We Asked Industry Experts What the Restaurant of the Future Will Look Like


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We Asked Industry Experts What the Restaurant of the Future Will Look Like

Will robots waiters be taking our orders? If tables will have built-in cameras, will we ever need to Instagram again?

"What happens when you get a mixologist, a designer, a chef, a roboticist, and a food critic together in a room?"

This isn't the start of a bad joke, it's an attempt to predict what the restaurant of the future will look like.

In honor of MUNCHIES' Future of Food week, we wanted to explore where our dining-out habits are headed. Will our sushi orders be taken by tuna-rolling robots in years to come? How will we source exotic ingredients when our skies become too polluted for air travel? And if tables will one day come with built-in cameras, will we ever need to Instagram again?


READ MORE: Future of Food on MUNCHIES

Here's what our cross-section of hospitality industry experts had to say on the subject of futuristic restaurants. Now, sit back, relax, and let Dave the humanoid waiter take your order.


The Bar Ryan Chetiyawardana, bartender and owner of London bars White Lyan and Dandelyan.

"In the restaurant of the future, it won't be so much about what is on the bar, as much as what will be absent from the bar. There are lot of things that we inherited from the old style of drinking that are just really wasteful.

This idea of 'zero waste' is becoming much more more commonplace, but I think that it's an unattainable goal to be completely zero-waste. It'll be stuff like paper napkins, plastic straws, and even garnishes that are just there for the sake of it (like adding a slice of lemon or rosemary sprig) that will start to disappear from our restaurant bars. Ingredients will be used in a better way. Ice, for an example, is amazing but some people are just using it for the sake of it. The bar of the future will still have the element of luxury that we want to enjoy, it just won't have gratuitous opulence that's highly wasteful.

The use of real ingredients in drinks is the future so you'll also start to see people really championing brilliant producers, and talking about the provenance.

But foraging is not the future, good agriculture is. You might have a cocktail with an amazing whisky that we've got from Japan or from Scotland, and we're using this breed of lemon from Florida and this is a plum that we've got from Kent.


There are things that mechanization and robots can take away from us for the better, but bars of the future will still have that element of luxury, and customization will become more important. The hand of the bartender will take on a bigger role.

Having said all that, there are still times when I want to be in a dive bar, listening to heavy metal, and be able to order a cocktail from a vending machine—that would be great."

The Decor Tim Mutton, CEO and founder of Blacksheep design agency.

"Hardware like projectors beaming menus onto tables is quite niche, but you do now have tablet devices and delivery apps having a big effect on restaurants. You don't even have to have a physical space now to run a restaurant.

Just like retailers that have built their business on bricks-and-mortar are now stepping up their game in terms of experience—rather than just have clothes on a rail—restaurants are changing, too. It's not just about tables and chairs, but other experiences happening within that space as well.

The dialogue in design has changed from, 'Is this a 'Wow' moment?' when you walk into a space, to, 'Is this an Instagrammable moment?'

There are other experiences that'll manifest themselves in restaurants, in terms of shared experiences. The restaurant isn't a singular function space where people go to eat and drink anymore. The Ginger Pig, for example, is a butchers but they also offer cookery lessons that let you eat what you've cooked, turning the space into a restaurant.


I don't think food delivery services will be the end of restaurants. Having something delivered to your door is great in the convenience economy, but you don't know how long it's taken to get there and it might be lukewarm when it arrives. Humans are social animals and having a shared experience within a restaurant environment is something that creates quite extraordinary memories.

But the dialogue in restaurant design has changed from, 'Is this a 'Wow' moment?' when you walk into a space, to, 'Is this an Instagrammable moment?' We're saying the same thing but now with technology and social media, it's not only about you capturing that moment, it's about telling others where you are. As a designer, you know that you have to incorporate elements around how the internet works."

The Chef Enda McEvoy, head chef and owner of Michelin-starred Loam in Galway, Ireland. McEvoy sources all his ingredients from the west of Ireland, which helped his restaurant achieve the Sustainable Restaurant Association's highest, three-star Food Made Good rating.

"The restaurant of the future is about running a business with a more ethical and sustainable eye, rather than mindlessly running a business and producing a lot of waste. People are cottoning on to the fact that it can also be more economically beneficial to run a restaurant mindfully. I think that a lot of people have gone in the direction of using what's around you, being more flexible about what we eat, and going with the seasons.


We have a restaurant that only uses ingredients from the west of Ireland, as much as it can. We have meetings with our veg supplier three times a year to decide what they're going to plant the following year and we agree to buy everything off them, accepting all their failures as well. We also buy whole animals and butcher them in-house. It's cheaper and have to think more about what we're going to make so we don't waste anything.

READ MORE: I Ate at the World's First 3-D Printed Food Restaurant

This approach makes the role of a chef a more interesting one. At the end of the day, you're stuck in a little white box as a chef and your only connection to the outside world is the people who deliver things to you. Rather than ordering produce over the phone, getting it delivered, putting it on a plate, and taking money from someone, your job becomes more about developing relationships with producers and then showcasing their work.

Sourcing locally and growing your own will become more important. By limiting our ingredients, we find there's a lot more out there than you might imagine. For example, we use carrot seeds in place of importing oranges and citrus fruits. There are bigger issues if you're in a city, which is why urban farming is going to become even more essential but now, it's already relatively inexpensive for restaurants to have systems in place to grow things."

The Restaurant Critic Jay Rayner, food critic for the Observer


"The existence of bloggers and Instagram and all of that will make absolutely no difference to the future of professional restaurant criticism. The only issue is that if any bloggers who are doing it for free are writing better then those who are being paid to do so. When people say, 'Are you scared of bloggers?', I say, 'Well, only if they're better than me.' And while there might be professional critics who can out-write me, I don't think there's anyone who's writing a blog who can.

People like reading restaurant reviews and while that continues, I don't foresee any major change.

Generally, what I've always found, is that those who write about restaurants for free will eventually get paid. If you come across a blogger and find someone who's really good, you're going to hire them. The one thing it requires of us who are paid to do it, is to do as bloody good a job as we possibly can, because there are people who are hungry for our jobs.

Professional restaurant critics are there to sell newspapers or their digital equivalent, not to sell the restaurants, which might be a statement of the bloody obvious. The media is all dependent on drawing readers because that's where you sell your advertising. People like reading restaurant reviews and while that continues, I don't foresee any major change.

In the current model, I see restaurant criticism carrying on, not because there is a desperate need for people to review restaurants, but because people enjoy reading the columns of the people who write them. The only way that there would be a change would be if the whole financial proposition changes, by which I mean the amount of money that newspapers can make changes, and they decide to stop funding the meals for reviewers.


I often say that it would be wrong for me to sneer at people photographing their dinner, because I have someone to come and photograph my dinner for me. I get a bit suspicious when Instagrammers or bloggers claim enormous influence. The PR industry is complicit in this. They're under pressure to get coverage for a client and bloggers/Instagrammers are a way for PRs to show them they're doing something. Every now and then, an Instagrammer can have an influence by constantly snapping a dish, and if it makes them happy, that's fine."

And Robots? Alan Winfield, robotics professor and researcher in cognitive robotics at Bristol Robotic Laboratory.

"Inevitably, there will be robots in some restaurants but I find it hard to see why it would ever be more than a novelty. We've had "robot" coffee machines that serve coffee and tea for years, yet we still prefer—and do—go to cafes and coffee shops where our coffee is made by humans. I think the reason for that is that we prefer it, not just because it might be better coffee.

Now, the problem with robots coming to your table at a restaurant is that they find it very difficult to negotiate human spaces, particularly with a lot of humans wandering around. At the moment, they will be worse than humans at performing tasks a waiter would do: they'll be slower, they'll get stuck, they'll need more space. If they were unloading a dishwasher, for example, they'll need better dexterity to safely handle glassware and very sophisticated manipulation to sense and figure out plate sizes.


Those abilities will come but they're still not with us yet. I'm not saying it'll never happen, but it'll take a long time before robots have the same flexibility.

I'm also an ethical roboticist and I don't want robots to take jobs away from people.

The best use of robots in restaurants is as co-workers rather than replacements, where essentially, the bits that humans do best will still be done by us, like the interactions with other humans. I'm skeptical about whether robots will take over in those jobs.

I'm also an ethical roboticist and I don't want robots to take jobs away from people unless those people have got other jobs to go to. I especially worry about low-paid jobs. If society is much wealthier because of robots and automation, then I think everyone should share the wealth created by that by some universal basic pay system."

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Illustration by Dan Evans.

Every day this week, MUNCHIES is exploring the future of food on planet Earth, from lab-grown meat and biohacking to GMOs and the precarious state of our oceans. Find out more here.