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Smart homes are becoming increasingly food-oriented. We no longer look to home automation systems just for security purposes or the management of energy sources, but also for our food shopping, a quick home-delivered supper or the reservation of a table in a sophisticated restaurant. A vocal command and, hey, our needs are satisfied.
However, there is much more. The list of 2019 food trends compiled by “Baum+Whiteman”, for example, has assigned the third place to robotic restaurants: from France to California via China, more and more equipment is being invented for the preparation of foods without human intervention, such as pizza and hamburgers, and the boldest robotic experiments have even attempted to replace human chefs.
"In all probability, the home delivery websites will be the first to adopt their own automated kitchens – says Michael J. Whiteman, CEO and co-founder of "Baum+Whiteman" – the advantage of these businesses is that they can count on a fantastic database, enabling them to know in advance the preferences of their customers and their regular orders. They will be able to foresee which dishes to specialize in, comprising quantities, and even to develop an extremely efficient logistic organization for deliveries. Of course, for this to be a possible future scenario, a considerable capital investment is required along with a significant clientele in numerical terms. Consolidation will take place when the small-medium players are taken over by the big ones or when we start to see company mergers of some importance”.
Shopping from home
Future scenarios apart, there is a sector which is already developing extensively, that of the so-called home "technofoodology": there is no doubt that home automation systems applied to food have contributed to change our everyday lives. And not only.
According to some trend observers, by 2020 there will be more than 55 million smart devices in our homes, which will be instrumental in turning the web into an enormous food store.
And that’s not all. "Let’s try thinking beyond 2020 – Whiteman goes on to hypothesize – today Amazon is able not only to deliver a pair of jeans or sneakers in less than 24 hours but also our food shopping, fresh ingredients included. This is a decisive step forward which is already changing the dynamics of food distribution”.
Technology and fine dining
As forecasted by the last reports from "Baum+Whiteman", thanks to the new frontiers of technology, the world of fine dining is also changing. On one hand, many small home delivery businesses have been literally pushed out of the market or incorporated by big performers such as Google or Amazon; on the other hand, the social media have evolved to develop new concepts in the way of services, by actually changing the way in which we interface with restaurants. Just a few days ago, a news item informed us of a Milanese restaurant which enables diners to pay part of their bill in followers, offering free dishes to the most-followed and active Instagrammers.
By now, the touchscreen concept has practically been surpassed and we are well into the “voice-controlled” era: at any time of the day, we can order what we want from Alexa or Siri and these highly efficient “assistants” will even ask us if we wish to order the same as last time or change menu. “Now is the time to look ahead and get prepared” is the message being launched by Whiteman. Ok, but how? "With the highest possible quality and refinement. I would focus on refined and quite unique products, on dishes that are impossible to replicate and/or make at home with a ‘cooking box’. Then I would implement social experiences to ensure that people are encouraged to set foot out of the house and come to my restaurant”.
In a word: simplification
And what would you look to technology for? "If today’s self-drive vehicles can deliver meals to our home, then the same vehicles could take us to the restaurant, for example”. And maybe Alexa or Siri could look after everything else. All we would have to do is get dressed up for the evening out.
"Competition between food operators is becoming increasingly fierce – Whiteman goes on to explain – I believe the only businesses to survive and prosper will be those which are able to simplify consumers’ lives. For example: let’s imagine that I wish to dine out. Technology has to go beyond simply making the reservation: I need to consult the menu in advance, see some photographs, maybe even order my food in advance to avoid waiting and be able to request a means of transport to get me there. And let’s not forget the possibility to enjoy preferential treatment as a regular customer, to get the best table for example”.