Could technology polarise dining and leisure experiences?

Technology is now a ubiquitous part of our social lives: smart phones in particular are used not only to arrange social occasions, but to split restaurant costs and pay via one of a multitude of mobile wallets.

But technical developments over the next decade are likely to bring a polarisation in how technology is used by dining and leisure operators. Some are likely to fully embrace every advance, making each visit a multi-sensory, immersive digital-led experience, while others may well thrive on promoting themselves as places where customers can come for an hour or two to escape the technology which otherwise dominates every aspect of their lives.  

By 2025 technology will allow many restaurants to deliver convenience to the time-poor consumer: diners will be able to order their meal via a restaurant app while at home or work. If ordered for delivery it may well be dropped off by drone or a robotic courier; if consumed on the premises the meal will be served as soon as the customer arrives with the food preferences already known to the restaurant, reducing waiting time and need for interaction with waiting staff. 3D-printed food may well be ‘on the menu’ in many establishments, and virtual reality headsets could be available with each diner sitting in their own virtual world where they can personalise their lighting and music, or even just choose to see only the people at their own table (replicated digitally), blocking out the surrounding restaurant.

At the other end of the spectrum, some consumers, already accustomed to being connected 24/7 and to whom the novelty of paying by tablet or watch will have worn off, will seek restaurants as spaces to disconnect from the online world. Some brands will position themselves as sanctuaries away from technology where socialising and ‘authentic’ experiences take precedence over being connected online. These restaurants will pride themselves on offering a bespoke service, with waiting staff being able to give detailed advice about dishes and drinks in a relaxed, calming atmosphere.

Looking at the wider leisure market, cinemas have proven to be consistently resilient to economic challenges and technological advancement. While home technology will continue to advance, going to the cinema will remain a unique experience. By 2025 cinema attendance is likely to still be robust with the markets in Central and Eastern Europe having seen strong growth, offering more multi-screen cinemas screening international films appealing to the young, multi-lingual cinema goers.

Some cinema audiences will, however, be asking more of their cinematic experience, either through multisensory connections with the film being watched, in-seat dining or massage chairs, each designed to improve the quality and efficiency of the time spent watching a film.

Further information

Read more: Megatrends in European Leisure

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