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Food Trends 2073: Dining 50 Years From Now

Not many pollsters or publications would be comfortable making predictions about how our collective dining experience will look in 50 years. But one intrepid data cruncher has decided to give it a go. Behold the dining experience of 2073…

Robot Hand - © asme.orgRobots and AI will be behind almost every aspect of resto food prep by 2073…

A cautionary note

I have to preface this post with a cautionary note. Remember the predictions, in the 1960s, that we would all be jetting around in flying cars by the millennium? You might well take today’s predictions about the dining scene with more than one grain of salt. But it’s fun to speculate on where today’s emergent trends are headed.

Who’s sticking their neck out?

That would be London-based market research firm market research company Euromonitor. It’s been in the predictions business – based on its finely honed data mining and analysis systems – since 1972. While a number of organizations have been bold enough to predict food and eating trends into the early 2040s, only Euromonitor has so far dared to look 50 years ahead.

Eating with others is timeless

“Eating will remain one of those tangible things that we want to taste, feel, smell and share, and experience with others,” says Robert J. C. Munday Executive Vice President Marketing & Customer Solutions at RATIONAL. “And that’s exactly why we know: Foodservice in general and restaurants in particular are in principle something timeless. People will continue to want to eat, drink and enjoy together in specially designed venues.”

Timelessness is a natural expression of human nature – the desire to be with others and share – that no amount of time will erase.

But will there be restaurants?

Yes. And Euromonitor says young chefs entering the business today are almost certainly assured of employment through their eventual retirement. The venues mentioned in the previous paragraph will almost certainly be restos.

But they will be different from today’s sit-down dining establishments. They will offer more of ‘premiumization’ and ‘more experience’ to justify what we today would consider astronomical prices.

But there will be another dimension to fine dining that is only now starting to be explored. That’s personailzation, based on data collected from previous orders and preference surveys diners will be invited to complete.

‘Two Faces’ of 2073 dining

One will be the intimate, finely tuned service made possible my massive data collection from diners, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. The other will be the ultimate expression of automation and AI, in the lower-end and Fast Food sectors.

Thus, the two ‘faces’ of food service will be spotted at extremes of the service continuum.

At the high end of the spectrum, food will be prepared the conventional, labour-intensive way; by humans, using fresh ingredients.

At the low end, food will be ‘modularized’, allowing robots to prepare and assemble orders from standard building blocks. That means more accurate orders and faster service. But it also presupposes more processed, heavily processed and ultra-processed components.

Somewhere in the middle, a proliferation of ghost kitchens will fulfill orders placed via apps and websites. Those orders will be delivered by services not too different from today’s Door Dash, Skip The Dishes and UBER Eats. But instead of drivers and cyclists, they’ll arrive via automated ground vehicle or flying drone. It will always be a priority to get humans out of the mass-foodservice loop.

A few true innovations

Euromonitor predicts that 3D food printers will be ubiquitous by 2073. Both low- and high-end eateries will use them, for a variety of purposes. Food preparation, packaging and del;ivery systems will depend even more on data transmission systems – the descendants of today’s bar- and QR-codes.

The report’s last word…

… Goes to Dr Peter Stadelmann, CEO of RATIONAL AG. He’s extremely confident about the future of foodservice. And he emphasizes one thing in particular: “The difference between [mere] food intake and the dining experience in the restaurant will continue to diverge in the coming decades.”

“This is great news for restaurants! After all, it is precisely restaurants that provide us humans, as social beings, with moments that go far beyond our collective caloric intake: Through its unique atmosphere, its service that will be even more attentive in the future, and dishes that tell stories with a creativity never seen before. I am convinced that the technologies of the future are a unique opportunity for foodservice. So in this vein: 2073, here we come!”

My take

A glaring omission from the report is predictions on the impact of plant-food products on the dining scene as a whole. It’s already starting to be felt. And it’s expected to be a trend in full swing by 2030. It’s one thing to speculate on how we’ll be dining in the future. But quite another to predict WHAT we’ll be eating.

The resto-scape – and the mass dining-out experience – will certainly be very different from what we know today. And the divide between the nutritional haves and have-nots will be much wider.

~ Maggie J.