It’s been an intense few weeks of travel and thinking about the future.
I kicked off May in Las Vegas at the HD Expo, scrambled back to Chicago for the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show and then dug in deep prepping for our third annual Tour the Design Trends.
Some of you likely had similar travels, probably even more. Like most of you, I try to visit as many new restaurants as I can (which is not exactly a terrible burden) and keep my eyes open for the latest trends. These past few weeks, I sampled veg-forward concepts, themed restaurants, high-concept designs, craft cocktails at thoughtfully designed bars (page 72), restaurants specializing in locally sourced ingredients and even a few dives. A delightful side trip to the Neon Museum in Las Vegas reminded me that creating an experience has always been an important driver in pulling in traffic, even though everybody talks about it like it’s a revelation in design today.
Of course, upon spotting an important concept in restaurant trends, it soon becomes apparent I am already a little behind. I walked away from the NRA Show thinking kiosk manufacturers seem well represented and possibly on the rise. Slightly more than 40 percent of limited-service restaurants offer touch-screen ordering, according to the NRA’s last tech survey in 2016. But then I read Senior Contributing Editor Dana Tanyeri’s story on data-driven design (page 50) and discovered that at least one large chain is already moving away from kiosks because app ordering has quickly eclipsed it.
The NRA Show also featured a keynote about the future of restaurants. It was heavy. Attendees walked away with their heads spinning with thoughts of dining at a restaurant where customers order meals via kiosks with facial recognition — or via apps that automatically order your favorite meal as you walk in — and deliver food to your table as you sit down to enjoy a multiplayer game before allowing you to pay for everything with the tap of a finger (or the nod of your head). That is, if you decide to leave your house.
Creating guest experiences also means technology converging with convenience, and someday that might just mean that you order via an app from a shared “ghost” kitchen (meaning there is no front of the house) where a lonely human assists a burger-flipping robot by packaging your order and placing it in an autonomous vehicle that will bring it directly to you (at home, at work, at the ballpark). Sadly, you’ll have to step to the curb or the driveway to get it — at least until houses are equipped with drive-thru windows. And what will that mean for drive-thru restaurants? Who will want to bother getting in their car and going to a restaurant when the restaurant will come to you? I only hope the restaurant in question brings me a poke bowl in a DeLorean.
And I only hope you enjoy this issue of rd+d.