The future of restaurants is digital, a change started long before the Covid-19 pandemic, argue Kitchen United executives Meredith Sandland and Carl Orsbourn in this snappy, convincing roadmap to the ways meals will reach customers in the coming years.
Fronted by quotes from such luminaries as Danny Meyer (founder of Shake Shack) and Gregg Creed (former CEO of Yum! Brands), the book presents a striking picture of how Americans eat. “Convenience has become paramount,” they write. We’re strapped for time, less likely to cook or eat with our families, more likely to stay single longer (or forever). Most women work and can’t make dinner every night. We’re also more aware of what we’re eating: Food now “reflects your identity, your values, and your consciousness of the direct effect of food upon your health.” In short, restaurateurs now contend with the IWWIWWIWI factor (I Want What I Want When I Want It).
The restaurant business is rapidly shifting along four lines: the decreasing popularity of dine-in; the rise of personalization (e.g., tossed salad restaurants where you choose your own ingredients); a focus on the sustainable supply chain, and the augmented business model (restaurants that offer additional services, such as app delivery).
In energetic, straight-forward prose, the authors explain the framework propping up so many businesses: digital ordering, the gig economy that pits drivers against wait staff for tips, the finances of third party apps like DoorDash. They also discuss why “off-premise” (catering, delivery, and takeout) is the industry’s highest growth channel and how Covid propelled already well-established trends.
The book is informed by, but refreshingly free of advertising-esque references to their own businesses (“ghost kitchens,” i.e. delivery-only restaurants). And the authors manage to walk an interesting line between depicting restaurant and delivery practices as they are, and imagining a future where they can be even better.
In sum, restaurateurs and restaurant-lovers alike will find much to learn in this enjoyable vision of the future of dining.
Highly recommended for fans of Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl, and Roger Field.