by Sarah Whiddett

Virtual reality waiters, blood type menus, and 3D printers in the kitchen – is this the future, and are we prepared?

Virtual reality waiters, blood type menus, and 3D printers in the kitchen – is this the future, and are we prepared?

Sarah Whiddett – Head of Insight & Customer Experience

Back in June I presented at the FWD annual conference about the future of foodservice, and the impact on wholesalers. Taking the audience on a journey to 2040, I created a picture of two alternative futures:

Option 1 – highly personalised, but how personal?

In a world full of disconnected lonely singletons, dinner dates are selected via a DNA pairing dating app. Dates take place in central, large, communal dining spaces where diners can personalise every element of their experience via VR headsets – from the décor, to the waiters, even down to a personalised blood based menu –no two experiences are the same. Meals are produced via 3D printers, with ingredients shipped directly via the mains pipes from a central laboratory. For their ultimate convenience, diners can also select to add breakfast to their order – having this delivered direct to their door, freshly prepared, at the time of their choice.

Option 2 – going back in time – regional, local, flexible

With an increasing population and food shortages, foodservice outlets are having do adopt a ‘back to basics’ approach, sourcing locally grown, seasonal ingredients. Kitchen gardens become popular once more, and menus flex by day. Consumers’ pockets continue to be squeezed, and dining out becomes reserved for treat occasions only – driving the need for only highly skilled, artisan chefs who can create beautifully handcrafted food experiences. Dining out is all about the social – filled with conversation, laughter – the days of ‘grab and go’ are over.

Both very different, but also both possible, especially when we consider the social and consumer trends influencing what, how and when we eat right now:

  • Wellbeing – the increasing awareness and appeal of personalisation in our diets, for the wellbeing of not just our body, but our minds
  • Technology – the focus on automation and efficiency, as well as tech to help people stay in control of their lives. This is everything from robot pickers and burger flippers, to wearable teach and AI ordering
  • Food culture – the rise in food knowledge, and the empowerment this gives consumers to experiment. Consumers are demanding more information, and more of an experience when they dine out
  • Society – our growing and aging population, the pressures of millennial/gen Z expectations, immigration (or potential lack of!) and increased solo living – all aspects of our society impact our employee and customer base
  • Transparency – increasing focus on ethics and sustainability, as well as openness and honesty from who we chose to buy from. This growing trend also covers elements of personal data such as GDPR
  • Economy/politics – no social trend analysis would be complete without a mention of BREXIT (!) but this also covers the growing squeeze on consumer pockets, inflation and consumer confidence

What will the future of foodservice be? Only time will tell. But there are things we can all do to stay informed, be prepared, and be enabled to stay ahead of the curve. My top tips for staying on top of trends, and fit for the future are:

    1. Invest time, money and resource in future gazing – this is no longer a nice to have, but a vital way of ensuring you don’t follow the recent stream of retailers and chains who have failed to understand the changing needs of the consumer
    2. Scenario plan and prioritise – not every trend will come to full fruition, and if you act on everything your offer could become confused and weak. Focus on what matters most, and what you think will make the biggest impact on your business and customers
    3. Act quickly, and be brave – The world is changing at an ever increasing pace, and those that take calculated, informed, and swift risks are those most likely to survive

For more information on Bidfood’s trends predictions, visit:

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