The direction the foodservice industry has taken in recent years isn’t all too different from what the rest of the world has lately been preoccupied with: social consciousness, environmentalism, and hyper-convenience.

Restaurateurs, chefs, and farmers have shaped up to be critical figures in the global pursuit of responsible production and consumption. And perhaps more telling of the times, such ends have been pursued with an underlying demand for instant results. Hence the simultaneous rise of meat-free restaurants, food delivery apps, food waste reduction initiatives, and kitchen devices that can fast-track composting. 

At the center of these trends is technology connecting seemingly disparate goals and principles. That our collective desire to become responsible consumers and producers has been developed under the aid of digitalization means that everything we consume has been touched by technology. This reality will continue to play out in the coming years—here’s how it will look this year: 

Ghost restaurants

Ghost kitchens and restaurants will increase due to diners’ growing partiality towards food delivery apps
Ghost kitchens and restaurants will increase due to diners’ growing partiality towards food delivery apps

Also known as delivery-only restaurants, ghost restaurants are predicted to increase in 2019 due to diners’ growing partiality towards food delivery apps. This technologically-induced and assisted behavior shift has rendered storefronts and restaurant seats unnecessary, which has proven to be a great business opportunity to some entrepreneurs.

Delivery-only company Green Summit co-founder Peter Schatzberg explained it best in an interview with Fast Company: Most fast casual restaurants have to allot about 75 percent of their space to seating, which is a loss given that about 90 percent of their customers prefer to just order takeout.

This is where the advantages of ghost restaurants come in—they don’t need to allot space to seating or parking in order to operate; in fact companies like Green Summit can work with as little as 200 square feet of space. This trend has mostly manifested in the US and has yet to reach Manila, but given the latter’s worsening traffic and a number of other logistical inefficiencies, it’s only a matter of time before Filipino diners will resort to food delivery. And restaurateurs will likely capitalize on that demand, especially given the cost benefits of a delivery-only setup.

Lab-grown meat

Although plant-based diets are expected to continue gaining prominence in the coming years, they’re not exactly the only byproducts of a growing awareness of the harmful effects of meat consumption.

Lab-grown meats—synthesized from actual animal cells and bred on an enormous scale—are new alternatives predicted to make headway this year. Though it’s too soon to tell at this point whether these engineered proteins are actually viable and marketable meat alternatives, according to Baum + Whiteman they do have the potential to not only change the way we think about food, they can also address the problematic elements meat-free lifestyle advocates (and occasional vegetarians) are keen on eliminating, namely ranches and slaughterhouses, greenhouse gases, and excessive energy consumption.

But while some pushback is expected (consider the case of faux milk hurting dairy sales and the subsequent protests against these dairy alternatives), the future of lab-grown proteins seems to be promising—at least economically—as some of the biggest names in meat production such as Cargill have already invested.

Smart kitchen devices

More multi-purpose high-tech kitchen devices are expected to be introduced this year. For instance, restaurateurs and home cooks alike are anticipating the arrival of smart ovens (convection ovens combined with a dehydrator, an air fryer, a slow cooker, a warming drawer, a broiler, and a toaster)—likely out of a need for streamlining some tedious kitchen processes.

As with lab-grown meat, smart kitchen devices are still in their nascent stage of development. But as technology continues to rapidly evolve, and industry players and diners continue to seek out convenience, expect more advanced kitchen devices to be introduced to the market.

Mobile technology

Expect more restaurants to employ technology in fast-tracking transactions such as paying and ordering
Expect more restaurants to employ technology in fast-tracking transactions such as paying and ordering

When people talk about convenience, one of the things they’re unconsciously referring to is shortcuts. What this means for the food industry is the elimination of certain manual processes, so expect more restaurants this year to employ technology in fast-tracking transactions such as paying and ordering.

How this trend will manifest itself will mostly be in the form of mobile payment, self-service kiosks, and mobile-integrated restaurant websites. Diners will no longer need to pay and order the traditional way, which mostly means they won’t need to brave queues or wait for their credit card or change to be returned at their tables; more restaurants creating mobile-integrated websites can also mean that diners will get to view a restaurant’s menu and make reservations via smartphones, thus letting them make dinner arrangements without the hassle of traveling to a restaurant.

As of writing, the prevalence of mobile technology in foodservice isn’t being met with the expected criticism (namely, that overreliance on mobile technology cuts down on personal touch), and is likely to be one of the more definitive technology trends that will continue to shape how people dine.