Would you eat at a restaurant where no human employees are present? Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined I would ask such a question. Now, I am saying “yes” to that inquiry!
In case you missed it there is such a restaurant it is called Eatsa. Eatsa is touted as an “employee free” dining establishment with seven locations spread across Berkely, San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C.
Hayley Peterson writing for Business Insider magazine describes Eatsa as, “unlike any fast-food chain we’ve seen before. The restaurant is almost fully automated, functioning like a vending machine that spits out freshly-prepared quinoa bowls. It was recently named one of the most influential brands in the restaurant industry by Nation’s Restaurant News.”
Eatsa provides an automated and, believe it or not, personalized experience. Eatsa’s value proposition is captured in three words “better, faster, and tastier.” This focused approach summates into what leaders describe as, “a new kind of food experience.”
Let’s take a look at the experience, through both words and pictures…
At Eatsa, you initiate the experience from your phone or through the in-store iPad kiosk. Here’s a screenshot from the Eatsa app:
Essentially you are building an Eatsa Bowl and customizing that bowl based on your preferences of bases, sauces, veggies, cheese, items that add crunch, and extras. You are charged through your app and you pick-up your bowl in a “personalized cubby” – as depicted on their website
In addition to one-touch mobile ordering and product customization, Eatsa touts “community” sourced menus. Customers suggest new menu items, and Eatsa takes a “data-driven” approach based on community input. If enough customers want it, Eatsa will make a customer-centric change.
Last but not least, Eatsa has created what the company calls “effortless rewards” which are swiftly and automatically applied to your purchases.
Customer Experience and Human Value
Ok, enough about Eatsa and on to the question of whether humans will be needed in the restaurants of the future. Maybe the better and broader question (beyond dining technology) is what will humans need to do to add value that justifies their expense in service delivery?
The rationale behind an Eatsa-type business innovation is only partly driven by customer choice, ease, and predictability. An added benefit from a business perspective is cost reductions beyond the initial technology investment.
Writing in Business Insider, Kate Taylor notes that the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, Andy Puzdner, is considering a new restaurant concept much like Eatsa in order “to deal with rising minimum wages…We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk…and you never see a person…With government driving up the cost of labor, it’s driving down the number of jobs…You’re going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants.”
Employee Value Add
Irrespective of the reasons labor costs rise, all of us will need to know how we “add value” to every interaction. If our perceptible value is less than that of technology expect to be replaced. Ultimately, I envision we will reach a tipping point where “too much” tech will make “human touch” more valuable. Until then, we will have to “earn our keep” as the world moves to “employee free” business alternatives.
This weeks’ big takeaway is that we must all ask ourselves how do I add value such that my company doesn’t go employee free?