New technologic advances are made in the food service industry every year, but how long will it be before we see radical changes? What will restaurants be like when customers visit in ten years?
Ranging from modern touches to décor, updating equipment to be more energy efficient to cashless payments, restaurants of the future will certainly not disappoint.
Let’s start off with one type of restaurant that millions of people flock to every day: quick-service. Cars frequent fast food drive-thrus on the daily, so much that new technology could allow your car to detect where your favorite quick-service restaurant is and even order up your meal of choice.
“All you would have to do is say, ‘Order Burger King’ and the application could go into action ordering what you normally order,” says Jay Ward, communications manager for crossovers and SUVs for Ford.
“While most of the impressive technology would be housed on the mobile phone or in the car it’s connected to, operators would also need to upgrade POS systems to accept such orders,” QSR Magazine states.
With the explosion of smart phones using voice activated software, drive-thru lanes will definitely receive a major facelift. “Drive-thru lanes will be staffed by Siri-like software – not crew members – that will be able to take orders in several languages. Within 20 years, experts expect the software to be sophisticated enough to recognize regional dialects,” explains Nation’s Restaurant News.
Nation’s Restaurant News also expects more casual-dining restaurants to open up a quick service style to compete with the rapid growth of fast casual restaurants. “Red Robin already has created its limited-service Burger Works, Denny’s has its Fresh Express, and Red Lobster and Applebee’s offer versions in existing stores at lunchtime,” they say.
Quick-service restaurants are trying to compete with casual dining restaurants, so many are upgrading their seating and fixtures that seem more upscale and modern. Gone are the days of hard plastic seating you would normally find at fast-food places, as places such as Wendy’s and Burger King have redesigned their dining room areas. Some fast-food restaurants have put in lounges, fireplaces and more.
QSR Magazine explains that large, attention-grabbing signage is not needed anymore due to the simple way one can find a restaurant’s location using their cell phone. They also detail what a restaurant of the future could look like inside, “Carbon footprint information is as prominently positioned as nutritional facts, allowing customers to make purchasing decision based not only on calorie and fat counts, but also supply chain logistics. All flooring, walls, and furnishings are made of recyclable materials like wood, aluminum, and steel. Modular partitions made of renewable metal frames and recycled composite finishes instead of concrete and drywall make up the store’s bones.”
What about entertainment while customers are dining in the future? QSR Magazine predicts tables with music and video players that will allow customers to play a song or watch a video shown at only their table. If customers like what they hear or see, they would be able to download it instantly to their phone, prolonging the brand experience. “The brand isn’t necessarily what you want your brand to be. The brand is what people want your brand to be and how they perceive it,” says Brian McKinley, vice president of marketing for DMX.
The National Retail Federation’s ‘Restaurant of the Future’ even included a high-tech kids area that had an interactive wall, multi-player game and gesture-based tabletop projection games.
One of the most interesting upgrades to ‘décor’ could be revamped uniforms for employees. Scented uniforms may seem like a stretch, but it’s exactly what’s predicted 30 years down the road. Think about it, if you walk past someone who smells like fries or dessert, chances are someone will want to order the same thing. Pheromones, or chemical compounds that can influence human behavior are also being infused into uniforms to boost employee morale.
What About the Food?
Food has been transformed in recent years thanks to the introduction of molecular gastronomy. Traditional food and flavorings such as peanut butter and olive oil evolve into powders, liquids, gels and more. “A sprinkling of such a powder, whether made from olive oil or other natural ingredients, on popcorn could provide the flavor and mouth feel of butter or other toppings without the grease and sogginess,” explains Will Goldfarb, co-founder of the Experimental Cuisine Collective at New York University.
“Mix and match powders would also allow customers to customize their French fries”, notes food chemist and Institute of Food Technologies (IFT) spokeswoman Sara Risch, PhD, as an alternative to traditional ketchup.
Customers are also going to be more focused on local food, and want to know where their food comes from. To please their customer base, chains will start to derive from their traditional cookie cutter menu items and add food that reflects their locales.
Many restaurants are also breaking down the barrier between the front and back of the house. Not only do customers want to know where their food came from, they also want to see how it’s being prepared. Nation’s Restaurant News notes that some full-service restaurants will put seating in – or in full view of – the kitchen, and many concepts will add more tableside exhibition cooking.
What other places in a restaurant will you start to see new, smart technology?
Brands will begin to rely on more energy efficient pieces of equipment to help with their operating costs, along with installing LED lighting and better heating and air conditioning systems. Restaurants can also solve the pesky problem of keeping an establishment super clean and safe. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that microchip technology will be embedded in menus, napkin dispensers and condiment service areas that will alert staff when they appear near empty or need to be cleaned.
Restaurants will realize the importance of customer’s electrical devices and more special seating areas with a large amount of charging stations and USB ports will be provided.
One final note about the digitalized future of restaurants; digital ordering and payments will be the norm. “The smartphone will be the wallet of 2020,” says Dennis Lombardi of WD Partners. “And cash will go the way of the AM band of the radio.”
Restaurant of the Future
The 2014 National Retail Federation Show in New York City introduced a ‘restaurant of the future’. Here are some of the highlights that can be expected in the near future:
- 23-foot video mural that greets daily commuters as they pass the restaurant;
- Virtual hostess, Mrs. Green, a hologram that welcomes customers to Richtree;
- A tailored self-order system of kiosks that allows customers to skip the line and order and pay at their convenience;
- Digital menus that react instantly to changes in the central menu system
- A high-tech kids area features an interactive wall, a multi-player game and gesture-based tabletop projection games
Given the future forecast of the restaurant industry, food service operations can expect some major changes ranging from décor to technological advancements in the upcoming years. Speaking of upgrades to restaurants, let Central help you push your restaurant into the future! Shop Central for all of your needs.
What advancements are you excited about? What would you want to change for the restaurant of the future? Let us know in the comments!