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Are kitchen stoves becoming obsolete?

The kitchen has been referred to as the heart of the home, but it seems they’re losing their lustre. For a growing number of households, the kitchen is a quasi-closet where you store food instead of a gathering place for family and friends.

Homeownership has been a challenge over the last decade, particularly for the younger generations. With rock-bottom interest rates, real estate prices have skyrocketed making it difficult for new workers to settle and purchase a home. As such, builders are shrinking condos to keep prices at affordable levels–and the one thing that appears to be shrinking faster than ice cubes in hot soup is the kitchen. Builders know that potential buyers or renters are not going to spend much time there. Or at least, that kitchens serve a very different purpose for the younger crowd.

Younger workers have a different sense of how real estate serves them. Like in many parts of the world where real estate prices have always been high, a home is a space for the in-betweens. Our busy lifestyles cause us to spend less time at home, whether it be for work, leisure, or anything else. It’s a place you visit between activities. Even for people who work from home, travelling is very much part of what they do.

We are slowly moving toward an app-driven food economy. Food delivery apps are the new norm and the need to cook barely exists. But most importantly, younger folks, particularly millennials and Gen Zs, are time-starved and are three times more likely than boomers to order in. A recent UBS report suggested the global online food ordering market could grow more than tenfold over the next decade or so, to $420 billion by 2030 from $42 billion today.

The food service industry is adapting to this trend. The rise of “dark kitchens” is making the industry more app-friendly. These cramped restaurants, typically with no dining room and usually located in downtown cores, are home to cooks who prepare meals for food-delivery apps. They are not easy to find, but they are in most Canadian cities. In Europe and parts of the United States, these dark kitchens even use robotics and AI to manage orders and prepare meals, significantly reducing costs. With drones and highly sophisticated delivery options, costs will likely decrease even more, making home cooking the more expensive option, especially for people living alone. With these technologies, ordering in is slowly becoming a more cost-effective choice and more attractive for everyone, not just the younger generations.

The economics of cooking are changing fast, which is why most grocers are investing in meal kits or the ready-to-eat space. Grocers are essentially accepting the fact that consumers want to spend less time in the kitchen. As much as some of us wouldn’t want to admit, it is happening. Cooking is being outsourced by a growing number of households.

Kitchens have evolved from a location in a home where you cook to a place where people just tweak and heat up whatever they want to eat. Despite alarming trends showing up in real estate, let’s hope cooking will remain in our lives for a long time.

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