Disruption is the word of the decade thanks to the pandemic, and in many ways it’s putting old wine in new bottles. It’s driving the way in which businesses are operating and changing our expectations of what service means in a service based economy. I’m not certain that every business is going to be radically changed over the next 10 years, but I do know that most of them will be and all it takes is a quick look at what has already happened to see that many pandemic driven adaptations are here to stay.
I know that the changes caused by Covid in the courts are a welcome change for many judges and lawyers while they are still grappling with the mechanics of the change, the concept of having fewer people in the courtrooms is a huge improvement in safety and ease of hearings. So far this year I’ve been involved in hearings in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties – all while never leaving the comforts of my office thanks to new technology being implemented across the different courthouses.
The use of meeting technology is not eradicating the need for actual courtrooms and in-person trials – but it is reducing the load on an overly crowded system. This level of disruption is happening in other industries as well and it’s sparking new businesses, which is good news for an economy that is faced with increased automation and a reduced need for workers.
Restaurants are at the forefront of this wave of techno-revival-revolution. This past week I had the opportunity to visit a “ghost kitchen” down in Long Beach. Now for those who don’t know what a “ghost kitchen” is, it’s a virtual restaurant. The menu exists online, the marketing is all online, and when people order food, it’s made in a large industrial kitchen that is probably making food for 10 other “ghost kitchens” or virtual restaurants. The food is being delivered by the army of gig workers who drive for UberEats (they used to be across from the Loews Hotel on Ocean Ave, don’t know if they’re still there) and Postmates, DoorDash, GrubHub etc.
Going to one of these “ghost kitchens” is a bit of an experience. I was told to drive to an industrial area, park on the street, and walk down the alley. It felt sorta like heading to an old school speakeasy, but soon enough I saw the lights shining from the wide freight doors and inside a herd of people waiting to pick up for what they were about to deliver to their clients.
My friend and I walked up to a computer screen and picked out one of the 13 or 14 restaurants to order from, entered our choices, slid a credit card through and about 20 minutes later we were enjoying a selection of Thai food off the back of his truck gate. We had the option of order from the “Italian” or “Mexican” or “Hot Fried Chicken” places and what struck me was that this was not all that different from an old school smorgasbord or even the Automats in New York in the 30s and 40s where you would just walk along, open the door and pick what you wanted and then went to the cashier to pay up.
Everything old is new again, just fresher and more expensive. This weekend I had dinner at Bangkok Thai on Santa Monica Blvd. I have a favorite table there, in the corner behind the hostess so that I can watch the room. When I first walked in three other tables were being occupied so about 6 people in the restaurant. As I was seated at my table I looked up and under the hostess’ desk were about a dozen paper bags that had receipts and menus stapled to them. For the next 40 minutes I watched people come in, show the hostess a phone with an order, pick up a paper bag or two, and leave. The bags kept coming from the kitchen and leaving through the front door minutes later. Frankly, I was getting annoyed with the constant pinging of the iPad that alerted the staff to a new delivery order.
But this is the future, at least for now. Lots more delivery Lots more selection from restaurants that don’t even really exist and real restaurants adapting to the changing desires of their clients.
Old wine in new bottles – today we call it disruption – but it’s just business adapting to the times.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra