Robot chefs, drones and the end of kitchens: the weird and wonderful future of food delivery 16 Oct 2018

by Robin Nierynck

Robot chefs, drones and the end of kitchens: the weird and wonderful future of food delivery


What if ordering your favorite meals became the rule rather than the exception? A recent study by investment bank UBS, ‘Is the kitchen dead?’, suggests this reality might not be as far off as you think. Exploring the “mega trend” of growth in online food ordering, the study found that soon it might not make sense for people to have kitchens in their homes at all.

In fact, the study estimates that food delivery sales have the potential to increase more than tenfold by 2030. The idea is that as technology advances — with the rise of robot chefs, drone deliveries and delivery-only kitchen hubs — the price of food delivery will continue to fall and the service will become affordable even for daily ordering customers, prompting a real shift away from home cooking.

The true cost of food

There are a number of factors that contribute to this shift. Although cost is often a barrier to food delivery, the main reason why people choose to order in is to save time that would otherwise be taken up by home cooking. And time is becoming increasingly valuable.

To get to the ‘true’ cost of a meal, you need to factor in the cost of ingredients, equipment and the time spent cooking. There is also the question of quality, as most of us are not professional chefs and food delivery provides access to high quality meals. UBS found that even today, if you take into account different factors such as time, cost, health, and choice, the average total cost of a home cooked meal and a delivered meal is almost the same.

Current cost of a delivered meal vs. a home cooked meal in the UK

Cost of a delivered meal
Source: UBS estimates. Assuming an hour spent cooking is worth £9.50, using the net median UK wage per hour, excluding ready-to-eat-meals

And the industry is only getting started. According to the study, as the cost of delivered food drops over the coming years, ordering food could become 25% cheaper than a home-prepared meal, and 40% cheaper where drone delivery and professional kitchen automation drive the price down even more.

New reality, new space

As people cook less often, the price of owning a kitchen (buying the kitchen units and appliances) increases, and may eventually stop making financial sense altogether. Even without considering the time spent cooking, for households preparing homemade meals three times a week or less, the study estimates they could be better off having no kitchen at all. When factoring in time and technological advancements, this rises to people that cook five times a week or less.

Time spent cooking a meal for a household (minutes/meal)

Source: UBS estimates

Add rising property prices on top of that, and adapting our living situations to the new realities of cooking starts to make a lot of sense. Although many people will likely still own kitchens in the future, the study suggests they will be much smaller and limited in their functionality. Shared kitchens could be introduced “as a consequence of a wider movement towards co-living arrangements,” especially in single-person households.

Where do we fit in?

Not only are prices falling, but choices are increasing exponentially. Where previously the offer was limited to pizza and burgers, today’s takeaway menu is endless – from salad to sushi, vegan and vegetarian options, to dishes from all corners of the world.

As choices increase and prices fall, the cost/benefit of home cooking will deteriorate and food ordering is only set to grow. Delivery Hero already processes over a million meals a day, partnering with over 200,000 restaurants in 40 countries around the world. And we’re growing every day.

The online food ordering and delivery service is constantly improving, with quicker and more reliable delivery times, and personalized and more convenient interfaces. And we’re always trying to do better, by limiting our environmental impact, introducing new sustainable packaging and working towards carbon-neutral food delivery.

UBS named Delivery Hero as one of the best-positioned companies to contribute to and benefit from this change in the food market – a nice tip of the hat. In fact, we’re committed to delivering solutions, whether that’s personalised recommendations, robot deliveries, voice ordering, or delivery-only kitchen hubs. But that’s just the beginning.

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