Restaurant 2025: Innovators at the intersection of food, biz and technology

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From left to right: Ben Leventhal (founder of Eater and Resy), David Rockwell, Danny Meyer, Dan Barber (Blue Hill)

Attended Foodi: A Journey Into the Future, an event held at Bloomberg this past Friday in conjunction with New York City Wine & Food Festival. Two phenomenal panels gave us their perspective on the future of restaurants in 2025.

Read below on the 3 most important themes that emerged including the future of tipping.

1. Tipping will be done within the next 10 years.

Danny Meyer is leading the charge having announced this past week that by 2016 his 13 restaurants in NYC will no longer accept tips (pricing will increase by roughly 25%). Meyer makes a great case against tipping by suggesting it takes away the professionalism of the hospitality industry. He asks us to compare it to tipping other professionals e.g. an airline pilot for landing a plane or our doctor.

Another big factor in doing away with tipping is the competition for skilled workers today. Meyer suggests that a cook at McDonald’s can make more money than a culinary school trained chef at a casual or fine dining restaurant. The lack of skilled workers is a HUGE ISSUE and with unemployment at under 5% it is impacting businesses around the country. I heard recently that Jonathan Waxman’s new restaurant, Jams, was having a big problem with lunch because they couldn’t get workers.

Without tipping, we might also see more apps that allow us to rate servers and restaurants along the lines of Uber. Naturally, this will also go both ways where industry workers will be able to rate diners.

2. Acoustics and lighting will be key design issues

David Rockwell, the leading architect and designer in the hospitality industry, provided great insights into the role of food in our culture. But most importantly he spoke about the need to control acoustics – suggesting acoustics need to change throughout the evening. He also wants to focus on better lighting to read menus. Other key points:

  • food is at the cultural epicenter of our lives
  • more restaurants will experiment with dayparting (to help cover costs)
  • food is integral to work (Neuehouse, and both Meyer and Rockwell mentioned Facebook NYC kitchen/dining facilities)
  • pop ups and food carts are increasingly popular because they offer changeability and are more ephemeral
  • blurring of design between high and low
  • restaurants are public spaces but need to offer privacy as well

3. Technology assists

Michael Stillman, founder of Quality Meats, asks his IT department to provide him with 5 things each year to make the dining experience better for both the guests and the restaurants e.g. apps for better scheduling of staff.  He also uses Instagram to stay on top of trends in food preparation, menus, design etc.

Ben Leventhal, founder of Eater and now Resy, believes we are at the very earliest stages of using tech to better understand guests and offer them a more customized experience.  Danny Meyer, likewise, uses social media to better understand guests to make sure his restaurants provide the best personalized experience possible.

Technology will also allow restaurants to establish variable pricing e.g. less expensive at 6pm than at 8pm. (Surge pricing?)

Additional Insights/Trends:

. Diners will become more frugal (Danny Meyer)
. People want to eat more healthy/healthfully
. More meals will be eaten out/ why grocery stores will add restaurants (Danny Meyer)
. We’re an on-demand society, everything has to be prepared for delivery. More restaurants will open primarily for take-out which makes them less expensive to run/staff etc.
. Food has to come with a hug/ restaurants have to offer a nurturing experience (Danny Meyer)
. Design triggers memories/ restaurants must consider how it feels for the diner (David Rockwell)
. In the restaurant business, you don’t have to be the first e.g. let someone else work out the kinks before you dive in (Alan Stillman)
. Tipping and salary/living wages are biggest topics of conversation (Alan Stillman)

 

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