For the last few years the big players in the game, including Just Eat, Deliveroo and UberEats, have been promoting a ‘lazy lifestyle’. A few simple taps on your smartphone and the food comes to you, from the comfort of your sofa. Marketed as ‘easy’ and ‘fuss-free’, is this shift from eating out to eating in as good as it seems, or does it pose a new set of issues?
Our town centres were once the lifeblood of our society; the social hub of the community encouraging friendly interaction between a whole neighbourhood. People not only knew their neighbours but their local business owners as well; from the grocer and butcher to the pub landlord and even the proprietor of the local curry house. Streamlined and convenient online delivery services are contributing to the success of online retailers and the ‘Death of the High Street’. 15 high street shops close every day, and 1 in 8 shops in the UK are now vacant. Society has become used to a fully online, automated service, with the lack of human interaction causing us to become more and more socially disengaged. One study suggests that by 2030 e-commerce will account for 40 per cent of all retail sales in the UK. How long before High Streets are no longer a key part of a town's identity, and become instead a sad reminder of what once was?
A more pressing concern is the huge volume of Single-Use Plastics (SUPs) being distributed and disposed of on a daily basis by the food industry. I’m sure you haven’t been living under a rock for the last five years, so you are aware that there is currently a huge backlash on the persistent and unrelenting use of SUPs, with many nations choosing to ban them in some form or other in the near future. The sheer volume of non-recyclable plastic waste created from JUST ONE takeaway (plastic/polystyrene containers and lids, plastic wrap, bags, disposable cutlery) is adding to an already staggering figure. It is estimated that the UK throws away over 295 billion pieces of plastic per year. Dark kitchens have sprung up all over the country, focused solely on delivering takeaway food to an ever-increasing number of customers. The benefits of ease of access and increased profit for large restaurant groups is undeniable, but are we leading the country down a path of no return?
There seems to be a simple answer - people need to fall in love with eating out again. If the movers and shakers of society (namely young, ‘woke’, politically active people) can instigate a restaurant renaissance, wouldn’t that at least be a start at tackling some of the issues outlined above?
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