Cyberpunk is a mixture of ultramodern design (often mixed with a little throw-back to a previous design style), ultramodern industrial design, new technology (computers, cybernetics, etc), and streetwear/urban life. We usually see cyberpunk as a literary genre, so mix these elements with a good story and you have yourself a cyberpunk story.
The visual aspect of cyberpunk comes from films, art, and video games. In visual mediums there is often a standard urban setting in some big city. Typical visual elements: concrete, glass, modern architecture, brutalist architecture, neo-futurism architecture, structural expressionism, sustainable architecture, blobitecture style, monochromatic buildings, neon lights, hi-tech screens/holograms, common tech (common to the setting).
Another aspect of cyberpunk visual mediums are clothing and eateries. Since we’re about to discuss eateries, let’s talk about the typical visual aspects of them real fast. They usually have some sort of common tech (menus or booth computers or something), fancy eateries tend to have a nature connection (plants, fish tank, etc), common eateries tend to have a retro throwback element (1950s booths or something as like an upgraded space) but not always, and the food is often something we recognize even if it’s in a few form (like how how dippin’ dots is spherical ice cream). I’m not going to get into bars in this discussion.
What is served in cyberpunk eateries from visual mediums?
Ramen/Noodles - Bladerunner
Food Chips - Soylent Green
Soylent drink - Real product found in grocery stores, meal replacement drink LINK
Cola - Various films, comics, art, and video games
Energy Drinks - Various films, comics, art, and video games
Nutritional Gruel - The Matrix
Nutritional food bars - Various films, comics, art, and video games
Street food - Various films, comics, art, and video games
American diner food - Mystery Men
Coffee - Various films, comics, art, and video games
Roasted Rat Kebabs - Cyberpunk Edgerunner (Note: There is a cyberpunk edgerunner fad diet you can try.)
Vending machine food
Fried Ants - Cyberpunk 2077
Lab-grown meat - Cyberpunk 2077
What we can gather from the tidbits of information on food in a cyberpunk realm is that you either have nutritional all-in-one food items or you have street food. Breaking it down further, what is street food? Street food is food sold by street vendors, food trucks, and small restaurants that typically deliver or are fast (pizza, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, etc). You’re not going to be waiting around for a reservation at these places.
Why aren’t these types of eateries adapting a cyberpunk aesthetic?
Perhaps it has never occurred to the owners. It’s not as difficult as one might assume. If a place is already selling some sort of street food, they should consider the following.
Neon Signs & Lighting
We have moved onto new LED neon signs, so it’s not going to up your electric bill like an old-school neon sign. You can easily do a google search for “neon signs” and find a ton of customizable, affordable options. You can also find LED light strips that can be used as accent lighting.
You don’t have to use super special wall coverage everywhere. What you can do is choose an appropriate paint color and have accent panels. There are paintable textured wall panels that can be ordered through places like Home Depot or Lowes. You can order decorative fretwork panels, which is like a decorative top layer for a wall. Ekena Millwork sells a variety and can also be ordered through Home Depot or Lowes or directly.
You can also opt for a painted wall mural or tiles or interesting wall art to really help with the visual aesthetic.
Common tech isn’t common to today’s date. It’s common to the aesthetic we’re aiming for. It’s going to be things like: usb electrical plugs available at tables, AR menu or entertainment while waiting for food, qi charger at the tables, wifi for customers, servo-droids (food delivery or for bussing tables), automation in restrooms (toilets, sinks, hand dryers), indoor gardening system for fresh produce/herbs, and 3D food printers.
Additional Foods To Consider
I have talked with friends about a cyberpunk bar with some sort of food option, so I have rolled things over in my mind quite a bit. There are a few food items that aren't always associated with cyberpunk, but could definitely find a place of their own.
Insects - I hear cricket tacos are really good. This is a growing market.
Adaptogens & Nootropics - Foods that tweak your brain chemistry for positive results (nootropics) and foods that help with well-being (adaptogens). We're talking mushrooms, turmeric, maca, moringa, etc. Hack your body and mind naturally.
Food Pastes - Dehydrated food that is then reconstituted into a paste and is served in a tube. Perfect for vending machines, eating on the go, eating while working...eating in space.
Gel Cubes - You might have seen Clif Bloks or something along those lines. These can be made in a number of ways: jello/gelatin/aspic forms, fruit de pate, and gummies.
Would you go to a cyberpunk eatery? What would you want to see (tech, type of food, particular feature, etc) there?