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What Does the Future of Dining Look Like?

Boston chefs, restaurateurs, and others share their thoughts.

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Over on Eater.com, Future Week is underway, an exploration of the near and distant future in the world of food and dining out. Locally, chefs and other industry folks answered the question: What do you think the future of dining looks like?


Future Week logo

Quality and Sophistication on the Rise

Lydia Shire

"I think the future bodes well for the restaurant industry! The quality of American food is on the rise. The quality of the chefs cooking the food gets more and more sophisticated as each year passes. Americans are dining out in droves and leaving the cooking to us, the chefs. Makes me happy! Would someone please stop the press from instilling in people's minds the 'fear of fat'? Just look at Julia Child; she had a little butter on her toast every morning, some cream in her coffee, and she was never fat or unhealthy." —Lydia Shire, chef/owner of Scampo

Image credit: Provided

A Throwback

Michael Scelfo

"I think the future of dining is actually going to see a throwback to old styles, old techniques, and tried and true methods. You’re going to see more traditional cooking styles with an emphasis on ingredients and execution over food that my be considered overly complex and not necessarily for the guest. I would not be surprised by a move back toward more traditional-sized courses as well." —Michael Scelfo, chef/owner of Alden & Harlow

Image credit: Katie Chudy for Eater

Higher Quality, More Sharing, Better Coffee

Rebecca Theris

"The future of dining will involve higher quality food and drink in a casual setting with more professional service at a higher price. The experience of dining in a restaurant could be as casual and convivial as dining in one’s home. Tasting menus, individual plates will continue to be surpassed by shared meals. Dining as a shared experience in the food that you eat, the drinks you enjoy will replace the 'individual dinner.' Rather than just sharing time while having a separate meal, restaurants will grow in the direction of a completely shared experience emulating something closer to visiting a friend’s/family member’s house — large dishes served with bottles of wine all to be shared together. Along with this emulation comes longer meals. Restaurants providing the space for a longer period of time to guests, not looking to just get the table back as quickly as possible. We will see a vast development, almost a revolution of sorts, towards much better coffee and tea service in restaurants. This means better sourcing, higher quality of beans, and increased training for staff (restaurants will be hiring baristas as they do bartenders) will be widespread very soon. As the demand for higher quality food and drink (fresher, sustainable, made in house, local, etc.) continues to increase along with better wages and benefits for skilled restaurant employees, the price of dining in general will be driven up. With this, restaurants are now heavily educating their staff, seeking out those that treat their employment as a career—from cooks and servers to bartenders and baristas. There is a widespread movement, founded on higher quality, that will improve the world of dining for both the diner and the entire service industry itself." —Rebecca Theris, co-owner of Loyal Nine

Image credit: Courtesy of Nora Belal

Local Ingredients and Local Beers

"I hope the future of food includes more and more local farming and locally brewed beers. Molecular cuisine is lovely but nothing beats the good old fashioned tomato at the right time of year. I hope to see us continue to do good, clean cooking." —Brian Poe, chef/owner of Bukowski TavernCluckitPoe's Kitchen at the Rattlesnake, and The Tip Tap Room

Image credit: Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Simple and Well-Sourced Ingredients

Sam Alberts

"The future of dining will be simpler and more flavorful. As people become more conscious of where their food is coming from, what kind of soil their vegetables are being grown in, they are understanding the amazing flavor that simple, well-sourced ingredients offer. A tomato at the height of summer or a grilled fillet of the freshest fish with a squeeze of lemon are two quick examples." —Sam Alberts, general manager of Osteria Nino

Image credit: Provided

Loosening of Aesthetic Expectations

Geoff Lukas

"I think the future of fine dining will see the loosening of certain restrictions and expectations, particularly in terms of aesthetics. The obsession with 'smallness' increases labor cost while decreasing yield-per-planting for farmers and drives up prices of farm-direct produce from small privately owned producers. The already high rate of attrition along with the burgeoning need to increase pay, particularly in the kitchen, will limit the ability of restaurants to keep purchasing produce that is small and identical but ultimately more expensive and typically less flavorful. It also feeds into the skewed perception the public has of what 'good' produce is. I’m hoping this will increase pressure on chefs to purchase and utilize produce in a way that is most beneficial for the farmers and less about purely aesthetics. In terms of the dining experience, I hope it makes it more natural in a way where good products and good technique supplement the sharing of an evening with your company without necessarily being the focal point." —Geoff Lukas, chef de cuisine at Committee

Image credit: Provided

Fine Dining Will Never Disappear

Jennifer Ziskin

"I feel fortunate to be in an industry that I feel will never become obsolete. Dining is a luxury that I know I could never live without. I think even with the invention of iPads that can take orders, we will always enjoy fine dining and being waited on. I wish electronics could be banned from the table!" —Jennifer Ziskin, co-owner of La Morra and Heritage of Sherborn

Image credit: Provided

Lab-to-Table and Insect Bistros

Jay Silva

"In the future, I think we’re going to see technology play a huge role in dining, with more interactive use of apps, tablets, and social media at the table. Table-side guacamole will give way to table-side 3D entree printing, and farm-to-table will turn into lab-to-table. Insect bistros will pop up everywhere, and food’s shock factor will be a new trend. So say I, jatstradamus." —Jay Silva, executive chef at Bambara

Image credit: Official Site

A Growing Relationship Between Restaurant and Producer

"Diners, specifically those located within an urban setting, are much more informed in regards to food and beverage and the establishments that supply them. Due to many contributing factors — social media, the immediacy and increased scope of information gained through internet and phone applications, a saturated market, Yelp, and other blogging devices — diners now have the power to review and challenge establishments to raise the bar in a way that they have never had before. Ten years ago, a diner might visit a bar or restaurant and be blown away by the amount of choices. Now, we see diners coming in who make it a point to know about the ingredients in the food, the types of hops in a certain beer, or the benefits of a certain wine vintage. It challenges the methods of staff education and raises the bar as far as what the staff is required to know, which, in a certain way, redefines the service industry and changes it from being just a fill-in job or a fast way to make money, to an actual profession or life-long career. Likewise, we see a lot of people turning towards building a career on the actual production side, be it brewing, farming, distilling, you name it. 'Hyper-local' and 'farm-to-table' are no longer trends. We are going to see the relationships between restaurant and producer grow and tighten ten-fold over the next number of years." —Sarah Hanson, owner of Five Horses Tavern and Worden Hall

Continued Exploration

Michael Schlow

"In the foreseeable future, guests will continue to want beautifully presented food with bold flavors served in well-designed atmospheres by passionate hospitality providers. The nation will continue to explore new flavors and cultures of cuisine across the world." —Michael Schlow, chef/owner of Doretta (opening soon), Tico, and Alta Strada

Image credit: Provided

A Greater Desire for Healthy Menus

Bill Brodsky

"With an increasing amount of meals being consumed away from home, I think people will continue to want more and more healthy offerings on restaurant menus. This became apparent to me when I was conducting research prior to engineering the menu for Southern Kin. When you think of Southern fare you don’t typically think of healthy eating, but I intentionally tried to offer more healthy options than I would have historically." —Bill Brodsky, chief culinary officer of Boston Nightlife Ventures

Image credit: Chris Coe for Eater

More casual. More jetpacks.

"The future of dining continues the trend of becoming more casual. Guests will continue to care and pay attention to where the ingredients are being sourced. Chefs will not only continue to work with local farms and purveyors, but they will also become farmers themselves by growing their own vegetables to use in their restaurants. And in the real distant future, I see servers wearing jetpacks on their backs for even speedier service and aerial valet parking for guests’ hovercrafts." —Jason Santos, chef/owner of Abby Lane and Back Bay Harry's

Image credit: Provided

Less of a Learning Experience, More of a Family Experience

"There has been such a strong trend of guests' education/interest in cooking, wine, cocktails, where food comes from, and more in the past few years. We feel that as the food and beverage education grows in the general public we'll reach a point where restaurants will trend away from pushing their guests into a learning experience. We see the future of the restaurant industry as a return to a focus on enjoying family and community and not a learning or teaching experience." —Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi, chef/owners of SRV (opening soon)

Expectations of Responsible Sourcing

Sarah Wade 500px

"I see the future of dining continuing to trend toward quick(er) service, very high quality, made in-house and healthy(ish). I feel like we as chefs have aided in the diner's need for fast and good food. I feel after being on the East coast for three years that chain restaurants are really not at the top of anyone's list, and that it is a last resort, both in the take-out and the eating out sector. There are so many good, quality establishments coming up, and they are maintaining their high standards due to the guest expectation, and those lovely Yelp reviews. Our guests virtually expect items to be made in-house and to be sourced responsibly, and that will not go away, nor should it. I feel that restaurants will continue to purchase responsibly and do our best to buy local. At the heart of it, people are starting to figure out that the cheapest chicken is not always the best for you. The population is becoming informed on issues such as animal antibiotics and hormones and we are seeing the impact of the usage of such things in our kids and ourselves. The expectation of 'whole' unadulterated food is definitely going to increase, to which i'm pretty sure most chefs will be happy to oblige. I am proud to buy natural beef and chicken that have not had any antibiotics, and it is something that I know we all take pride in on our menus. It is great that the public is also expecting these things. I feel that these days less and less folks cook at home. It is hard with busy schedules, good healthy food readily available, and the new trend of those 'we prep, you cook' delivery services like Blue Apron. On the flip side, I read an article recently which basically stated that there is becoming a shortage of quality cooks and chefs in the business, which I am definitely feeling here. Which makes it very interesting to see how that will impact food. With increased competition, restaurants will have to pay more for staff, which will make food prices increase. How much will that impact the frequency of people dining out? Because they are now eating out less, will their expectations of service and food quality increase even more?" —Sarah Wade, executive chef at Lulu's Allston

Image credit: Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Simplicity and Healthfulness

Rich Vellante

"We’ll continue to see dining as entertainment for all the senses, not just the taste buds. And so the bar will be raised higher in terms of the overall social experience that restaurants provide. Yet, at the same time, educated consumers will increasingly value the simplicity and healthfulness of eating what’s local, seasonal, and sustainable." —Rich Vellante, executive chef & executive VP of restaurants for Legal Sea Foods

Image credit: Provided

The Return of Ultra-Fine Dining

"I think the future of dining is exciting. In the short term I see things getting more and more casual. Small plates, large plates, and shared items in neighborhood-style restaurants will continue to grow. Take-out will grow. I also think the supply chain will continue to flatten as farm-to-table becomes a mainstay of the industry. Further off I think there will be a resurgence in ultra-fine dining, which is good because the great restaurants of the '80s and '90s played a huge role in the exciting things happening all over the food world today." —Brian Rae, executive chef at Centre Street Café

Serving Local Beers

Suzi Samowski

"For me, the trend in restaurants is serving and supporting local breweries. I have been praising and pairing beer with food for 17 years, and I’m glad it is finally catching on. It's a community and we all like to share a good beer." —Suzi Samowski, managing partner of Bukowski Tavern and Lower Depths

Image credit: Provided

More Sustainable Seafood, Less Meat

Daniel Bruce

"The future of dining in this country will become more and more focused on sustainable seafood as we deplete the current wild stocks. There will be more focus on organically grown produce, as we become more educated on the negative effects of using GMO and manmade chemicals. There will be a shift away from protein as we know it (meats) because of the cost and environmental impact, and super grains as well as other protein options will become more widespread." —Daniel Bruce, executive chef of Boston Harbor Hotel and Meritage

Image credit: Provided

More Plants, Less Meat, More Fun, Less Pretension

Jess Willis

"I hope that dining in the future will be more about fun and substance and generally, less pretentious. Sustainability needs to be the norm, not a premium. Chefs and restaurateurs will be conservationists on the plate — with more plant-based foods taking the lead and meat playing a supporting role. We’ll continue to see more natural farming and production, more integration with the local economy, more concern for the people who grow, prepare, and serve our food. What is already happening in the cities and on the fringe will go mainstream, and, hopefully, with minimal self-righteousness." —Jess Willis, chief operating officer of The Independent Restaurant Group (Brass UnionFoundry on ElmThe IndependentRiver BarSaloon)

Image credit: Provided

Whole Beasts and Traditional Techniques

Jeff Williams

"I think the future of food is essentially going to be food of the past re-envisioned; food culture is changing with the world. There is a new consciousness of GMOs, people are becoming invested in what they’re eating, and there is a growing concern of sustainability. On top of that, the climate change is affecting crops and animals. Chefs are now being forced to use what’s local and heirloom strains of vegetables, because they will grow with no modification. Also, offal meats are starting to emerge again with the whole beast movement, whereas before, you would never see beef cheeks, liver, or kidneys on a menu, it’s becoming common practice. Invasive species like snake head are popping up on menus too. The funny thing is, with the use of these offal meats and sustainable imperfect veggies, the classic cooking techniques are coming back too, just reimagined, including pickling, braising, fricassee, and tallow frying. We just developed a pork cheek recipe at Chopps where we braise the cheek but use the fat from the pig to make spoon bread with pickled tomato. I guess the quote to summarize my thoughts would be, 'Study the past if you would like to define the future...'" —Jeff Williams, chef at Chopps American Bar and Grill

Image credit: Provided

Casual Snacking and Sharing

Paul Turano

"I think that the future of dining is going to be extremely casual. Diners appear to be going back towards approachable and recognizable ingredients. I believe that restaurants will gear further towards snacking and small plates and get away from the typical appetizer, entree, and desserts." —Paul Turano, owner/executive chef of Cook and Tryst

Image credit: Provided

Healthier Food. And Maybe Drone Delivery.

Paul Barker

"I think we will start seeing more healthy, fast food establishments pop up, and more menus will be geared toward healthier food offerings. Along with this I think we’ll continue to see the farm-to-table movement grow and more restaurants catering to allergies and offering additional alternatives. You might also see food being delivered by drones…although I would hate to see this." —Paul Barker, owner of Pauli’s North End

Image credit: Provided

Disappearance of the Mid-Range Restaurants

Keenan Langlois

"I think the future of dining will see a greater divide between the high-end tasting menu and the lower-end casual and fast-casual concepts. I feel that the mid-range upscale restaurant is going to slowly dissipate. People aren't eating the traditional three-course meal with an appetizer, entree, and dessert anymore. Also plates are looking different with only protein on one dish and vegetables or starch on another, so the guest can sort of fabricate their own course. I think we'll also see more electronic devices for menus and the guest even ordering directly into the kitchen. College students and actors may be out of waiting jobs before we know it." —Keenan Langlois, executive chef at The Sinclair

Image credit: Provided

Electronic Ordering

"I think the future of dining will be so streamlined that we will be ordering electronically, even at fine dining establishments. Great for the Millennials, but there will still be a handful of restaurants that will stick to traditional service and hospitality practices for the Generation X diners." —Jeri Painten, events manager at Les Zygomates and Bel Ari

Blurring Lines Between Industry Segments

Bob Luz

"The lines between industry segments will blur even further, and at the same time our great chefs will continue to offer new concepts that are more approachable to more guests in their own neighborhoods outside of the downtown area. My biggest fear however is that dining will become far less personable, as operators use technology allowing them to adopt tools to both speed up service and reduce the escalating costs of payroll." —Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association

Image credit: Katie Chudy for Eater

Less Interaction With Servers

Kenny Schweitzer

"I think as time goes on people will continue to become more educated and care much more about what they put in their bodies. I can picture the paper menu becoming extinct and the iPad style menus becoming the norm. Where orders can be placed without a server. The menus not just listing what’s for dinner, but explaining more about the food. Where it’s from, when it was harvested, health benefits…Servers won’t be there to ramble off specials and take orders, but instead to serve the food and drinks, answer questions and tend to the guest. I see the future of dining becoming just like many other transformations we have seen in the last 10-20 years. More efficient and convenient for the consumer, and much less of a personal interaction between the worker and the customer." —Kenny Schweitzer, executive chef at Ward 8

Image credit: Provided

Robot Staff and 3D Menus

Brooke Barsanti

"I imagine it might look like an episode of the Jetsons. Virtually zero staff — more robots. Menus will be in 3D above each seat at the table; each menu automatically connects and sends diners selections, temperature preferences, allergies, to the bartender and chef. The food may be local, organic, or less processed — but it’s primarily prepped, cooked, and served by machines. For the record, this terrifies me." —Brooke Barsanti, food & wine programmer at Boston Center for Adult Education

Image credit: Provided

More Small Plates, Less Concern for Portion Size

Yale Woodson

"I feel our guests will continue to eat local and want to know more of the history behind their food — hopefully not to the extent featured in Portlandia — but they will continue to be more conscious of where their food is being sourced and harvested. Small plates and dine around will continue to grow; as a country we are moving away from the classic protein, starch, and vegetable entrée and the three-course dinner. Hopefully this develops into more of a concern towards the quality of the food and less focus on the amount of the portion which is dominant issue in how Americans eat vs. the rest of the world." —Yale Woodson, executive chef at Turner’s Seafood

Image credit: Provided

Main Image: Shutterstock/Ociacia

Scampo at The Liberty Hotel

215 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114 857 241 1150 Visit Website

Poe's Kitchen

384 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116 617 859 8555 Visit Website

Les Zygomates

129 South Street, Boston, MA 02111 617 542 5108

CLUCKIT!

782 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02118 (857) 250-2999

Worden Hall

22 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127 (617) 752-4206 Visit Website

Alden & Harlow

40 Brattle Street, , MA 02138 (617) 864-2100 Visit Website

Abby Lane

255 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116 617 451 2229 Visit Website

Centre Street Cafe

669 Centre St, #A, Boston, MA 02130 (617) 524-9217 Visit Website

Doretta Taverna

79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116 Visit Website

Southern Kin Cookhouse

500 Assembly Row, , MA 02145 (617) 764-5966 Visit Website

Foundry On Elm

255 Elm Street, , MA 02144 (617) 628-9999 Visit Website

Tico

1926 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 319-1400 Visit Website

Tryst

689 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02720 (781) 641-2227 Visit Website

Osteria Nino

19 3rd Ave, Burlington, MA 01803 (781) 272-1600

The Lower Depths

476 Commonwealth Avenue, , MA 02215 (617) 266-6662 Visit Website

SRV

569 Columbus Avenue, , MA 02118 (617) 536-9500 Visit Website

Loyal Nine

660 Cambridge Street, , MA 02141 (617) 945-2576 Visit Website

Lulu's Allston

421 Cambridge Street, , MA 02134 (617) 787-1117 Visit Website

Bambara

25 Edwin H Land Boulevard, , MA 02141 (617) 868-4444 Visit Website

Saloon

255 Elm Street, , MA 02144 (617) 628-4444 Visit Website

Meritage

70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA 02110 (617) 439-3995 Visit Website

Bukowski Tavern (Back Bay)

50 Dalton Street, Boston, MA 02115 617 437 9999

Back Bay Harry's

142 Berkeley St, Boston, MA 02116 (617) 424-6711 Visit Website

Bel Ari

107 South St, Boston, MA 02111 (617) 259-1560 Visit Website

Committee

50 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02110 Visit Website

Five Horses Tavern

535 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118 Visit Website

Five Horses Tavern

400 Highland Avenue, , MA 02144 (617) 764-1655 Visit Website

Pauli's

65 Salem Street, , MA 02113 (857) 284-7064 Visit Website

La Morra

48 Boylston Street, , MA 02445 (617) 739-0007 Visit Website

Brass Union

70 Union Square, , MA 02143 (617) 623-9211 Visit Website

The Independent

75 Union Square, , MA 02143 (617) 440-6022 Visit Website

The Tip Tap Room

138 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114 857 263 7614 Visit Website

Bukowski Tavern (Inman Square)

1281 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 497-7077 Visit Website

Ward 8

90 North Washington Street, , MA 02114 (617) 823-4478 Visit Website

River Bar

661 Assembly Row, , MA 02145 (617) 616-5561 Visit Website

The Sinclair

52 Church Street, , MA 02138 (617) 547-5200 Visit Website
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