As the German poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing once said: ‘Good ideas are gifts of fortune.’ And sometimes also of misfortune: as the gastronomy ramps up again and prepares for a future with Covid-19, restaurateurs all over the world are coming up with creative ways to make sure we have alternatives to takeaway and delivered food. But how will corona change the hospitality industry long-term? We take a look at up-and-coming dining trends.After spilling over into Europe in 2019, they are now more topical than ever: ghost kitchens. Also known as ‘dark kitchens’, this cooking trend started in the US and refers to kitchens in restaurants that don’t offer seating or table service. They only cook food that is meant to be eaten elsewhere. But ghost kitchens are just 1 out of 3 new trends defined by experts such as Hanni Rützler in her new Food Report.
Another trend is biodiversity. Eco-friendly cuisine concentrates chiefly on regionally-sourced products and varieties. As such, it stands for culinary diversity and aims to whet our appetite for innovative, natural nuances, according to Rützler. Another movement she refers to as ‘liquid evolution’ is more familiar to the Americans who started it as ‘sober curiosity’ – experimenting with alcohol-free drinks. In addition to classics like non-alcoholic beer, sober curiosity focuses primarily on alcohol-free thirst quenchers made from exclusive juice and tea concoctions, such as cold brew blueberry juice with almond milk and coconut cream. So there is no shortage of ideas – but how will tomorrow’s business models work exactly?
A new, tech-savvy restaurateur generation for the ‘new normal’
Andreas Wuerfel, Director US Strategic Partnerships at Hospitality Digital, has already been in touch with solution providers in the hospitality industry in the US. Many food and drink trends are born there before they make their way to Europe. His takeaway: ‘They are all adapting their technologies to the new requirements. Right now, contact-free solutions are in great demand.’
Indeed, the crisis forced many restaurant owners to swim with the digital current. METRO has also been feeling that in the recent weeks. ‘Restaurateurs’ demand for our digital tools has skyrocketed in the last few weeks’, said Volker Gläser, head of METRO’s subsidiary Hospitality Digital in an interview withWelt.de.METRO’s offerings include MenuKit, a calculation tool that uses the ingredients entered and the day’s prices at METRO to show restaurateurs their contribution margin, cost of sales and profit automatically and quickly. Another product is Order Smart, a new, low-cost alternative used to build online shops for pick-up and delivery service.
The future of the gastronomy is young and innovative
In addition to digital tools, Wuerfel has identified another trend: variety. ‘Today, there is hardly an American restaurateur who doesn’t also offer grocery items, recipes or convenience meals. I think much of that is here to stay, and it will alter the dining experience long-term.’
Another key aspect Wuerfel sees: a new, tech-savvy generation is taking the helm in restaurant management. ‘This will result in a new technology integration and new restaurant formats, both because of and following corona.’ Standout innovations can be found particularly in many start-ups. They adapted to the new Covid-19 requirements in the blink of an eye. ‘It will be interesting to see how they redefine the whole issue and restaurant spaces’, says Wuerfel, who is curious to observe what will emerge as the new standard.
Creativity is the name of the game
In any event, a good measure of creativity is called for in order to stick to and implement the new hospitality industry rules – which will likely prevail for quite some time. One example that generated quite a buzz in the media is Mediamatic ETEN in Amsterdam. This vegan restaurant quickly set up greenhouses in its outdoor area in order to maintain adequate space between tables.
A similarly green solution – literally – is featured at Restaurant Fredi in Switzerland’s Casinotheater Winterthur. They planted flowers in the urinals and sinks to make sure their guests keep the minimum distance from each other even in the restrooms.
A takeaway takeover?
There are many possible ways to approach the ‘new normal’ in the gastronomy and to shape both food and restaurant trends. At first glance, ghost kitchens and digital alternatives seem the most promising: orders are placed online and contact-free, eliminating the need for social distancing and saving customer data.
However, even with all these innovations, one question remains: when everything is kept digital and contact-free, what happens to the dining-out experience as we know it? Getting together to relax with friends, chats between patrons and servers or a personal compliment to the chef – will any of that still be possible?
Despite the new requirements, gastronomy experts do in fact see the potential for a boom in the industry sector. There is a good chance that people are hungry not only for delicious food but also for new gastronomy trends and concepts.