The Future of Food

As society embraces maximum convenience, UW alumni are transforming the business of on-demand dining.

In 2012, Doug Hamaker ’10 and Henry Aschauer ’10 opened Roast Public House with a fresh vision for the campus end of State Street: a sit-down dining experience that rivaled student favorites around the Capitol Square. Before long, it was a hit.

By 2019, it was a relic.

Roast closed its doors for good last spring. The decisive moment wasn’t an empty dining room; it was the sizzling success of the owners’ second restaurant, Forage Kitchen, which opened in 2015. The fast-casual Forage serves specialty salads and grain bowls, offering an assembly line of fresh, colorful produce and warm proteins. In a matter of minutes you can build your own bowl and head out with a full meal in hand.

Hamaker and Aschauer didn’t intend it, but their adjacent State Street restaurants served as a litmus test for a dining trend that’s remaking the restaurant industry. And the public has spoken (er, eaten): it wants its food on the go.

When Forage began offering delivery in 2016, it received two or three orders per day. But over the last year, it’s “just exploded,” Hamaker says, with the restaurant receiving up to 40 delivery orders during the lunch hour alone.

The demand for delivery is so intense that Forage is considering opening an off-site fulfillment center for online orders — in effect a food-service factory — that would help to manage the tricky triage of in-person and online patrons. Such “virtual” or “ghost” restaurants, offering only delivery and dispensing with the storefront altogether, are thriving in big cities like Chicago and New York.

Welcome to the future of food. UW alumni like the Forage duo and the founders of the delivery company EatStreet are on the front lines of on-demand dining. And they’re transforming not only the way we eat, but also the way we live. Whether it’s a change for the better remains a compelling — and complicated — question.

Read the full article at: