Poster for Futurefest with picture of frying pan and steak

Food for Thought: the Future of Food and Dining Out

The STBY London team had the fortunate opportunity of attending Nesta’s Futurefest 2016. The packed schedule was overwhelming and we left in a state of dizzied inspiration. A few things emerged from the fog of weekend memory, the most noteworthy of which was a debate on the future of dining out. This is a thought on where we are now and where we might be heading in light of this thought-provoking discussion.

Poster for Futurefest with picture of frying pan and steak

On food designers, futurologists and the rising polymaths of the culinary world  

The panel alone is worthy of mention in its own right. The session was chaired by Food Futurologist, Dr. Morgaine Gaye, whose work centres around the future of food/beauty/smell from both a cultural, evolutionary and societal perspective. She was joined by Marije Vogelzang, a Dutch “eating designer”. In contrast to the work of “food designers”, Marije’s focus is around the verb ‘to eat’ and the preparation, etiquette, history and culture around eating. Alongside Marije was Martin Morales, the award winning Peruvian self-taught chef (think Andina, Ceviche), cookbook author, restaurateur, arts producer and the epitome of a Renaissance man. The panel was made complete by the outspoken Oliver Peyton, Irish restaurateur and judge on the BBC television series Great British Menu. Their unorthodox titles are indicative of where the field is heading. As people in most parts of the developed world have come to take eating out for granted, the future of dining out is moving beyond just good food and to the curation of holistic eating experiences. Those at the forefront of the field must be cognizant of how service, ambience, smell, music, lighting, architecture, technology and ritual interact with food to create a seamless dining experience.

Signals from the future, both bleak and hopeful

At the same time however, technology is enabling more efficient forms of food delivery and people are lapping it up. Convenience and comfort might mean the decline of dining out, or the two trends could intertwine, blurring the lines between restaurant, cooking, dining, and delivery. “BYO ingredients” was an interesting concept raised. Regardless of where things do end up going, the field is no doubt being shaken up, for better or worse, by the latest food crazes (e.g. veganism, gluten-free, paleo), new eating rituals and routines (e.g. “al-desko”, communal dining), disruptive business models (e.g. pop-up dining, food trucks, delivery), and the wider forces of globalisation and technological innovation. Let’s just hope sustainability continues to creep to central concern in both the supply and demand of food in the future.

 

 

Rigorous documentation: A research superpower

When research activities get going in earnest, a lot is produced. If treated too casually, the mass of audio files and transcripts, flip-overs and mini-posters full of post-its, photos, interview notes and feedback mails can quickly turn into a massive hairball that no-one can unpick.

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