At home, even with the introduction of services like Hello Fresh and the Mindful Chef, the act of cooking is also very familiar. You assemble ingredients using recipes to make meals. And when people have time to do it, they really enjoy the act of creative assembly that comes from doing something yourself.  

The trade-offs between health, effort, cost and convenience give an interesting insight into human psychology. One story, or urban myth, I’ve always liked, was how in the ’50s Betty Crocker increased sales of their cake mix by getting people to “add an egg”. It tapped into the idea of convenience combined with a sense of creation by getting you to add one fresh ingredient. 

How might the idea of a takeaway change in the near future? How might changes in technology and shifts in society change people’s relationship with the food they eat? New, evolved types of takeaway services might emerge very soon – but one thing won’t change. They will need to be created with the customer at their heart.

Changes in society

The inhabitants of 2018 are a demanding lot. They demand immediacy in many aspects of their lives, from customer service to how long it takes for something to be delivered. People want things right now and get frustrated if they have to wait. When you buy something using Monzo, your balance updates instantly, and once certain things happen in real time, other interactions seemingly slow down and become more irritating. Real time experiences lead to real time expectations.

People are also becoming more health and environmentally conscious, aware of the impact that the things they eat can have not only to themselves, but to the world.

Work is also changing. The growing gig economy receives lots of negative attention and there’s more that needs to be done around workers’ rights. But it does offer flexibility and the ability for work to fit into your life rather than the other way round. A recent article in the Guardian by a Deliveroo driver is testament to that.  

Changes in technology

As well as changing customer needs, technology is also changing incredibly quickly. The rise of cryptocurrency and blockchain means that billions of dollars are being invested in new technology. Fortunes will no doubt be made and lost as we explore the next frontier of digital. There is also more data being collected and used than ever before, meaning AI services can provide personalisation and anticipate your needs. Not only will supermarkets know you’re pregnant before your family does, they’ll know what you’re going to eat next week. 

A future vision for takeaways

So with all these changes in society and technology, what will ordering a takeaway look like in the future? Well, I won’t pretend to have the answer, but I think there is a real opportunity for the next wave of “takeaways” services to fundamentally change our relationship with food.

Let’s imagine a new service, which you order using your voice and it’s delivered in 20 mins to wherever you are. So far, so familiar. However, this new service cleverly combines the convenience of a takeaway with the pride of cooking something yourself, bringing back your connection with food but also acknowledging that cooking a meal from scratch every night just isn’t realistic. 

What else might this new personalised service do? 

  • It could change the mix of prepared vs unprepared ingredients each day depending on how much effort you want to make. The person who delivers the food could also train you up on how to cook parts of or all the meal. 
  • The service would use blockchain to guarantee the provenance of all the ingredients. You can quickly and easily see the entire supply chain, no fake food or people being ripped off.
  • It could be tailored and predictive to your daily dietary needs, food preferences and target macros (the % of protein, fat and carbohydrate you consume each day).
  • The service should be fairly priced and sensibly packaged, so you don’t feel like you’re paying through the nose for convenience or creating unnecessary waste.
  • It wouldn’t be just focused on the traditional takeaway times of lunch or dinner, but could provide breakfast as well.

I’m sure elements of this new service already exist, and I’ve made some huge assumptions that I’d want to test. Some of these suggestions might be more appealing to people than others. But the combination of the best of home cooking with the best of a takeaway feels like an interesting opportunity space to explore. Especially when you factor in a new type of trust in fresh ingredients (no more horse meat scandals, please). 

How to use design thinking to create a new type of takeaway service  

So if you were looking to create the next generation of food delivery service how should you approach it? These days creating an amazing differentiated experience for customers is not about having a shiny app, you need to design a great end-to-end service which considers all the touchpoints.

I’d suggest you start with immersing yourself in the experiences and problems of your target audience. To do that you should start with some qualitative research. Once you have a good view of the problem space you can map out an indicative customer journey and start to select opportunities. Then you’re into discovery, creating and validating lots of ideas and concepts to clarify and learn about the potential of each new solution. You’d do it quickly with a small team. However it’s not just about the customer facing proposition. You also need to consider how the service can be delivered. What skills and processes will need to be created to realise the potential of your idea. At least that’s how I’d approach it.

So the next time you’re wondering what to eat at home, and can’t decide whether to cook or order something in, have a look online, there might be a new service which can precisely meet your needs. Or you could always go to a shed in Dulwich.

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