This is the second of several articles that hypothesize a possible future where people will spend a significant portion of their days inside their homes. This article in particular is about food.
Let’s go back to Alex, our protagonist from the first article. He’s feeling a little hungry, yet he doesn’t feel like cooking and doing the dishes afterwards. He picks up his iPhone and texts a pizza emoji to the nearest Domino’s. Forty minutes later, a steamy triple-meat pizza is delivered to his door. He greets the delivery guy, scribbles a tip on the receipt, and takes his dinner inside.
It is now extremely convenient for people to order food to be delivered at their doors. There are numerous mobile apps that allow ordering, with the delivery fee as the only obstruction to a tasty meal. However, with the growth of self-driving cars (and the rise of meal delivery services such as Ubereats), this cost is projected to go down in the future. In the case of DoorDash, the cost of delivery is secretly added to each item on the menu so that it looks like there is no downsides of ordering through the smartphone app.
To appease a larger portion of the market, restaurants must somehow circumvent the laws of food chemistry so that a wider range of foods can be delivered. One of the biggest faults of the delivery system is that it’s struggling to innovate outside its two strongest products: pizza and Chinese food. People usually don’t order something like fish to be delivered because its quality usually drops while sitting in the car. When food has a chance of being ruined while being delivered, people are hesitant to order anything that they’re not comfortable eating after thirty minutes of waiting.
One way to tackle this problem is to make cars more tailored to food delivery. In the case of Domino’s, it has designed DXP (or Delivery Expert), a car that heats up the pizza while delivering. With cars becoming more custom-made to transport, combined with the potential of dropping delivery costs with self-driving cars, ordering for delivery will become a more appealing option. If these cars utilize electricity as well, gas will be another cost that can be prevented. Essentially, these cars will act as extremely efficient delivery machines.
Some people would argue that there is a social aspect to eating outside with others. One noticeable trend among young adults are the growing number of “foodies”. Nowadays, people are obsessed with trying new foods, capturing these moments in photographs, and sharing it with friends on social media. The appeal of this process wouldn’t be the same if food was always delivered at your door, so some believe that there will always be a demand for dining-in. However, this trend might change as already, 26% of American consumers order delivery or takeout at least once a week. So how will this change the role of restaurants?
In the future, there will probably be less space in the restaurants for dining-in, as less people will have reasons to eat outside (see first article). The price and quality of the food will correlate to how quickly that the restaurant will adapt to delivery. You wouldn’t want to eat food from a five-star restaurant at home, because you’re paying for not only the expensive food, but also the experience of eating in a lavish room at candlelight. However, when it comes to that Big Mac that you’ve been craving, it would be most convenient if it was delivered at your door while you’re finishing up some work or watching the newest Game of Thrones episode.
Some restaurants are already changing to delivery-only, such as Ando, a restaurant created by David Chang, owner of the popular Momofuku restaurants. The convenience of delivery makes it affordable, since the restaurant is only focusing on creating and shipping the food. This way, it’s cheaper than other restaurants that offer the same menu. People choose this option because of the simplicity: a quick tap on a screen and food is shipped to your door. When an account with the restaurant is created online, all your information, including where you live and your credit card number, is saved for future orders.
So how will food delivery change the current dynamic of how we eat? Currently, we eat with others outside, or we cook for ourselves inside. But in 2015, for the first time, restaurant sales have surpassed grocery sales, highlighting how we find it more convenient to buy cooked food. Although people have been eating out together for many generations, recent trends show that this might be a practice that will decrease in frequency over time. People will always find other ways to interact and socialize, but with the growing advances in food delivery, they will have one less reason to leave their homes.