenting with more efficient and
environmentally friendly ways of putting
meat on our plates, which could free
up enormous quantities of grazing
Regardless of where the
future takes us, it’s an exciting
time for the food industry.
Plus, if things go pear shaped
and all the food on the planet
disappears, at least we know
there’s the option of steak-
flavoured vegan gelatin.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Restaurant Association NZ
Marisa Bidois - Chief Executive
THE FUTURE OF DINNING
“It’s hard to imagine a restaurant
full of robots could ever satisfy the
basic need for social interaction that
today’s dining experience provides.”
Hospitality BUSINESS | October 2017 | 37
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