A new restaurant in San Francisco is taking a radical approach to the idea of automating food service. The eatery has no waiters, no order-takers - no front-of-the-house personnel at all. It has a few people preparing the food, but they may be out of a job soon, too.
The restaurant, called Eatsa, is trying out a highly automated system for getting inexpensive but healthy food to customers in a hurry. In fact, its owner describes the operation as more of a food delivery system than a restaurant.
Eatsa specializes in quinoa dishes and salads - fast, simple-to-make, healthy meals. In an interesting profile over at The New York Times, writer Claire Cain Miller described the eatery's unique dining experience.
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You begin by choosing a lunch from eight different quinoa bowls displayed on a flat-screen monitor. Customize your order on your phone, or via the in-store iPads, and swipe your card for payment. The system gets your name off your card - similar to airline check-in kiosks - and displays it on another screen.
When your food is ready, a number appears next to your name and you collect your food from the corresponding numbered cubby on the wall. The cubbies are each fronted by LCD screens that go black when your food is ready. Tap on the screen, gather your food, and find a table.
The experience might sound a bit similar to automats, those self-service fast-food restaurants that date back to the 19th century. But Eatsa proprieter David Friedberg has bigger things in mind.
"The objective is over time we want to automate more and more to increase speed and reduce cost, so we create a food product that's much cheaper and also happens to be healthy," he told the Times.
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Eatsa's kitchen is already largely automated, according to Friedberg, and he hopes to further streamline supply chain, food delivery and preparation. For now, there are some people in back helping prepare the quinoa dishes, and there's always at least one employee on hand to help customers and clean up.
Machines have been infiltrating manufacturing for decades now, but the Eatsa model suggests automation could soon be making inroads into the service industry - traditionally a human habitat. The long-term success of Eatsa will depend largely on how people respond to an entirely impersonal restaurant experience. And how much they like quinoa.
via The New York Times