Is This the Future of Fast Food?

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Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
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When you only have a 30-minute lunch break or are in a rush, fast food can seem like a good option.

Often, though, there is a line that leaves you scoffing your lunch at your desk.

Now, San Francisco eatery Eatsa has eliminated visible staff from its premises in a bid to be more efficient. Instead, orders are taken via an iPad ordering system or via smartphone and delivered via a “cubby.”

Consumers are their own cashiers, paying via credit card and customising their menu choices virtually. The system can even save consumer preferences for even faster service when they return.

The food is delivered via cubbies – glass boxes with a LCD screen on the front. The glass door turns opaque while your food is quietly placed inside and then goes transparent. Your name is highlighted on the box when ready.

Eatsa’s co-founder Tim Young told TechCrunch in a video that the key was to make it the product accessible through an efficient process.

“The bowls come out at an amazingly fast speed so technology plays a huge part in making our operations efficient enough to accomplish that,” he said. “We have no lines; when people come in, there’s almost always a ordering station available for them so they can just get right into the process.”

Eatsa founder David Friedberg told TechCrunch he imagines the restaurants being built into shipping containers and opened in neighbourhoods with no sources of healthy food – something the quinoa-heavy menu would solve.

He also plans to have discounts/rewards available for repeat customers.

The smaller footprint of the company comes from the reduction of staff and using one grain for all meals.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there is a team or approximately six staff behind the scenes in the kitchen with one attendant on hand should there be any technological or ordering issues.

In China, some companies are even removing humans from the food-making equation, turning instead to robots.

According to a video by BBC, food materials are placed into a cavity and a robot will stir fry the dishes while another machine serves meals directly to tables.

While the robots make for good marketing, there is an economical advantage – human staff members earn US$1.60 while robot waiters cost a mere 30 cents to operate.

“As there are more and more job opportunities, young people don’t want to work as a chef to slice noodles because this job is very exhausting,” robot inventor Cui Yunquan told Bloomberg Business in a video.

Noodle Restaurant owner Liu Maohu said the robot chef actually slices noodles better than a human and is more cost effective.

“It costs around $4,700 to hire a chef per year but the robot just cost me around $2,000 dollars; it’s a great machine, and it’s better than man,” he said.

Beyond robots, digital automation is tipped to grow substantially in the fast food industry. Dominos already allows customers to place orders from smartphones and uses technology to map delivery drivers, while McDonalds now has consumers ordering gourmet burger meals via an iPad Kiosk.

BuzzFeed has reported that 20 per cent of customer spending at Starbucks comes via its mobile app.

“This is just the beginning,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told BuzzFeed News earlier this year. “I would say on the macro level, you can’t be in any industry today, let alone a consumer business, and not integrate the business through the lens of seamless technology.”

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