Will home deliveries kill the kitchen?

A recent survey from UBS bank widely reported in the newspapers predicted a surge in the popularity of app-driven fast-food delivery services such as Deliveroo could ultimately spell the death of the kitchen. Here kbbreview gets the industry’s reaction






Johnny Grey
Johnny Grey

More than just a food preparation space

Johnny Grey believes there is still life in the kitchen concept, which is constantly evolving to cater for much more than just our basic need to eat

I believe we have a problem with the word ‘kitchen’. While language definitions are necessary for all sorts of reasons, the kitchen may be a place in need of a new label for the next phase of its evolution. I would like to see our idea of it opened up with a name that recognises its multiple uses: practical, aspirational and even healing.

There is a great opportunity to channel the traditional spirit of the kitchen in imaginative ways. Attempts to ban or communalise people’s private kitchens have been dismal in Cuba and Russia, but more inspiring ‘co-kitchens’ are found in both retirement villages and student accommodation.

These shared spaces bring people together around the pleasurable, creative activity of cooking. I have been working with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing on a concept we call the four-generational kitchen (4GK) – a response to the growing trend for generations to live together. This positions the kitchen as the place people gather in practical and sociable ways, the generations learning from, enjoying and looking after each other.

Academic studies prove that eating well helps us all to live longer and crucially more healthily. Sourcing the ingredients we eat is best and most safely done by ourselves rather than being left to commercial companies. Deliveroo and their rivals offer fast food with time savings, but rely on the gig economy that treats workers badly.

As John Pelosi says (pg 26), it suits those in cities better than rural or small town dwellers. As well as older people who have plenty of time to cook and long-practised skills, the younger generation often love to cook, as chefs’ programmes on TV, apps and cookbook sales show. Our grown-up children almost always willingly cook from scratch, even with their busy lives, though maybe not every day. In the future, if automation takes over our jobs as predicted, we should have more time to cook rather than less and therefore will need our kitchens.

Designing kitchens for 40 years has offered me the chance to make people’s home lives happier as well as explore the meaning and value of kitchens. I retain a great love for the idea of an architected room that recognises the role of light, external views, well-made furnishings, spots to perch and easy circulation. This is the place we can feel the most comfortable, because of the primal instincts around food, its slow time, sociability and regular necessity.

The kitchen is the place we can feel the most comfortable, because of the primal instincts around food, its slow time, sociability and regular necessity that serves our deeper instinctual needs. These will not go away

Moving on from the kitchen’s traditional role as a food-preparation space, it has emerged as one where we are listening to our deeper instinctual needs. These will not go away. Open-plan layouts have liberated us, and so has feminism with shared domestic work. Elongated, sociably oriented central islands and flexible, round peninsulas offer specific response to our hard-wired needs.

Technology has freed up the kitchen, too, as we don’t necessarily take ourselves off to a study to work or a sitting room to watch TV or communicate with relatives and the outside world. We do these in the kitchen, if there is room. Room is, of course, the crux. Axing the kitchen under space constraints may make sense for developers or a minority, but is unlikely – I hope – to become the norm.

I do not, however, believe the versatile, creative kitchen is in danger of disappearing as our autonomy is at stake. Instead, it is going to broaden its scope as it adapts to new circumstances. Why not, for example, go with installing hidden kitchens in small apartments that expand at the weekends into a full-on working kitchen? Or have an appliance tower or freestanding furniture as a flexible way of refreshing the look and accommodating additional functions or equipment, along the lines of what a traditionally furnished room offered (see illustration).

Expressing love for our families and friends through cooking is a deep-seated behaviour. No one I know would be happy to fully delegate to commercial cooks such a personally rewarding activity.

Sandy Armitage
Sandy Armitage

‘Too much patriarchal, arrogant brainwashing…’

Designer Sandy Armitage dismisses the notion that the kitchen is dead and suggests it’s an idea perpetuated by architects and builders keen to cram more houses into what little space is available for development

Death of the kitchen? Really? I’ve been doing my best not to give a defensive, knee-jerk reaction to this, as that would be very easy to do.

So I’ve given it a great deal of thought and done a bit of a survey of opinions to give me a better street-level view, so to speak, and listened to some wise gurus and considered my experiences of this year’s trade exhibitions and come to the conclusion that it’s piffle.

That said, we cannot deny that millennials and their digital world are having a significant impact on all aspects of human behaviour. Nor that the fashion for regular takeaways has become quite the norm, not just for young people but for lots of us – not that I ever partake, mind you. But I don’t think that we should consider this as the way it is going to be.

That is a dystopian vision and I shudder at the thought of it, but I don’t think it will happen. Here’s why. Things are shifting all the time and those who are predicting our future behaviour should be careful not to sound too categorical. We are living through massive change, but to say that the price of the property will dictate the evolution of how we live is to suggest that we could be ‘Turning Japanese’ – I really [don’t] think so.

The population is ever increasing and city living is unaffordable for most of us – especially the young. Living spaces are becoming more cramped and you can see why shared living is being designed by architects and how manufacturers such as the Sanwa Company are answering the needs for compact kitchen living.

I am also pretty certain that while the award-winning communal living ideas of Spanish architect Anna Puigjaner were indeed inspired by answering a housing need, they were also designed to manipulate a shift in our traditional thinking away from the traditional kitchen and towards the idea of shared space.

All very laudable, but I doubt she’s into cooking and I think she misses the point about the importance of food to our very being – and how women are at the very heart of the process. I also think there’s a strong possibility that this shared space idea is being put forward by architects to benefit property developers and landlords.

So – changing our lives for the better pushing for changes in our behaviour that will bring them opportunities to make more money? My guess is that both apply. I think there is a great deal of patriarchal, arrogant brainwashing at work here that’s trying to convince us that this is how we are going to live. The communal sharing aspect is very nice and fluffy, but living in the Big Brother house clearly doesn’t work.

This is political and philosophical as this is revealing a much broader message, one that we should consider very seriously.

In 1987, when I liked to think I was the ‘yuppie’ future, battling with my giant shoulder pads, big hair and a Filofax that had nothing in it, I foresaw this situation with the lack of housing and the relative price of housing today.

It’s taken decades to land us here with young folk who have nowhere they can afford to buy and a total lack of regular housing.  Naturally, the size of standard housing is being decreased to fit more homes on building plots. I understand the need because, let’s face it, they’re not making land any longer and we keep breeding and not dying. But the smaller the space, the more open we want it to feel.

No matter how popular these apps and takeaways have become, people are still cooking and still want to cook. Cooking is everywhere from TV to Facebook videos to cooking magazines. Good food is on-trend, darling, and the young are cooking.

From what I see and hear about the future of the way we are going to live and impact upon the planet, I have total faith in the young showing us the way forward. I fully expect them to reject the cramped communal spaces being designed for them. Currently, they have no option and that’s the driving force for them right now, but that will change and they will change it.

The more aware we all become about the massive and unhealthy impact we are having on ourselves, our environment and our planet, the more we will put down the smartphone, take out the chopping board and the get making and baking and going back to our roots.

It will be in the hands of those with the emotional intelligence to understand just how important food is to the very essence of being human. It’s the one thing we all need and the thing that displays our love. Tell the Italians it’s the death of the kitchen and they’ll laugh as loudly as I do. Piffle, indeed.

John Pelosi
John Pelosi

‘Kitchen a ‘prime battleground’ in social oneupmanship’

John Pelosi, proprietor of Caldicot Kitchen and Bathroom Centre in Monmouthshire, says city-dwelling millennials may be happy to live on takeaways but his typical customers will always like their kitchens

There is something strangely satisfying about crystal ball-gazing and imagining how the home of the future might differ from that of today, and so it was with interest I read a fascinating article in The Guardian online entitled, ‘Would you live in a house without a kitchen? You might have to’.

The article looked at some of the recent trends in urban living, such as the shrinking home and kitchen within it and the move towards open-plan apartments with their island food-prep areas – apparently 16% smaller than in the 1960s.

But it went further, highlighting the rise of food-delivery apps and a growth in housing developments that incorporate ‘communal living’. With talk of the rise of ‘dark kitchens’ (anonymous industrial kitchens churning out mass-produced takeaways), the author speculated about the possible death of kitchens in the home as people turn increasingly to ordering in or eating out.

And their vision of a dystopian future and the potential demise of the kitchen left me wondering what it all means for a little kitchen studio in south Wales – or, for that matter, studios around the country. Should we all be shutting up shop and heading for the hills, pausing only to order a takeaway on the food-ordering app of our choice?

While the article raised some interesting questions, more than anything it rather reminded me of all those American TV clips from the 1950s and 1960s, with smiling housewives with shiny teeth relaxing, while some dubious-looking tin robots waved feather dusters and stirred pots before hoovering round the newspaper-reading husband.

Well, that particular household vision never quite materialised and I don’t think the home kitchen is quite dead yet, either.

For those studios in more densely-populated cities, I suspect some of the trends may well be more visible, with shrinking homes and open-plan living subtly changing the requirements of kitchen design. Maximising every nook and cranny, clever storage solutions, packing more functions into appliances and a greater focus on aesthetics, lighting and seamless integration of kitchen into living spaces – these are all trends that are certainly with us.

But how much of a threat is that? If anything, it presents a fantastic opportunity, as people move away from discrete pieces of furniture and seek to continue the built-in furniture of the kitchen seamlessly into dining, living, office and sleeping areas. Did the kitchen just get smaller, or did it start to extend through the whole house?

As to the concept of micro-apartments and communal living – well, I must admit to having no real experience of that sector, as the call for it in my own semi-rural area is non-existent.

The article reminded me of all those American TV clips from the 1950s and 1960s, with smiling housewives with shiny teeth relaxing, while some stirred pots before hoovering round the newspaper-reading husband

For the millennials fresh out of uni and starting their careers in the cities, with the growing trends for office-campuses and flexible working, I can see there may be some movement in this direction.

But what about those who are a bit older? Settling down with growing families and moving to more suburban lives?

Well, yes, they may eat a few more takeaways or dine out more regularly, but I suspect news of the demise of the home kitchen is somewhat premature.

Keeping up with the Joneses is as alive today as it ever was – and the kitchen remains a prime battleground.

And then we come to the empty-nesters and the retirees. Free from the income drain of growing children and with more disposable cash time and on their hands, these folk seem well at home in the kitchen and willing to spend on quality installations and good design.

They’ve been through the do-it-yourself cheap flat-pack with screwdriver and swearing stage, survived the make-do-and-mend door-swaps by the man-in-a-van on the family kitchen and finally emerged into that mortgage-free, time-rich place that I look longingly towards. It is this group who move to the lovely rural homes and barn conversions in the well-manicured villages and market towns around us. And they like their kitchens. And we like them, too!

So while I think that the challenges of smaller living spaces, changing eating habits and the relentless pace of new technologies will doubtless mean our offering will continue to evolve, I’ll still sleep well enough, knowing there will still be kitchens to be designed and installed for many years to come. But then again, what do I know?

I could be wrong and the authors could be right, and we’ll all be living in cramped high-rises and eating electric moped-delivered organic tofu and supping yak’s milk cappuccinos in kitchenless houses.

Well, so be it. At least we sell bathrooms, too. I don’t see the activities performed in that particular room in the house being outsourced to Deliveroo quite yet.

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