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Kitchenless Restaurants

17 October 2016

With all the changes in the way we order food, I’m wondering if we’re ever going to get to where restaurants will stop preparing food while still serving quality meals.

If you really look at it, running a restaurant takes two vastely different sets of skills. First of all, you need to be able to cook tasty food in a consistent and timely manner. Then you also have to create a place where people will want to spend their lunch break or their diner date, creating an atmosphere and handling a team of people dealing with customers. Of course, there are restaurants with food so amazing you could eat it in a shack and others where the place looks so good you might even forget that what you’re eating is mediocre at best… but overall restaurants need to find a balance between the two aspects.

Kitchenless restaurant

We know caterers, but they are often related to large scales orders such as weddings. Lately we are starting to see companies that only prepare food but have no place to actually eat it. They can rely on services like Deliveroo, Foodora, Uber Eats, Stuart and others to send their product to the customer and are able to reach more people by focusing on cooking. It really separates the food from the eating experience: less control on the presentation and general atmosphere. Deliveroo is even opening kitchen spaces to help restaurants in areas with reduced supply.

Looking at this trend, it’s fair to wonder if we will see a significant number of places where you could eat but that wouldn’t have an onsite kitchen. Think of it as a modern food court.

Possible Experience

Everything would be focused on the eating experience, not really the food itself. So you would get a convenient app allowing you to book a table in advance, pick where you’d like to sit and so on. Of course you would be logged in, so the restaurant can remember what you ate, your visit paterns, your favorite seat and so on, in order to offer you a better service.

When you show up at the place, it looks particularly nice and is more roomy than the average restaurant since they don’t need to have a large kitchen. There is no need to have a cooking staff or even respect food storage health requirements, so all the money is spent on the experience.

Kitchenless restaurant

To monetize, the place takes a fee on every dish you order, but there is also a minimum spending fee on alcool or soft drinks and various partnerships with external kitchens. Since this is the only way for them to make money, the place works hard to increase how often you visit, sending you push notifications when they organize special events for instance.

You are taken to your seat and order a bottle of wine. You then look at the menu, presented on a tablet: it’s a list of all the possible delivery options in this neighborhood and maybe a couple others that are exclusive to this kind of kitchenless restaurants. You pick delicious looking pasta and your date decides on sushi, and you are both pretty happy that you both could eat the kind of food you wanted this evening. You enter your order on the ipad and hand it back to the waiter.

The place has a different entrance for deliveries, where a couple of persons welcome a constant flux of young people on bikes carrying the meals. They then store everything until they have a table’s full order. Once all the food has arrived, they place it on dishes, re-heat if needed thanks to an oven and a few micro waves, then take it to the customer.

You don’t see any of this, and suddently both of your orders arrive at the same time. It’s a bit slower than in a traditionnal restaurant, but expectations changed and you were drinking wine while waiting, so you don’t really mind - especially since the place is a pleasure to stay at.

Is This Going To Happen?

Depending on your opinion, this looks like the best world ever or a distopic nightmare.

If this happened, we could see huge kitchen arround cities, shipping enormous quantities of somewhat normalized meals to weird “food consumption centers”… but it will open all kinds of opportunities as chefs would not be tied to a specific place and will be able to offer their food in different places, maybe supporting their new recipe experiments by also cooking burgers.

We can now eat at a chef’s home or have a vastly simplified catering experience, so I’m sure someone will try to make this concept work as well. However I’m very doubtful that it becomes the norm since for a lot of people you can’t entirely separate the food from the place it was cooked.

Just like fast food, it might end up being just another option for consumers, with advantages and drawbacks.

Photos are under Creative Common License and shot by Corinne Moncelli & Jun Seita.

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