Eventually, we will go back to eating at restaurants. Yet the modern restaurant may never be the same, and we can only wonder what restaurants of the future will look like.
Restaurants change the way we eat food, often drastically. Even putting the pandemic aside, a young man or woman in 1921 would be stunned to learn that today we have Doordash, Instagrammable food, fast food, drive-thru windows, and modern chain restaurants that long for the nostalgia of the 1950s, the 1930s, even the 1430s.
Did you know that there’s a restaurant where you can eat a balloon? People in 1921 certainly didn’t, and if we told them, they would be shocked. The restaurants of 2050 will likely shock us as well.
Here are some ideas for restaurants that will exist in the year 2050.
(These are not serious)
1. The Streaming Restaurant
You walk into the restaurant. You sit down, alone, with big plates of food in front of 3 monitors. That’s right, it’s a restaurant where you pretend you’re streaming a mukbang on Twitch.
As part of the restaurant experience, you have to read Twitch donations and read chat while eating your food. The chat will be AI-generated with GPT-3, and it’ll yell at you and tell you that your stream is bad.
2. The Newest Health Craze
In the future, all foodborne illnesses will be cured. Salmonella, E. coli, these diseases will not pose a deadly threat like they once did in the 2020’s. However, someone, some moron, is going to think that salmonella is actually healthy for you and start promoting it as the newest health craze.
Tabloids will write clickbaity articles about how people in the 2020’s were healthier because they got salmonella every now and then, and talk about salmonella like it’s a nutritional miracle food and how we need to go “back to the basics” of the 2020’s. Think of it like the paleo diet craze, but with foodborne illnesses.
To capitalize on this trend, there will be dozens of new “poke” restaurants, but instead of fish it’s just a bowl of raw chicken. Maybe with some rice. It’ll be called salmonella poke. Unlike actual poke places, they do not sell salmon.
“CryptoFood.” I honestly don’t know what this is supposed to be, but it seems likely anyway.
4. A Food Art Market
The year is 2050. Scientists have figured out how to make all food non-perishable, so that it all lasts forever. This will lead to a food trading market, where meals are traded for rarity like paintings.
Here’s what happens. You go to Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, and he serves you a steak dish. Since he made it with non-perishable ingredients, it will last forever. Instead of eating your steak, you take it home, wait for 30 years, and sell it on the food market as a “Gordon Ramsay original” for 20 thousand dollars.
Many chefs will hate this new trend and quit the business altogether. A growing number of gourmet chefs will realize that since no one actually eats their food — they just save it so they can sell it later — taste doesn’t matter anymore. The chefs make dishes that are aesthetically pleasing but basically inedible, and this spirals out of control to the point where gourmet chefs just become naturalist sculptors. Also, Banksy will make a meal that eats itself in protest.
5. The McCar
So you’re on the highway in your self-driving car, and you get hungry. How are you supposed to tell your self-driving car to get off the highway and drive to the nearest McDonald’s? It’s simple: McDonald’s will have autonomous McCars on every major American highway (if the McSki and the McBoat are any indication then it will definitely be called a McCar). When you order from the McDonald’s app, the nearest McCar will find its way to you and position itself next to your car. Then, a robotic arm will extend from the McCar to your car’s window so you can grab your food.
Okay, so Yum Brands owns several chains that could each loosely, loosely represent a place: KFC (the American South), Pizza Hut (Italy if we’re being literal), Taco Bell (Mexico but really San Bernadino, California but whatever), Huang Ji Huang (owned by Yum China), and probably more in the future. This will eventually lead Yum Brands to open “Yumtopia,” which is like Disney’s EPCOT where every country gets their own booth with Yum Brands food. None of the countries will be accurately represented at all, but it won’t matter because Yum Brands will make a lot of money.
7. The Future of NYC
When teleportation is invented, and subways are no longer needed, the entire New York City subway system will be converted into one giant sushi conveyor belt restaurant.
8. A Holographic Family Meal
Picture a bustling city, the sky blocked out by 50-story buildings, the streets filled with bankers and antsy businessmen who grow lonelier and lonelier each day. In the year 2050, the isolation and loneliness will be worse for many of these people. For dinner, they will turn to the holographic family meal.
This will be a restaurant tucked into an alleyway, far from the main roads, somewhere not obvious. You go into a private room which is built to look like a modern dining room, with mahogany floors and a chandelier above the table. You eat a nice dinner with a holographic family, “your” family, who ask you about your day and make you feel loved. Payment is automatic to avoid embarrassment; ironically, you never interact with a real person the entire time in this restaurant.
9. “The 4 Hour Chef”
“The 4-hour Chef,” a hibachi restaurant where your chef is from a cloning chamber at the back of the store. To preserve the uniqueness of your experience, the chef can only live for 4 hours before disintegrating (The real reason is because the restaurant’s cloning technology is very unstable). A 70-year-old Tim Ferriss furiously sues for copyright infringement, causing the restaurant to reluctantly change its name to “The 3-hour Chef,” giving the cloned chefs one hour less to live.
10. So Hot You Could Fry an Egg
You know how on a hot day you can fry an egg on the sidewalk? Climate change gets so out of hand that you can fry meat on the sidewalk. All Korean BBQ places go out of business.
McDonald’s switches to a microtransaction model. A 20-piece chicken McNugget meal is “free.” But in reality only the first 3 McNuggets are free, and you have to pay increasing amounts for the other 17 (you also have to watch ads in between each nugget).
I wrote down “Jiro’s Nightmares of Sushi.” I don’t know what this is supposed to look like either.
13. Your Next 50 Instagram Posts
Today, we have Instagrammable food. As deepfakes become more reliable, you can pay an agency to handle your Instagram food posts automatically. The agency has contracts with 50–60 restaurants around the world. You supply the agency with photos and videos of yourself (aka training data), and each restaurant produces a deepfake of you eating at their restaurant with your trendy salmonella poke or whatever. The agency then plans a social media schedule of all the videos of “you” eating your trendy food. Two months of Instagram posts, all taken care of by the agency, without you ever having to leave your house.
14. Snapchat Food
Snapchat invents food that disappears 10 seconds after you look at it.
15. Psychotropic Foods
Humans will harness the power of psychotropic foods, like magic mushrooms, so finely that they figure out how to induce specific hallucinations. Researchers will likely harness audio hallucinations first, since it seems that auditory hallucinations are the most common type among those with schizophrenia. Thus: a chill restaurant for hip kids. You eat a mushroom burger. For the next two hours you faintly hear lo-fi hip hop beats in your head. The restaurant is called “Lo-fi Eats to Relax/Study To.”
16. Future Vegetables
The year is 2050. The climate has been destroyed. Vegetables no longer exist, and crops cannot survive the harsh weather. We show a machine learning algorithm billions of pictures of vegetables, and use 3D printing to create vegetables again. An unpaid intern accidentally forgets to check the box that tells the algorithm to categorize the different vegetables, leading the algorithm to instead come up with one monstrosity of a super-vegetable. It prints millions of these franken-vegetables before the system can be corrected. They are purplish-brown and covered with lumps, and actually taste sort of alright.
Because the new purplish-brown vegetables are in absurd abundance, thousands of street food stands pop up around the world selling these vegetables in stews for ultra-low prices.
17. Agile, Must Be Italian
It’s a restaurant that operates on the Agile system of development, so they only put out meals every two weeks (I mean every sprint). At the daily stand-up meeting, each sous-chef updates the team on which vegetables they’ve minced.
Today, there are some viruses that secretly install bitcoin miners on your computer, running in the background and stealing your computer’s processing power. This is called cryptojacking. In the future, there will be a restaurant that sells you food, but unbeknownst to you, when you eat the food nanobots are deployed inside your stomach, which will sap little bits of your energy to mine bitcoin.
The nanobots can only sap a tiny amount of your energy without you noticing. If they sap too much energy, you would get sick, go to a doctor, the doctor would find the nanobots, and the money-making scheme will be exposed. Since an individual customer can’t produce that much energy (and in turn bitcoin), the scheme will probably be carried out by a massive fast food chain with a large number of customers. With millions of customers, they are able to profit from these secret nanobots.
The added profit from the bitcoin mining will allow this fast food chain to lower their prices, driving many competitors out of business. Eventually the truth will leak, most likely from doctors or a whistleblower, and it will become a nationwide scandal.
19. The Future of Restaurant Titles
We buy a lot of meals through apps. This trend will continue, and it means that a restaurant’s title will matter more than ever. If you don’t get a diner’s attention with your name, they can swipe past you with the flick of a finger.
In order to get attention, restaurants will have clickbait names. Restaurant titles will eventually trend towards clickbait so hard that gourmet, 3-Michelin-Star restaurants will have names like “She Ate What??!” and “I Ate This Food… In Roblox??? [GIVEAWAY]” and “The Internet is Having a Moment with this Latke.”
20. The Black Cube
When you walk into the restaurant, a camera scans your face and identifies you. Once your ID is confirmed, the restaurant instantly knows your blood type, allergies, and Myer-Briggs personality type because of data they purchased from your phone provider, or more likely from the company that makes your smart refrigerator. They sell you a gelatinous black cube the size of a shoebox. It’s impossible to tell exactly what it’s made of. The cube’s taste is different for everyone, but the cube in front of you is tailored to your specific taste buds by an algorithm.
It tastes amazing.