How high-tech can fast food get? San Francisco is about to find out.
Automated fast-food restaurant Eatsa opens in San Francisco on Monday. The biggest different between the restaurant and its fast-food competition is not simply the food, but the fact that, from ordering to pickup, the customer experience at Eatsa is managed entirely by machines.
Customers order their customized quinoa bowl and pay using an in-store iPad or on their own smartphones, cutting out the role of the cashier. Then, when the meal is ready, it appears in a transparent, futuristic cubby that lights up with the customer's name. The only visible employee present is a single "concierge" available to assist customers struggling with the high-tech devices.
Unsurprisingly, the restaurant is the brainchild of data-focused techies. Research convinced co-founders Scott Drummond and Tim Young that cashiers are a weak link at existing fast-food chains, so they cut them out of the process, reports Fast Company. Menu creation was also data-driven, with founders settling on quinoa-based bowls after analyzing consumer taste preferences and matching them with less expensive grains and vegetables options instead of meat. The base price for all bowls is $6.95, beating out fast-casual champs like Chipotle's average San Francisco prices.
While Eatsa seems like a unique food concept, the opportunity to automate fast-food service is one of extreme interest to the entire industry. Restaurants from Panera to McDonald's are testing out ordering and payment kiosks, and behind-the-scenes automation and tech are essential tools for smoothly running a business. With the anticipated rise of minimum wages, expect more chains to tap into tech – and cut employees.