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Robots and delivery services take over a kitchen-free future, reports says

Maybe the recent death of Anthony Bourdain warrants a look at how and where we eat, but the future of home-cooked meals isn’t looking good at the moment. A report from investment firm UBS titled “Is the Kitchen Dead?” suggests to investors that a new future approaches, one in which kitchens have been abandoned for takeout food made by robots and delivered by drones.

It’s all a bit hard to take seriously but the report suggests that the majority of meals now cooked at home — no more bone marrow on toast, chicken pot pies, or Sunday roasts — could be replaced with takeout meals from vendors like McDonald’s and Taco Bell. The report highlights the growth of delivery platforms like Grubhub, Just Eat and Delivery Hero as potential winners in the future meal wars, as well as logical delivery platforms like Amazon.com and its association with Whole Foods and other brands.

“The total cost of production of a professionally cooked and delivered meal could approach the cost of home-cooked food, or beat it when time is factored in,” the report says. “In a world of increasingly time-starved and asset-light millennial consumers, we think growth in online food delivery is part of a megatrend which shouldn’t be ignored.”

Specifically, the report envisions a scenario that by 2030, most meals cooked at home are instead ordered online and delivered from either restaurants or central kitchens. In this version of the future, UBS sees robots working in “dark kitchens,” where different types of takeaway meals are prepared in group kitchens. The report estimates that online food deliver might control up to 10 percent of the total food services market, a subset that would translate to more than $350 billion.

So who loses in this world bereft of pestles, garlic presses, and other foodie accouterments? Plenty of businesses including hundreds of thousands of food retailers and producers as well as property markets, home appliances, and other manufacturers. The report also calls out franchises like Sonic Drive-In — how can you drive-in if you never leave your house, after all? — as well as companies like General Mills and Kraft Heinz that are heavily dependent on selling their ready-made or home-prepared foods like Kraft’s mac and cheese.

“Those retailers that can redirect, or at least diversify, sales to new avenues of growth such as online grocery, ready-to-eat meals, quick service restaurants, etc., should see a benefit,” according to the UBS report.

The report focuses on food-delivery startups like London’s Deliveroo and the ubiquitous Uber Eats but notes that meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh might also fill in any gaps in service.

UBS offered a comparison to future meals with the evolution of the clothing industry.

“Describing today’s world to a person whose clothes were all made at home would presumably draw a great deal of skepticism, and the full shift from home clothes production to today’s world took a long time,” UBS reports. “But some of the same characteristics are at play here: We could be at the first stage of industrializing meal production and delivery.”

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