Price of Success: USA’s first automated restaurant shuts down branches. But not because you think

San Francisco-headquartered robo restaurant chain eatsa, reportedly the first US automated restaurant, said it was going to close down five locations across the country.

The restaurant chain, which opened in 2015, said it had been expanding “too quickly”. It has now decided to limit the scope of its retail operations and focus on innovation and testing new food products instead.

The company used to operate seven restaurants in San Francisco, Berkley, CA, New York and Washington DC.

“Our two San Francisco locations will remain open so we can continue to test, iterate, and build out our retail brand. We hope that with fewer locations, we can experiment and innovate faster, and resume our retail expansion in the future”, it said.

Though some call it a “fully automated” and “human-free” restaurant , eatsa food preparation still involves some small kitchen staff. However, it offers more than a glimpse at how future restaurants will look like. From ordering taking to serving, the entire customer-facing process involves no human interaction whatsoever. Customers order their food from a touch-screen digital menu. When their order is ready, which might take as little as 90 sec, the customer is directed to a small glass cubbie in a wall of many cubbies. The door of their cubbie lights up with the customer name on it.

The process looks smooth and seamless, suitable for restaurants with a menu of set meals without much variations. eatsa offers a few types of salads, served in a standard bowl, bites and drinks. Clients must have loved the simple and healthy variety because the company fetched more than one award for innovation in the restaurant industry.

While it says “see you again soon” referring to its closures, eatsa may not be promising to actually be reopening its locations in the future. It is hinting that it might be transitioning more and more to a technological company and away from food preparation and serving. The company said it had already started deploying its technology in third-party restaurants, bringing more and faster innovation across the industry.

First, we’re going to increase our focus on enabling other restaurants to use the eatsa platform. We’re already in discussions with a number of companies to do this. We believe that partnering with established brands will allow us to get the eatsa experience people love into more restaurants, faster”, the company said.

Judging by its job openings advertised on its website, the company is indeed increasing focus on its tech operations, recruiting mainly for mechanical, software and mobile engineers, as well as products designers in its San Francisco office. It is also looking for a support technician in Chicago to maintain its technology deployed in client restaurants in the area.
Check out eatsa order walkthrough