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Inside track: Neil Rankin says the future is already here

09 June 2020 by
Inside track: Neil Rankin says the future is already here

These new 4K TVs are perhaps the worst invention in my living memory. I was recently trying to purchase a new TV, but the only ones available were 4K options. I love great cinematography and being sucked into another world for a few hours to forget the scenes happening in my own, but these TVs take a beautiful, well-crafted image on which studios have spent countless hours and money in the pursuit of artistic depth and make it look like a 1990s low-budget TV movie with A-list actors. It's so flat and lifeless.

In an earlier article, which seems like 100 years ago now, I wrote that if restaurants don't start engaging with the future, in this case the home delivery audience, they would face the same uncertainty as the retailers that ignored internet delivery. Of course, nobody could predict what was going to happen next, but if anything it has been the wake-up call we would all have had eventually anyway – just five years too soon. This delivery thing is here to stay and, at some point, we all will have to engage with it in some way. There is no running away from the future.

Deliveroo is dead in this new market in its current form. It's a tech company that, like Uber, will be rolled over for something new because it has never tried to sell love, only convenience. Its customer service seems to be based on algorithms rather than core values or hospitality. Orders are cancelled and refunded but they're not really fixed, explained or, it seems, learned from, and that's not good for the consumer or the restaurants. This is fine if you're selling a cheap pizza, but if people are using it for food from some of London's best restaurants, you don't want to mix its inefficiencies with your foie gras pâté or Chateau Musar.

The answer to all of this can't be an off-the-shelf solution. We will have to make it ourselves. Some of our more creative restaurants in London, including Darby's, Pizza Pilgrims, Patty & Bun and Bright, led early from the blocks. The Hakkasan group and JKS were soon to follow, offering creative takes on what this new world looks like and delivering food that is almost indistinguishable from the restaurant version – and in some cases actually a little bit better.

People are also cooking more and that's great for the health of the nation and cooking in general. Restaurants heave reacted to this by functioning almost like a deli, offering ingredients people can cook themselves. I'd argue that a lot of London's trendy restaurants were overpriced delis anyway, putting Natoora produce on a plate and charging the same amount it would to make it yourself for a week and still have change.

I'd argue that a lot of London's trendy restaurants were overpriced delis anyway, putting Natoora produce on a plate and charging the same amount it would to make it yourself for a week

But, what will be will be, and there is actually a lot to be excited about if you have the right mindset. What's needed is more hospitality. If someone can solve that puzzle, it's game over for average restaurants, as we'd all rather stay home.

As Elon Musk starts trials for his Neuralink system, which could allow humans to control computers with their brains, ask yourself if you're really prepared for the future and whether the things that matter to us now will matter then. Are you going to engage or are you going to dig your heels in and stand your ground as the world moves on without you?

I don't know what the future looks like either, but what I do know is that we had better get on our bikes and put on our thinking caps and start getting used to watching our movies in 4K or whatever the hell they think of next.

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