Cupcake
 

As part of the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry 2030 report, we partnered with the futurists at Foresight Alliance to identify 10 possible disruptors that could impact restaurants – forces outside the restaurant industry that have the potential to shake up the way restaurants do business.

Of course, disruptions have a flipside for forward-looking restaurateurs: opportunity. The key is to start thinking about the future now. Among the potential developments by 2030, according to our report:

Intelligent restaurants: Computers don’t just respond to commands, they’re able to learn by mining and analyzing data much faster than humans. Through this artificial intelligence, automation of many back-office functions, supply chain management, marketing efforts, and other restaurant activities will be commonplace.

Why this matters for restaurants: This will affect everything from your technology staffing to the information your guests will increasingly expect from you.

Virtual restaurants and cloud kitchens: Virtual restaurants and cloud kitchens – restaurants that exist mostly online or through apps – have emerged as an offshoot of the industry’s current disruptor, delivery. Tomorrow’s customers are digital natives. For many of them, it’s all about good food delivered anywhere and anytime.

Why this matters for restaurants: If your brand can serve a geographic area via a central cloud kitchen, what are the effects on today’s restaurant models? You also might need to find creative ways to compete with new “restaurants” that exist only online.

Car
 

Autonomous vehicles (AVs): Vehicles that drive themselves (both with and without you in them) are coming. The effects on restaurants could be staggering.

Why this matters for restaurants: Will drive-thrus adapt to driverless cars? What effect will AVs have on delivery? How will this affect the food and beverages you serve, since it could open new opportunities for eating in cars? How will you market to people in AVs? The lodging and airline industries could be affected when you can ride long distances in personal AVs, eating and even sleeping along the way.

Robotics: Kitchen robots – in their infancy today – could become the norm. As engineers figure out how to make them work well in the kitchen environment, they may become sophisticated enough to execute precise human motion. The industry may adopt independent robots and co-bots, machines designed to work alongside humans.

Why this matters for restaurants: Robots in the kitchen could affect who you hire; you may need more techs.

Medical meals: DNA testing kits are all the rage and it seems like every industry from law enforcement to health care is finding new ways to use the science. Can uber-personalized diets be far behind? We’re quickly learning that our genetic makeup has a unique way of processing foods; some of us process certain ingredients better or worse than others.

What it could mean for you: Avoiding allergens, gluten, sodium, sugar? Restaurants might be ready to customize on-demand “prescription” meals.

To see all 10 possible industry disruptors – including why they could happen, and why they matter for restaurants – download the complete Restaurant Industry 2030 report and gear up for what’s coming. The report is sponsored by American Express and Nestlé Professional.