The Digitalization: from virtual restaurants, to kitchen hubs and drone delivery

The Hospitality sector, as all other industries, has been highly impacted by the touch of technology. Automatization is another aspect which has relevant importance in the industry, as it can be applied at all levels on the supply chain, from searching the restaurant or the hotel where to book, choosing the table or the floor where you want your room, eliminating certain ingredients from your menu, ordering the food directly by using an app, reducing this way to a minimum the contact with a human being. According to Mintel, even though in its beginnings, automatization can become in the close future a common fact both for the consumer and the restaurant or hotel owner, and it can be an element which will make the difference between a good hospitality unit and a less appealing one. For example, Eatsa locations from California have eliminated completely the interaction with the consumer. Servers are not used in taking the orders and not even in delivering them to the client. The client selects his dish and then he takes his order by himself, his portion being packed and having his name on it. Eatsa’s vision is “It’s Way Better for Way Less” being directed by the concept of faster and also tastier food, in comparison with what other fast-food chain provide. Undoubtedly the place has managed to target the need of the consumer for a fast, affordable but also healthy meal, all at the same time and easily done from an app.

Trend three presented in the report by Baum + Whiteman has an interesting title, namely Restaurants without Seats and Seats without Restaurants. The first appellative highlights the so-called trend of uberization, which has started to gain terrain beginning with 2015, and where big players like Amazon, Uber and Google have had a major impact. There are more and more start-ups which create the so-called delivery hubs, which are commercial kitchen which have as sole purpose to deliver to people’s homes (that is way restaurants remain without seats). On the other side, there is an increasing number of e-startups which create an assembly of home cooks that gathers to prepare meals and then delivers them to people’s homes or people come and take their order, concept known as virtual restaurant.

Also, in searching the authentic culinary experience, customer will even opt to take dinner at strangers’ homes, and surprisingly there is a platform called BonAppetour which has this exact purpose, being like a culinary Airbnb. The platform markets itself as a community marketplace that connects travelers with local chefs in their homes, in order to offer them an authentic dining experience, all over the world. Another popular and controversial idea is the drone delivery, where your meal can arrive on air straight to your front door (or your window). This concept was already tested by Domino’s pizza in New Zeeland and by Amazon in UK. One danger for restaurants is that they can lose marketing of their business. Another important issue which will continue to be addressed in 2017, is the concern with regards to food waste, and technology can be the solution which will balance the negative effects. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations approximated that up to 1.3 billion tonnes of the food produced for human consumption is wasted or even lost. The Mintel report confirms innovative solution against waste are in the attention of start-upers and entrepreneurs, therefore, technology has its role in ameliorating this issue. For example, restaurants in Netherlands, Finland and UK are using apps in order to sell food at a cheaper price, which otherwise would be thrown away at the closing time. On the other side of the globe, in Brazil, a start-up called Fruta Imperfeita delivers to consumers fruits which are not so good looking and which would be avoided in the supermarket just because their aspect.