When it comes to the food on our plates, the future is very different – take the plant-based ‘Impossible Burger’ made using ‘haem’ to simulate the taste of meat, for example. Like some of these edible innovations that whet our appetites, smart technology and invisible payments are busy transforming the experience of dining for hungry customers, as consumers choose to spend even more of their money (and time) eating at their favourite restaurants. According to Barclaycard UK data, restaurant spend was up by 10.5% in January and eating out continues to drive the ‘experience economy’ into 2018 – with payment innovations fast becoming the perfect accompaniment. From edible, PH-balanced packaging to 3D-printed quiches and beyond, we explore the future of food and the role of technology in this fast-evolving industry.
Food in the fast lane
You’ve cleared your plate, boldly skipped the sticky toffee pud, and now you’re waiting to pay the bill. Imagine a seamless dining experience that allowed you to tap, eat and go. New research has shown that four in ten diners are keen to skip this post-dinner wait, and an estimated 60% of restaurants have witnessed customers leave without paying altogether, with the average abandoned table totalling over £35. For this reason, it’s easy to see why 90% of business owners are keen for new innovations to help streamline the payment process.
With invisible payments top of the menu for 67% of restauranteurs, enter ‘Dine & Dash’: a solution designed to bypass traditional transactions, so customers can enjoy great food and service, minus the post-meal hiatus. Developed by Barclaycard , the savvy app helps customers settle the bill from their smartphones, making the hunt for the card machine a thing of the past. Diners simply input their payment details and log their arrival to the restaurant by tapping a ‘totem’ on the table. Once finished, they can then pay in an instant, turning the totem green and thus indicating success. Soon to be trialled at a central London Prezzo restaurant, Dine & Dash helps both streamline the billing process and ramp up customer service. It also benefits diners who can split the bill, apply discounts and receive digital receipts, all from the palm of their hand.
Tech drives finesse for foodies
From boiling down the payment process to cocktails and crisps delivered to your chair, other app innovations join Dine & Dash with the shared mission of fine-tuning the dining experience one step further:
Settle the bill with Pingit: this Barclays-created app allows users to ping their pounds via a phone number – simply by linking it to their bank account. Users can transfer money to family, friends and businesses in a jiffy, as well as receiving it – particularly handy if your fellow diner conveniently left their wallet at home.
Pull up a chair with OpenTable: For a spot of spontaneous dining without the disappointment (or reserving that date night table), OpenTable allows hungry diners to beat the crowds, giving restaurants access to a hassle-free booking system. By entering the number of guests, date, time and location (not forgetting the ‘agreed’ cuisine), the app does the groundwork for supper-seekers.
Skip the queue with Orderella: When the front of the bar seems like lightyears away, Orderella is at your command. With pubs, clubs and student unions across the UK and Ireland already enjoying a simplified way of serving, the app allows you to pre-order drinks and have them delivered to your table. Catching a show? The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) is behind Ordertorium, another app allowing theatregoers to order refreshments from their seats – from G&Ts to not-so-subtle ice-cream sprees.
As a nation that enjoys the occasional tipple, contactless technology is also elbowing its way to the front. With the average wait taking over 10 minutes during busy periods (we all know how long that really feels), one in four punters are left feeling frustrated. In response to these findings, Barclaycard trialled Pay @ Pump, a self-pouring contactless beer pump for the perfect pint in under 60 seconds. The first of its kind, Pay @ Pump was a solution designed to help speed up service in pubs and bars across the UK.
With time an ever-precious commodity, restaurants strive to find efficiencies within every element of the dining experience. And from saving time to saving the planet, a rapidly changing environment means a new outlook not just on the dining experience, but on the product we consume day in, day out. The United Nations predicts that the world population will increase by a staggering 1 billion over the next 12 years, so how will this affect what reaches our plates?
A Bug’s Life: There are 500 species of creepy crawlies eaten in Mexico alone. Whilst this may sound astonishing stuff, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization continues to promote bugs as a healthy, protein-packed food source. With McGill University MBA students winning the Hult Prize for making insect-infused foods available to poorer communities in 2013, Kickstarter projects have since introduced them to America’s kitchens.
Edible packaging: To help tackle the ongoing, worldwide waste problem, packaging is about to get a lot smarter. Containing more information about where the product comes from and how long it has travelled, embedded sensors could also monitor the product’s temperature and potential pollutants. A new wave of eco-friendly cartons will not only be edible, but change colour with the PH of food so you can tell when it’s reached the end of its shelf life.
Lab-grown meat: From the restaurant-ready ‘Impossible Burger’ to meat cultivated by science, a lab-grown product offers an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional farming of livestock. Undergoing analysis by Oxford and Amsterdam University students, artificial meat would not only help feed the growing population, but also reduce emissions, requiring between 7% and 45% less energy. Greenhouse gases would also be slashed by up to 96%.
3D food: As one of this century’s most ground-breaking inventions, the power of the 3D printer continues to astound. When it comes to the future of food, it certainly looks set to play a big role. A renewable offering with the potential to revolutionise nutrition, 3D printing could tackle hunger in regions with limited access to affordable ingredients. In 2016, the inventor of NASA’s 3D food printer system – Anjan Contractor – formed BeeHex, which in turn won multiples awards for pizza printing and a new project from the United States Army.
Taking sustainability to new heights, drone-delivered cuisine is fast making headlines across the clouds as the next big innovation in food transportation. In a world-first offering, a Tel Aviv-based firm powered by drone delivery service Flytrex offers the people of Reykjavik, Iceland a takeaway from the skies. Capable of carrying up to 6.5lb of fast food favourites for six miles, the ‘Mule’ drone is said to shave delivery time by 21 minutes when compared to transit by car. In other corners of the world, Dominoes continues to develop its own fleet of pizza drones – after successful pilots with Flirtey in New Zealand and Starship technologies in Europe – while Amazon Prime Air has been trialling its drone delivery service with private UK customers, which is sure to include Amazon Pantry groceries. With efficiency, flexibility and sustainability key to driving the evolution of food-centric technology, it would seem that the sky is most certainly the limit.