As automation begins to make all our occupations obsolete, is the service industry next? It seems former Mitte nightlife king Heinz “Cookie” Gindullis thinks so. Having turned his landmark Friedrichstraße club into the Crackers restaurant in 2015, Cookie teamed up with software mega-corporation SAP to create Data Kitchen, the futuristic lunch canteen Mitte so desperately wanted and needed.
The premise: as a start-upper on the go or someone ever-so-slightly on the autism spectrum, you’d like a quick lunch away from your desk, but can’t be bothered to deal with wait-staff. So you go to Data Kitchen’s website, enter your preferred meal and eating time, pay for your order electronically, show up at a courtyard cafe by Hackesche Höfe that resembles a Scandinavian boutique hotel lobby and presto: there’s your dish in one of a grid of 20 microwave-sized boxes on the wall, behind a digital screen with your name floating on it. A tap on an emailed link supposedly grants you access, although due to a Gmail lag we had to ask a human to open our box for us. Which kinda defeats the point, as does the fact that you still have to pick up your drinks from the person behind the bar.
For such a silly concept (our box-opener rationalised that Cookie and co. “wanted to show just one possibility for the future”), the food is better than it has any right to be. Comprising soups, salads, open-faced sandwiches, larger plates and a few breakfast options, the menu is seasonal, affordable (topping out at €12.50 for mains like smoked trout with lentils and bok choy) and wholesome – like the daily special on our visit, a sizeable homemade Maultasche filled with spinach and Frischkäse atop a dollop of pumpkin purée (€8.50). And for just €7, a combo of creamy curried turnip-carrot soup and a bowl of ras el hanout-spiced couscous dotted with pomegranate and candied lemon was enough to buoy us through the rest of the day. It’s just too bad that, because Data Kitchen’s computers process every item individually, the soup and couscous appeared on two separate trays in two non-adjacent boxes, requiring an extra pair of (human) hands to get it all to our table. The robot revolution is still a while off…
Order at datakitchen.berlin