Eatsa JPG

by Ingrid Hart 

I picked up Haley, my 26-year-old daughter from the San Francisco Airport, and we drove back to her Berkeley home.  Dinner time was near. We were famished.

“Let’s eat,” I said.

Haley agreed.

“How about Zachary’s Pizza,” I said.  “You know how much I love their deep dish spinach pie.”

“No mom,” said Haley.

“You should stick with your diet.  Let’s try a new place that just opened.  It’s some kind of a quinoa bowl thing with veggies and some protein.  It’s on Telegraph.”

“Next to Blondies Pizza?” I said, hoping for a change in venue.

“Yes,” said Haley. “Near Blondies.”

I agreed to check out this new-fangled place, because the ingredients Haley described actually sounded pretty tasty.  They were downright diet-worthy.

Off we went to fill up at Eatsa.

Part of their tagline is “Better, Faster, Tastier.” Here’s the kicker: No lines. No cashier. No nonsense. We’re engineered to get you in and out fast.

Two young women dressed in red polo shirts greeted us at the entrance.

“Welcome to Eatsa,” both of them said at the same time, smiling widely.

“Been here before?”

We nodded our heads no-style, side to side.

“I downloaded your app,” said my millennial daughter.

“Okay,” said one of the women, a sense of relief on her cheery face.

“Then you know what to do.”

We headed straight to a series of kiosks to place our order into a sleek computer screen.  The place was scary clean—like it had just been scrubbed.  The overhead lighting created a sort of ambience you might find in a clothing store.  No aroma of yummy food in the air.  No hint of quinoa sizzling, Portobello mushrooms sautéing, or even crispy wontons frying.  No nurturing smell of food being prepared.  At all.

The pounding electronic sound of synthesizers was loud, but somehow felt appropriate in this venue.  I couldn’t hear myself think.  Not that I had to think. I could simply point to one of the quinoa bowls I wanted to order and then click.   The thing was complete.

I ordered a Bento Bowl.  Haley ordered a Burrito Bowl.  We waited by a series of what looked like storage lockers for our food to arrive.  Another young woman, bright and fresh in her red polo shirt was sporting the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen.  I could see her job was to make sure our order was right.

“Where are the cooks?”  I asked her.

“I’m not sure.”

“You mean you don’t know where the cooks are?”  I asked.

She giggled, batting her Ladybug eyelashes.

“They didn’t tell us that in the training.”

I thought for a moment, that maybe there weren’t any cooks back there at all.  That maybe Eatsa engineered this automated dining experience so precisely to “get you in and out fast,” that there might not be a single human being behind the curtain at all.  Or maybe it was one guy pushing a button to fill the Bento Bowl.  Quinoa? Check.  Portobello mushrooms? Check.  Edamame, crispy wonton strips, and teriyaki sauce?  Check.

Launch the missile.

Haley’s name popped up on the locker door.  She extracted two perfectly balanced bowls of piping hot food, one stacked on top of the other, with our receipt attached.

The price?  Less than $14.

We said goodbye to all three of our gracious hosts, the young women whose job it is to facilitate our Eatsa user experience.  A position, I might add, that they performed well.  Despite not knowing the general vicinity of where a cook might, or might not be.

At Haley’s apartment, we peeled back the plastic lid of our bowls and marveled at the perfect, harmonious balance of ingredients, all in a hearty portion.  One thing’s for sure, at Eatsa, we had more than enough to eat.

But here’s the problem, or in my dieting case, the solution.

Halfway through my bowl, I had enough to eat.

It wasn’t that the food wasn’t tasty—it was quite flavorful.  And of course, it was highly nutritious, what with all the health benefits of quinoa being a complete protein, and having all the amino acids necessary for human nutrition.  All of that.

For me, it boiled down to this one final conclusion.

At the Eatsa retail space, I didn’t smell the food cooking.   I didn’t see the cooks preparing the food.  It felt sterile.  For me, the food at Eatsa had no soul.

When I came to the realization that a meal at Eatsa serves a utilitarian function, there was no reason to eat more.  I was full, not satisfied.  My nutritional needs were met, but not my emotional needs for a nurturing, loving meal prepared by a human hand with a human heart.

Would I recommend Eatsa?

You bet.

It’s a perfectly engineered user experience.  Think Silicon Valley meets Taco Bell or McDonald’s.  The food is nutritionally balanced.  The price point of $6.95 per bowl is just right.

If you’re looking for a fast food alternative, a good place for a low-cal meal, or you just want to experience the world of high-tech dining, check out Eatsa.  Just lower your expectations for a human dining experience.  And if you find out where the cooks are, would you let me know?

About Modcom Communications & Ingrid Hart

Modcom Communications is a team of content writers and project managers fluent in both traditional and new media business communications.  We’ve been in business for 23 years. We focus on delivering measurable results for our clients. From start-ups to growing businesses to Fortune 500 companies and to government agencies, our client base is diversified and solid.

Ingrid Hart is an accomplished business writer and project manager specializing in communications.  Throughout her career she’s written funded proposals in excess of $1 million dollars. Ingrid’s been a content writer and manager of over 15 websites, multiple social media channels and accounts, print collateral, press releases, blogs, emails, newsletters, white papers, FAQs, speeches, news stories, talking points, and public opinion pieces.  She’s the author of an award-winning book on California.  In the evening you can find her biking around Shoreline Lake in Mountain View.

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