Things in the food world have changed over the last few months, and they’ve changed quickly. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon. We all like to think that everything will get back to normal in no time, but it’s time to accept that that probably won’t be the case. We’ve been blindsided more than once in the past few months, and the plot twists are just going to keep on coming. This makes it hard to know what the future will hold, but it doesn’t stop us from trying to guess! So here are our Top 10 Predictions For The Future Of Food!
10. Fewer Options
When treating yourself to takeout, you might have noticed a bit of a trend with restaurant menus. Have you ever been caught off guard when you found out that one of your favorite meals had completely vanished from the menu? If not, you’re one of the lucky ones. Many reasons have led to some restaurants changing or completely removing some of their menu items. In some cases, this was done because certain foods don’t handle takeout well (imagine getting a steak to go), or it was simply done to reduce the amount of produce they needed to buy since sales are going down. With some restaurants reopening, and customers allowed to dine-in, instead of take-out only, you might expect menus to go back to the way they used to look. This might be the case for some restaurants, but it’s starting to look like they will be the exception and not the rule. The odds are that many restaurants won’t turn in the same profit they used to, meaning the food that is usually not in super high demand, or simply more expensive to make, will be featured less often. Essentially, our food supply chain is all out of whack, and certain food items have undoubtedly become pricier and harder to find. Meat is a prime example of this. Dishes, where these food items are the star of the show, might become much less common than they once were. Better start learning how to make a mean steak at home because it might become the only affordable place to eat one!
9. Restaurant Lines
Remember the days when you would wander down the street, searching for an interesting place to eat, without a care in the world? If the restaurant that intrigued you the most had a long line, there was no real problem with that. Unless you were absolutely starving, dropping by a busy restaurant without a reservation was no big deal. In places with a quick turnover, you’d have to stand uncomfortably crushed between people for a few minutes, but it usually wouldn’t be long before you were led to your table. In some of the fancier places, you would often be given the option to sit at the bar while you wait for a table to open up. This relatively ordinary scenario may now be a thing of the past – for good. No one’s going to want to stand in a crowded waiting area or sit at a busy bar anymore. Instead, if they’re looking for food but don’t have a reservation, people will just keep on walking until they find a quiet restaurant. But, if they’re really set on a restaurant that happens to be crowded, customers might ask the restaurant to give them a buzzer or to call them when they can be seated and just go wait in their car. Having a crowded restaurant with patrons clamoring to get a table isn’t hip anymore. It’s scary for some. The idea of being in such close quarters with so many people might be enough to encourage once enthusiastic restaurant-goers to stick to takeout.
8. Practicing Good Grocery Hygiene
Imagine bringing home your groceries and immediately tossing them into your fridge or pantry without going through your twelve-step sanitation ritual first? It seems like something out of a dream… And yet, that’s what you were doing up until not that long ago. Most people assumed that once things quieted down, everything would back to normal. How wrong were they. However, old habits are had to break. Especially once you realize just how dirty your groceries actually are. It’s not obvious just by looking at them, but you can’t honestly say that the cloth you use to wipe down a box of granola bars has ever come away clean. Not to mention the water used to clean your produce – by the time you’ve finished, it’s a thoroughly unappetizing shade of brown. Sanitizing our groceries has been reinforced because it helps to alleviate our anxiety – even if it’s only by a little bit. That, combined with the fact that the rose-colored glasses have come off, and we now know just how grungy our groceries really are, means that many of us aren’t getting rid of our sanitation stations anytime soon. Sure, we might relax a little bit, but don’t bet on us giving up at least quickly wiping down our groceries before putting them away.
7. Online Grocery Shopping
Speaking of grocery shopping, another change we’ve seen is a big spike in online orders. Rather than venture out into busy grocery stores, where long lines and physical distancing protocols have made everything take three times longer than usual, many people have opted for the easier, and safer, option of having their groceries delivered to their doorstep. This is a temporary change for many but, it’s probably safe to say that more than a few people are in it for the long haul. It would make sense for this to apply to seniors in particular, who may have been intimidated by the idea of ordering their groceries online at first, but have now gotten used to it and found it to be far more convenient than going to the actual store. By no means is online grocery shopping going to become the new normal – as we’ve seen so far, supermarkets don’t have the kind of resources to provide this service to everyone – but it might come out the other end of this far more popular than it was before.
6. Closing Time (and How to Stop It)
One food-related industry that has not been thriving these past few months is the restaurant business, that’s for sure. Some restaurants are lucky enough to be able to sustain themselves on takeout orders alone, but many weren’t so lucky. A huge percentage of independently owned restaurants might not make it through the shutdowns and changing guidelines being implemented. Even without capacity restrictions, most people are not ready to be sitting in a jam-packed restaurant any time soon. The sheer number of restaurants that have already closed their doors permanently is staggering. Unfortunately, most of us will probably lose at least one of our favorite restaurants in the coming months. However, the good news is that we’re not completely powerless in this situation. While it’s inevitable that some smaller restaurants will be closing their doors forever, we can help minimize the damage by supporting our local small businesses. If you have the means, ordering takeout or buying gift cards from restaurants in your area is a fantastic and helpful gesture. It might not seem like a lot, but this type of support can add up and help keep independent restaurants afloat. Like everyone’s been saying, we’re all in this together, so do whatever you can to help others.
5. Say Goodbye to Self-Serve
Buffets, salad bars, and self-serve stations, in general, are no longer going to be big selling points for restaurants – which feels like the end of an era. Even with restaurants reopening, we can pretty much guarantee that these features are going to stay on lockdown for a little while longer. As if sharing utensils weren’t bad enough, these “serve-yourself” stations also give complete strangers a chance to cough, sneeze, or even just breathe all over your food. These days, we like to keep that kind of thing to a minimum for obvious reasons. The current situation has caused us all to become germaphobes to some extent, and that kind of caution isn’t something that’s just going to go away miraculously. We’ve acknowledged that buffets are often germ-ridden, and there’s no taking it back. Even when this is all over and done with, will you really be able to enjoy your food after having this kind of realization? It really looks like self-serve stations are out for the foreseeable future. Our condolences to everyone who has ever gotten excited about a salad bar. Maybe you’ll be able to enjoy them again someday. Just don’t hold your breath.
4. More Tech in Restaurants
Prepare yourselves for major technological upgrades in the restaurant scene. Physical distancing is here to stay (at least for now), and all businesses, restaurants included, will be implementing new technologies to make it easier to do. For example, instead of ordering your food from waitstaff, you can expect some restaurants to ask you to order electronically. This could mean selecting your meal through an app on your phone, like how you would order with Uber Eats or placing your order on a designated screen inside the restaurant – like ordering at one of McDonald’s’ self-serve kiosks. Our lives are already kind of dominated by technology, so in theory, this shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s actually something that’ll take a lot of getting used to. Additionally, restaurants may start using thermometers for more than just making sure your steak is a perfect medium-rare. Thermometers don’t exactly classify as a “new technology,” but they’re usually reserved for hospitals and the school nurse’s office. However, these days you shouldn’t be surprised if a restaurant’s host or hostess asks to take your temperature before seating you. This is another thing that might take some time to get used to, so try to be patient and keep in mind that there’s a good reason for it.
3. Say Hello to New Restaurant Safety Measures
Technology isn’t going to be the only addition to restaurants. More and more, we’re seeing strict safety measures put into place. You can expect the staff to be wearing masks – obviously, but this rule can’t really be extended to customers at all times since the whole point of going to a restaurant is to eat. Another thing to take note of is that a lot of places have stopped accepting cash. Cash has long been recognized as a germaphobe’s nightmare and, these days, no one’s taking any chances. So, be sure to have your debit or credit card on hand. Furthermore, it’s becoming common for plexiglass windows to be installed at the cash so that there’s no way for the cashier and clients to swap germs. These plexiglass shields may also be found separating groups of patrons, especially between booths. On a similar note, the restaurants’ capacity has probably been halved. That means that what’s now considered a full house is made up of half as many people as it would’ve been before. Other safety measures you might notice could include newly installed hand washing or sanitizing stations, which may pop up at the door, as well as outside of the bathrooms. While restaurants are doing their best to keep their staff and customers safe, eating out has become much more stressful than it once was.
2. Automation in Food Production
A lot of the changes we see in the future of food might affect many of us personally. Some in bigger ways than others, but, in general, they’ll all impact us in some way. Unlike many of our other predictions for the future of food, this change takes place behind the scenes and, instead of affecting consumers, it affects the people working in the industry. The food production industry has been particularly hard-hit during these times, something that could have been avoided, or at least made less severe, by automation. More automation means fewer workers, which, these days, makes for a safer work environment. Automation was already a huge buzzword, but now that it’s viewed as a possible solution to this mess of a situation, it’s more sought-after than ever. We were well on our way towards implementing automated systems in the food production industry, but, due to the crisis, the shift towards these new technologies might happen faster than expected. Of course, this isn’t something exclusive to food – automation is popping up in pretty much every sector. For safety reasons, these other industries will likely ramp up their use of it as well.
1. Local, Local, Local
Remember when we were all stocking up on cans of beans and boxes of dried pasta? Ah, the good old days. Things have calmed down a bit – most of us have stopped preparing for the apocalypse and have given up on fighting over toilet paper – but that’s not to say that food supply hasn’t been on many of our minds in recent months. Another big concern has been money. With restaurants shut and a lack of employees, many small, independent farms have also been worried about making ends meet. In order to hit two birds with one stone, people have been strongly encouraged to buy local produce. By doing so, you’re supporting the businesses in your community while ensuring you have lots of healthy food on your table. The food supply chain is still unpredictable and unreliable, so the push towards buying locally has by no means ended. Another perk of buying locally is that many producers sell their food straight from the farm. This can mean sidestepping the chaos of grocery shopping. Keep in mind that this is a cycle: by buying from local businesses, you give them the support they need to keep producing food. And the more food they produce, the less you have to worry about shortages. For these reasons, we predict – and we hope – that shopping locally will continue to spike in popularity and isn’t just another food fad.