Table-loids: Flying Food, Virtual Restaurants, and More Industry News You Should Know


Welcome to our weekly round-up of restaurant news and trends. This week we talk flying food, virtual restaurants, the big caffeine vs. chicken debate, the upcoming holiday season and why you should ditch your cell phone at dinner.

1. Is it a bird? No, it’s a pizza!
In just a few short years you could be on the receiving end of flying food. Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that Uber plans to launch food-delivery drones by 2021. The ride-sharing app that recently developed UberEats, a food delivery service that allows drivers to deliver food from local restaurants, has always depended on humans to get the job done. But a job post, which is no longer listed on Uber’s website, stated that the company was looking for an Operations Manager for its food-delivery drone program, UberExpress. The Wall Street Journal noted that the company wants to have working drones in the air as early as next year and hoped to fly them in several markets by 2021. I love this idea. I’d order from UberExpress just to have a drone show up at my door. I’m still patiently waiting for the day my Amazon Prime order arrives by drone. I say, bring it on!

2. Virtual restaurants
While we’re on the topic of Uber Eats, in addition to drones, the thriving food delivery service is also expanding to include virtual restaurants. “What the heck is a virtual restaurant?” you might ask. Well, to put it simply, it’s a restaurant that only offers delivery. The Uber Eats version will be separate brands located within already established brick and mortar restaurants and they’ll only be available for delivery through Uber Eats. They already have 1,600 virtual restaurants operating around the world, including 800 in the U.S. This is not only a great move for the food delivery enterprise, but also for restaurants who are looking to reach a wider audience. By creating a virtual brand, the eateries can hopefully connect with people who may not have gone into their physical establishment.

3. Caffeine vs. chicken
Let’s talk fast casual for a minute. Restaurant Business Online announced some teen-influenced news this week. Chick-fil-A has replaced Starbucks as the coolest food chain for teens to hang out in. I’ve got to be honest, this news wasn’t shocking to me. When I was 15, I would have much rather spend my time eating fried chicken and french fries than sipping a $7 espresso drink. But, since 2011, Starbucks has been the reigning champion of both average and upper-income teenagers across the country. The change may be due to the fact that Chick-fil-A has seen an immense growth in the past several years, while Starbucks’ growth has waned. Whatever the reason, I say you can have the teens, Chick-fil-A. I’ll be sipping my overpriced caffeine-ladened drink in peace.

4. Happy holidays?
Restaurant Business Online did its yearly review of how they think restaurants will fare this holiday season. The results aren’t quite grim but also not very merry. Although they do believe that consumer spending will be up this year — which is great news for retail stores and restaurants — they also think that hiring in retail will be up. What does this have to do with restaurants? Well, restaurants and retailers often compete for the same employees. By increasing their hiring, retailers could drain an already strained pool of potential hires. The bright side: those working as front of house staffers in the restaurant industry will have the ability to pick up more shifts during the busy season if management can’t fill them with new hires.  

5. Be present
I first heard of this trend months ago when reading about remodel-and-design duo Chip and Joanna Gaines’ new restaurant endeavor, Magnolia Table. They artfully placed boxes next to each table meant for people to place their cell phones in during dinner. To be honest, I wasn’t immediately taken by the idea, especially being someone who is literally attached to their phone. This week I read another article about a restaurant implementing this strategy, but this time it’s New York City-based Tripleseat customer Eleven Madison Park. Award-winning chef Daniel Humm told that he wanted to encourage people to look up and be present. I have to say that the concept is starting to grow on me. Maybe if I was more present at mealtime I would enjoy the meal and the company that much more. What do you think about the idea? Would you implement it at your venue? Visit our poll and tell us what you think.

Interested in more trends?
Check out Tripleseat’s posts on trends and information for the event industry.