Special Report

21 Ways Restaurants Are Going to Change

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1. Virtual restaurants will proliferate

Also called “ghost restaurants” or “cloud kitchens,” these are facilities for preparing food for delivery independent of actual walk-in restaurants. “The rise of ‘placeless’ restaurants,” reads the report, “will challenge and redefine the concept of what a restaurant is.” Nonetheless, ghost restaurants could also sometimes manifest themselves in more corporeal form as surprise pop-ups that would “bring experience of these restaurants to the real world and build exclusivity.”

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2. Self-driving cars might deliver your food

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are coming. They might become practical as delivery carriers before they start actually driving people around, and will even be able to pick up food at drive-through windows (which will require some redesign of drive-through layouts). When they do start carrying people, their passengers will have more time to eat and be able to eat different kinds of food because they’ll have both hands free.

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3. Non-food companies will take food orders

As people increasingly order restaurant food to be delivered, rather than going out to restaurants, new alliances can be formed. For instance, says the report, “a media-streaming service could buy or pair with existing meal delivery services to create an all-in-one dinner and entertainment experience.”

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4. Restaurants will get smarter

Information technology has already made inroads in the food service business, but that involvement will only increase, with “an evolving digital ecosystem of apps, services and personal AI assistants…” Among other things, this will improve health and safety training, staff certifications, and food sourcing, and allow for better management of allergens.

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5. Robotics are coming

Touchscreen ordering kiosks are already appearing at McDonald’s and other chains, but back-of-the-house automation is coming, too. It may be especially suited to performing some of the more repetitive food prep tasks. Chefs will work collaboratively with these systems, which might, according to the report, “even permit motion-capture replication of the movements of chefs.”