Which foods will trend and what eating out might look like after lockdown

From delivery drivers who double as sommeliers to a strong focus on local flavours, the future of food will be forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic, predicts a fascinating local report

07 May 2020 - 00:00 By Studio H and staff reporter
This eatery in Hong Kong has roped off the tables between patrons in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
This eatery in Hong Kong has roped off the tables between patrons in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Image: Chan Long Hei/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has proved that in times of crisis we all turn to food, states a report from Studio H, a food design agency with offices in Cape Town and Amsterdam.

Titled Re-imagining Our Food Future, it outlines how our current reality has changed our relationship with food and predicts that it will continue to do so in a post-lockdown world. It imagines how restaurants, supermarkets and our eating habits might adapt and evolve in light of factors like social distancing and the culinary trends that have arisen while we’ve all been housebound.

Here are some of the highlights from this fascinating report:

THE PRESENT

From helping to feed those in need to panic buying canned goods, food has also brought out the best and worst in all of us during these uncertain times.

During lockdown, one of the only reasons we have had to leave our homes is to go to the grocery store. We have suddenly had to cook almost everything from scratch. This has changed the way we think about food: we’ve come to embrace the concept of slow food and are consuming food in a new, more considered way.

THE FUTURE

Social distancing will change restaurant design

Social distancing will result in the interiors of restaurants being reconfigured in many different ways. This could simply be removing excess furniture to create larger spaces between tables, or the creation of booths like those in Japan, which accommodate just one or two people. These are designed to limit interaction with staff and other patrons; orders are placed electronically and food is served through a hatch.

Food delivery will aim to bring the restaurant experience to your home

With the rise in food deliveries, restaurants will adjust their cooking techniques to account for the time it’ll take for their dishes to reach people’s plates. Delivery drivers may replace front of house experts and could be trained as sommeliers.

There’ll also be a wealth of design innovation as takeaway boxes become the new restaurant tables. The use of sound and ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) will further help to amplify taste sensations and recreate the experience of eating out at home.

The home delivery concept from Wolfgat – the Paternoster eatery named Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards in 2019 – is a good example. Described as an “interactive hamper”, their four-course meal is packaged in a box with a painting of the restaurant’s sea view – done by chef patron Kobus van der Merwe himself - on the inside of the lid. It comes complete with a playlist to accompany the meal.

Health and wellbeing will become a valuable commodity

The current acute focus on health and self-care translates to mindful eating and eating to enhance and balance mood. Everything we do in a healing post-coronavirus world will be first and foremost about health. Health and wellbeing will become a valuable commodity and we will see many new restaurant brands centred on healthy eating. 

Local will be more lekker than ever

There will be a strong focus on our own history, origin and local flavours. This is partly because restaurants will be focusing on local tourists in the absence of international travellers, but also because of the strong sense of community fostered during lockdown.

Businesses, restaurants and products that can offer uniquely local and authentic products will thrive. The conversation around South African flavours and food heritage will be more important than ever.

Touchy feely food experiences

Never have we focused more on our hands but not been allowed to touch anything. After months of sensorial deprivation and the fear of touching, we will be yearning for tactile experiences. Expect to see interactive dining experiences, like people eating with their hands, in very safe and controlled sterilised environments, nonetheless.

• Studio H is developing various projects in preparation of this new post-coronavirus world, including the Digital Food Exchange, a virtual food festival in support of the food industry and the curation of a South African Food Museum. Studio H founder Hannerie Visser will also be talking about our reimagined food future during a webinar on May 13 — check out @studio_h_ on Instagram for details.