Look who's coming to dinner: Marisa Bidois books a table at the restaurant of the future

  • Technology
  • January 23, 2018
  • Marisa Bidois
Look who's coming to dinner: Marisa Bidois books a table at the restaurant of the future

We’ve come a long way since the mid-1900s, when the dining options available to New Zealanders largely consisted of meat, three veg and tomato sauce at the nearest hotel. Now we’re overwhelmed by choice. So, as technology continues to change the way we dine, what will it look like in 2030?  

No matter how much the world changes, we’ll still need to eat. But the incursion of technology into the dining experience and food production industry is having a huge impact.

With technology enabling more efficient forms of food delivery, we don’t even need to leave the house to enjoy a restaurant quality meal. Just look at the fast-growing subscription-based offerings, with companies like My Food Bag, Fresh Catch and Woop taking the home delivery service from niche to mainstream. The convenience and comfort offered by these services, and indeed the likes of Uber Eats, could well mean the decline of dining out.

We’ve already seen robots and automated services replace the reliance on humans in many industries and the restaurant industry is no exception. In fact, while robots serving tables and preparing food may sound like the premise for a sci-fi film, many of these digital dining innovations exist today. 

San Francisco based Artificial Intelligence (AI) firm Momentum Machines, for example, has already started experimenting with a robot that can press patties, chop toppings, and assemble a sandwich. In a restaurant in China, robots whip up steaming bowls of ramen in 90 seconds and closer to home, Auckland’s innovative gelato genius Giapo Grazioli uses 3D printing technology to create some of his ice cream artwork. 

Unsurprisingly though, automation can’t replace highly skilled human workers. While robots may be efficient when performing repetitive tasks like preparing bowls of ramen, it turns out they’re not so great at interacting with people. Many of the robot-run restaurants in China have since shut down due to the incompetence of their robotic staff. While the whole idea was to reduce operation costs, the restaurants actually began to lose money because the waiters couldn’t perform simple tasks like taking customer’s orders, pouring drinks and delivering food to tables. 

Still, all of this does suggest the future dining experience is likely to be lacking in personal interaction. Jeremy Julian and Ryan Williams, a.k.a The Restaurant Technology Guys, predict people of the future will see fewer humans and more computers operating their favourite restaurants – and it’s not a farfetched forecast either. In San-Francisco for example, an eatery named Eatsa is almost fully automated. Customers order from an iPad, and collect the food from a cubby with no sign of human involvement. 

New Zealand isn’t quite so advanced yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time. Air New Zealand allows Koru Club members to order coffee through an app. McDonald’s touch screen kiosks are also available here, allowing customers to digitally build their own gourmet burgers and avoid queues. 

Of course, there’s inevitably a downside of all this automation – namely to our wallets (and, potentially, our waistlines). Research suggests that when your server is a screen, you order more and spend more money because there’s no risk of being judged. Think about that extra side of fries or dessert you add on to your Uber Eats order – if no one sees you do it, it doesn’t count, right?

While we may prefer to keep those greedy eating habits to ourselves, is human interaction really something we’re willing to sacrifice? Restaurants, cafes and bars are, for many of us, a break from our digital, fast-paced lives and a chance to engage in some good, old-fashioned human contact. 

Despite all of the automation and digitalisation, research shows we’re actually dining out more than we have in the past, which suggests we still crave real experiences and interactions. 

According to data from Statistics New Zealand, in the three years prior to June 2016 the amount of money we spent in restaurants increased by 50 percent while the proportion of households eating out increased by almost 10 percent. It’s hard to imagine a restaurant full of robots could ever satisfy the basic need for social interaction that today’s dining experience provides. 

But for all it may take away from the human experience, technology can, and does, add an extra layer to the dining occasion. The future is likely to incorporate all our senses into the creation of flavour, from sound to lighting and everything in between. It’s known as ‘neurogastronomy’ and is likely to play a major factor in future restaurant design. 

A 2014 study by drinks company Diageo found that curved furnishings and red lighting makes single malts taste sweeter. Similarly, the restaurant Ultraviolet in Shanghai pairs each dish on its 22-course menu with kaleidoscopic wall projects, computerised lighting, scent using VR to tell the story of one of its meals, from catch to plate – although on this occasion diners will be served actual food.  

Of course, technological innovation won’t only influence how we eat, but what we eat. We can already see the changes in both the supply and demand of food, with a focus on sustainability. Plant based products will continue to grow in popularity and the protein-centric dinner plate may become a culinary anomaly with grains, legumes and even insects taking centre stage. 

Some studies suggest meat will no longer be grown on farms but in a lab. Scientists are already experimenting with more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of putting meat on our plates, which could free up enormous quantities of grazing land worldwide. 

Regardless of where the future takes us, it’s an exciting time for the food industry. Plus, if things go pear shaped and all the food on the planet disappears, at least we know there’s the option of steak-flavoured vegan gelatin. 

Here are five restaurants from here and around the world that are embracing modern technology and enhancing the customer experience.


The inventive Italian icecream expert Giapo Grazioli’s famous Auckland restaurant is kitted out with a research & development lab that’s equipped with 3D printing technology.


Billed as the first multi-sensory restaurant in the world, Ultraviolet uses sight, sound and smell to enhance the food through a controlled and tailored atmosphere.


This eatery is almost entirely automated with customers using iPads to order. Staff work behind the scenes to create the food and deliver it in automat-style compartments.


This interactive restaurant projects its menu on the table, which you can navigate and order from as you would an iPad.


It may not be gourmet, but McDonald’s is a pioneer in fast-food technologies, from preparation to delivery. The kiosk-based ordering and payment system also lets users design their own burgers and is likely to become more prevalent in the fast-food industry.

This story originally appeared on Idealog. 

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Chinese businesspeople raise millions for Christchurch victims

A group of visiting Chinese businesspeople have raised $2.35 million for victims of the Christchurch mass shooting.

Read more

The Retail NZ Awards: What does it take to be a winning retailer?

Take this time to shine with the upcoming Retail NZ awards, a chance to show the retail industry what makes your business stand out. No ...


Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

  • News
  • March 20, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Hunting & Fishing New Zealand voluntarily pulls military-style assault weapons from sale

In the wake of the attack on Christchurch’s Muslim community on March 15, strong calls for changes to New Zealand’s gun last have been made. Trade Me was the first retailer to act, halting the sale of all semi-automatic weapons on its platform, and it has now been joined by Hunting & Fishing New Zealand.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Superette to open new concept store showcasing international brands

  • News
  • March 20, 2019
  • The Register team
Superette to open new concept store showcasing international brands

Apparel boutique Superette has announced it will open an ‘international flagship’ in Newmarket on April 4. The store will feature handpicked products from both established and emerging international designers.

Read more

What businesses can do to help support Christchurch and the Muslim community this week

  • Opinion
  • March 19, 2019
  • Rosie Collins
What businesses can do to help support Christchurch and the Muslim community this week

As many New Zealanders go back to work for the first time today since Friday’s attacks, feelings of anger, sadness, numbness, apprehension, and confusion will be shared around the country. Rosie Collins is the managing director of Step Changers, a registered charity working to normalise corporate social responsibility in New Zealand. In the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, she shares three ways businesses can help both their staff and the wider Muslim and Christchurch community this week.

Read more

China and New Zealand’s year of tourism

  • Opinion
  • March 19, 2019
  • Juanita Neville-Te Rito
China and New Zealand’s year of tourism

Think about how to best welcome Chinese tourists into your store this year.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit