Combine future trends and food and your author is likely to be happy. Beyond his day job, he has been writing a restaurant Blog for the last decade. These dual interests of technology and taste are increasingly overlapping in the real world. If restaurants used to be about food and ambience, now they are also about IT and logistics. Further, everyone continues to look for the next new thing in food.

The recent conclusion of the National Restaurant Show in Chicago (which your author, sadly, did not visit) provided a wonderful taster of what might next be hot in the culinary world. Begin with technology. Innovations such as Alpha Grill, PizzaBot and I-Robo2 show how venues can save money and potentially increase returns. The former apparently makes 200 burger patties every hour, and then cleans itself after too. The next does similar with pizza and is able to dispense a mind-boggling variety of toppings, while the last of this trio can self-stir-fry complex concoctions.

Beyond robots in the kitchen, diners can expect to see more of them on the restaurant floor. If not taking orders – that can already be done via mobile QR code-enabled apps – then robots that bring food and clear tables will become increasingly commonplace. Press a button and they may even dispense your receipt too. Sure, some guests may miss the human touch, but at least they may appreciate more consistent service levels. Business owners may be smiling too, if it means a lower wage bill and guaranteed staff that won’t suddenly decide to call in sick.

What if you don’t fancy going out? Imagine a scenario where robots could deliver your meals direct from the restaurant. So far, so basic, and we trialled a (food delivery) version of this two years ago. However, what makes Pipedream, a US start-up, different is that it is seeking to develop dedicated delivery underground tunnels, speeding delivery times and also allowing users to skip inconveniences such as the drive thru. Austin, Texas is first up for a trial.

Project ahead and expect technology and food innovation only to overlap further. Imagine how AI could help drive more tailored culinary experiences, where retailers can learn from consumers’ past preferences. Similarly, diverse dietary requirements could be better catered for. More lab-grown food (beyond salmon) may become available. Build it, the hope is, and then the consumers will come. Your author is certainly curious.

20 June 2024

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

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