The future of service is here, in fast food form

Imagine a world where giant lunch lines are processed in under 5 minutes.
Imagine a world where ordering from an iPad is easy…
and ordering ahead from your phone is simply delightful.
Imagine a world where there are no cashiers.


Eatsa is an automated, to-go lunch place which reminds me of a high-class, space age, Dutch automatiek. But, instead of getting a greasy late night snack out of a vending machine, Eatsa offers a guilt-free lunch. There are a few locations in the U.S., including one right near my office on Spear Street in San Francisco.

Eatsa has turned all assumptions of corporate lunch on its head. It is cunningly designed on every level from business to service to product. They have identified great concepts from all the best services and woven them into every aspect of their business. Each touchpoint is seamlessly coordinated into its service offering, and there’s an element of magic to the entire process.

A great first impression that turns into an enduring proposition

The businesses are located in dense urban office areas with great foot traffic and limited lunch selection. Shiny glass and a gleaming red interior lures in foot traffic. Expectation setting on wait times are excellently communicated in the physical space as well as on the mobile app. Customers are converted quickly by the service speed and the quality of the food.

Ordering kiosk, multi-task friendly

Ordering kiosk, multi-task friendly

For Eatsa, the digital experience is central to their customer experience. Past the first time, a key touch point becomes the mobile app. Repeat customers can order ahead and skip the line. The system remembers card information and makes suggestions based on previous order history. Customizing meals is easy both in app and in store. It’s like Amazon’s, “If you liked…x you might like y”.

Choose from a menu of pre-built bowls, customize, or order from past meals

Choose from a menu of pre-built bowls, customize, or order from past meals

Eatsa’s brand is accessible to techies, vegetarians, and even the gluten sensitive. Anyone who is health, price, time, or environmentally conscious can engage with Eatsa’s story. Digging a bit deeper reveals that Eatsa’s founder’s mission is to “democratize access to nutritious food”. To that end, each item on the menu is quinoa based and vegetarian. Quinoa is a nutritious superfood, packed with protein, and efficient to produce. Eatsa’s brand is nuanced yet accessible and attractive to a wide group of people.

Backstage processes are intimately linked to front stage experiences

Behind the scenes, there’s a watertight business and service delivery model that connects to every experience supplied front-of-house. The attractive and central locations convert foot traffic into loyal customers. The ingredients in each dish are raw or slightly cooked increasing speed of preparation. It turns out that eating vegetarian and quinoa is not only healthy, but it’s also cheap, replicable, and reliable. Automation is cheaper than a human workforce, and they have designed the experience to be magical.

A certain je ne sais quoi…

The element of magic is what pushes Eatsa to an exceptional fast food experience.  The glass is animated and food appears in the cubbies with no seeming human intervention. Are there 20 humans working behind the scenes or is it just robots? Eatsa has proven that product design requires service design. Eatsa has taken cringe worthy experiences, e.g. fast food, order kiosks, loyalty programs, and transformed fast food. Each touchpoint in the Eatsa ecosystem is seamlessly coordinated and points toward a future of service and automation, today — it’s an exciting and thought provoking proposition.

Many thanks to Lauren Nham and Akriti Vora for being a critical friend on this piece.

First published on Medium by @shaunajin

The Labs Team

Sutherland Labs