There are no cashiers, servers or meat products at Eatsa -- but there are crowds eager to experience the future of fast food. Cofounder and CEO Tim Young launched two outposts -- one in San Francisco, one in L.A. -- of his fully automated eatery last year, with more locations on the horizon. He gave us a tour (by phone, natch).
Step right up. “We want to provide as many cues as possible that the food is custom -- this isn’t a vending machine,” Young says. “So the menu skews toward personalization: Do you want to build your own? Do you want to add avocado or leave anything off?”
The human factor. Don’t know where to find the napkins? Forgot to order your meal without cilantro? Look to the “Eatsa concierge,” the lone human tasked with interacting with customers. “Some people want to be reassured, and the concierge is there for that.”
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. While some fast-food spots move toward an open kitchen, Eatsa’s is entirely hidden. “We’re trying to keep the back of the house a mystery.” At any time, roughly half a dozen humans are prepping quinoa bowls.
Order up. Food is served through a wall of cubes. “There’s a short animation and then the food is unveiled, with the diner’s name sort of floating over it. It drives home the idea that the order is personalized to them.”
Open wide. Young and his cofounder, Scott Drummond, spent two years collecting and analyzing data on consumer taste preferences and engineering dishes that would best the usual fast-food staples. The results: eight quinoa-based bowls, with flavor profiles ranging from Mexican to Mediterranean to Indian, for $7 a pop.