Kitchenless Homes: A Cook’s Dystopian Future

The luxurious kitchen of the future?

Realtors will tell you that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. What happens if there is no kitchen?  Investment bank UBS recently issued an investment note to customers titled, “The End of the Kitchen?” Not being a UBS-caliber customer, I’ve only been able to glean snippets from the private report from across the internet.

In a nutshell, UBS is taking note of the fast rise in food delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, and yet to enter the US, Deliveroo and Foodora. The report postulates what happens to the food distribution and preparation market as food delivery grows in popularity. It’s all part of the larger trend of people outsourcing tedious tasks to those willing to do them for pennies.

Over the course of decades, the amount of money spend dining out had grown to roughly 50 percent of food expenditures by 2014 (newest USDA data). Compare that with just 16 percent in 1929 and doubling to just above 30 percent by the 1960s. The only real reduction in the incidence of eating out comes during recessions when eating out is viewed as more luxury.

Of course, there’s a generational component at work as well. Millennials only eat roughly a third of meals at home compared to 41 percent of Boomer meals. Millennials also eat about a third more meals in restaurants and bars than Boomers and about half as many more as Generation X. Consequently, Millennials spend on average 88 minutes per week on food preparation, presentation and cleanup compared with 143 minutes for Generation X and 136 minutes for Boomers. You’d think this might be because Millennials are working more hours than their older peers, but you’d be wrong. Generation X worked 25 percent more hours than Millennials and Boomers, over 50 percent more. UBS says Millennials are 3x more likely to order prepared meals than their parents (Boomers).

Dating from 2014, what the USDA report doesn’t really cover is the recent rise in food delivery services. Uber Eats only began regional service in 2014 and reportedly now accounts for 10 percent of Uber’s revenues. In fact, food delivery apps are downloaded as much today as ride share apps in major cities.

UBS foresees growing usage of meal delivery services like Uber Eats but also the eventual inclusion of meal preparation by the delivery companies themselves offering their own menus. This shouldn’t be a shock. As we’ve seen Amazon continue to be a one-stop-shop, we can expect delivery services of all stripes to eventually create or acquire the meal-creation services they deliver themselves. For example, in addition to delivery, UK-based Deliveroo launched Deliveroo Editions in 2017, whereby they own the kitchen and rent facilities to restaurant start-ups who can’t afford a bricks-and-mortar restaurant.

Amid all this fevered growth in food delivery, remember it’s just adding to the slightly older, ready-made meal options Eatzi’s pioneered. It’s easy to see that if this trend continues, it will have an impact on how housing operates. UBS estimates that by 2030, food delivery services could take a 10 percent bite out of the entire food services market – or 10 times what it is today.

UBS continues, estimating that drone and robotic technologies could decrease costs for prepared, delivered food below those of home cooked.

While not on the level of pricier cities, new Dallas apartments seem to be losing kitchen space.  The floor plan above shows a one-bedroom apartment with what I’d call a walk-through kitchen only slightly larger than the bathroom. In those pricier, non-Dallas markets, kitchen islands are being dropped for a single line containing appliances interspersed with meager storage and counter space.

You may be thinking a completely kitchenless home is pie in a darkened sky, but the UK is already seeing its start. After peaking in the 1960s, new home kitchen size has shrunk 13 percent to an 80 year low.

And it’s not just Millennials that are driving the trend. We’ve heard time and again that single people hate cooking for one (I’ve never thought so). Single households already make up a quarter of all households in the US, and continuing to grow.

A floor without a kitchen

Surprisingly, kitchenless homes aren’t radically new. I’ve written often that we seem to be returning to the past in embracing urbanism and the vibrancy it creates. Back in the 1800s, apartment blocks in New York were made with communal kitchen spaces (along with housekeeping and childcare). Higher density housing was able to capture the efficiencies offered by centralized domestic services.

In fact, one of these communally-serviced buildings was the Waldorf Astoria. Many view such an arrangement as enabling a renewed sense of community. Units were often for singles and couple, but some built for families. They consisted of a living room, bathroom and bedroom(s). Of course the idea of communal living was one of the basic tenants of communism. Once that ideology took off and communal living was closely associated with Soviet politics, they fell out of fashion in the US.

The difference today is that instead of centralized, on-site, staffed or shared kitchens, delivery services like Uber Eats decentralize preparation off-site and facilitate delivery. Unlike the past where shared domestic services encouraged a sense of community (you simply saw and interacted with your neighbors more), delivery services are about today’s anti-social app culture of convenience.

First Uber came for my car — now they want my kitchen? No.

 

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

 

10 Comment

  • I was going to re-do my condo kitchen and then I said to myself why…I only make bacon and eggs, frozen pizza or salads.. the rest comes from made to order or Eatzi’s. I love to go on a small walk for dinner if the weather cooperates. I see no reason to spend at least $20K so I can make the perfect frozen pizza. A great bathroom and closet is a whole different story.

    • mm

      Frozen pizza? I haven’t been too drunk to order delivery in years. 🙂

      • It is the occasional vulgarism I enjoy besides a pot of beans and wienies.. I have not really cooked anything substantial in 4 years and see no reason to start.

  • mm

    Makes so much sense. Then as we, like Europeans, start keeping more of our own usually built-in furniture, you can take it with you when you move!

  • mm

    But the scary part is that it is now entirely possible for a human being to be completely detached: text, order anything from Amazon or Uber Eats, and never interact with another human being. Not healthy.

    • mm

      I digress, but Interesting commentary yesterday on NPR about our solitary lives leading to lack of honor in our society. But to be relevant, in 1988 in Italy we had a set up like this in our b n b which was in an Italian vineyard. The entire kitchen was inside an armoire. I thought back then, this idea is great for small spaces and people who actually DO cook, but can shop daily, like in a big city where you grab something fresh on the way home. Of course it’s a very European mentality. We loved it as we’d pick up fresh pasta and pesto, cook it in our little kitchen and eat on the patio overlooking the Tuscan hills. For small space city living I think the idea is perfect and I don’t think it will lead to less cooking, I mean have you seen a normal NYC kitchen? They are not much larger than these units!

      • mm

        Somehow I cooked more for my husband when he wasn’t my husband in my NYC apartment with a kitchen that was literally a coat closet with a tiny square sink, two burner stove/oven, below counter fridge and a few shelves above it all. Course we had oodles of time and I was looking to impress him with my cooking skills (and girlfriend Gil Wishnik’s recipes) which have since disintegrated… nah, just buried.

  • Say it ain’t so! My kitchen serves me for many more things than just cooking. It’s where everyone gathers, you still have to plate & serve the UberEats. Where would I drop everything when I walk in the door? What about serving a buffet or hors d’oeuvres for guests? What about preparing cocktails & serving wine, etc?
    Never say never, but I’m holding on to my over-sized, used more than any room in the house, kitchen.

  • I lived in a studio apartment in Preston Tower for 9 years with a kitchen similar to the one pictured, but with a refrigerator half that size. It was all I needed!

  • New York has a lengthy history of apartment hotels, housing residents in luxurious suites without individually designated kitchens. Prior to the Waldorf Towers cited by Jon, the Ansonia opened in 1904 as the largest apartment hotel to date. Some of its apartments included kitchens; others contained only pantries. The Ansonia was also air-conditioned (over 100 years ago) and stabled dairy cows on its roof! Bette Midler, accompanied by Barry Manilow, would later entertain recreating bachelors at the Continental Baths, also housed within the Ansonia. Along with most of the Upper West Side, the Ansonia has always been Jewish-friendly, and has since become a condominium building.

    Across Central Park on the patrician Upper East Side, 825 Fifth Avenue, the Sherry Netherland also on Fifth, and the Ritz Tower at 465 Park Avenue, were all erected during the Roaring Twenties, and all contained apartments outfitted only with pantries. Residential hotels could circumvent the former fifteen storey apartment house zoning limit, and consequently reached for the sky. Residents appreciated unlimited views and dined in their suites enjoying multi-course meals brought up and served by staff, or alternatively dined in the communal apartment hotel salons.

    825, the Sherry, and the Ritz Tower are now cooperative buildings, with complete kitchens now built into the individual apartments. Nevertheless, 825 maintains its communal dining room, and individual maintenance includes monthy minimal dining charges and annual dining fees. Sherry residents may request room service from Cipriani. Ritz Tower residents are now less privileged, as Le Pavillon was shuttered in the early seventies.

    I continue to be very grateful for my personal, well-worn, and kosher kitchen, which provides me with a weekly opportunity to extend Shabbos hospitality.