As far as trends go, we'd much rather talk about innovations like variable pricing (the new happy hour?) and blockchain sourcing than silly things like robot kitchens.
— Jason Clampet
Next year, the restaurant experience will be defined more than ever by technology, according to the panelists at Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead: Luxury conference on Thursday. Blockchain, surge pricing, and facial-recognition software were all listed as ways that dining out will evolve in 2019.
Maria Font Trabocchi, the Washington restaurateur behind Fiola and Del Mar, spoke about what’s to come in fine dining during a panel entitled “The 50-Course Meal: The Future of Dining” along with Copenhagen chef Rasmus Munk and Alinea Group co-founder Nick Kokonas.
The event, held at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York, also featured speakers such as hotelier Ian Schrager, Lamborghini’s chief technical officer, Maurizio Reggiani, and Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak, as well as executives from Hermès, Cartier, Shinola, and Goop.
The subject arose after moderator and Bloomberg food editor Kate Krader asked a question from an unlikely source: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. head David Solomon, an avid restaurant-goer. “The CEO of Goldman has a question for you: How will restaurants be disrupted in 2019?” Krader asked.
Font Trabocchi, who with her husband runs Fabio Trabocchi Restaurants, suggested that chefs should implement blockchain, which has proven effective at tracking the ripeness, color, and sugar content of tomatoes in order to document the supply chain and reduce spoilage. The WWF-New Zealand has also implemented the technology to help stamp out illegal fishing in the Pacific islands’ tuna industry.
She is working with Oceanic Global and Ocean Elders with her company Hamdy Font to make this a reality. “How much can we do to the ocean?” she asked “We need to save it and make sure it grows with us.”
Blockchain wasn’t the only prediction the Washington-based entrepreneur shared: She’s also ready for fine dining to learn from tech companies such as Uber Inc.
“Having to wait for the check? It’s ridiculous,” she said.
Online reservation systems will soon allow diners to finish their meal and leave without whipping out a credit card. Facial recognition technology, too, is being implemented as a way to facilitate the dining experience.
Alinea Group co-founder Nick Kokonas was similarly bullish on how technology has improved customer service. “We have your Facebook and Instagram. We can mine that,” he said during the panel. It’s the sort of data that can help owners create what he called a “magical experience, where they seem omniscient.”
Kokonas, who is also co-owner of culinary reservation system Tock, previously told Bloomberg that he thinks customers should be able to pay for their meal in advance. “I’m a big advocate for dynamic pricing,” he said during the panel.
Rather than create culinary gimmicks with artificially inflated prices to make ends meet, Kokonas thinks restaurants should introduce “surge pricing” like that offered by Uber and Lyft. In the restaurant version, meals would rise and fall in price based on the demand in the reservation system.
“It’s about quality. It’s what you’re buying that’s the important thing, not the price.” Kokonas also confirmed that Tock had secured an additional $9.5 million in financing from Valor Equity Partners.
Meanwhile, Danish chef Rasmus Munk, of the forthcoming Alchemist 2, had a far-less-technological prediction. When Krader closed the panel by asking what ingredients we should expect to see a lot of in 2019, the chef provided an answer that could have come only from Copenhagen: cow udders.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.