Score one for the humans: The future of eating out isn’t a robo-restaurant, at least not yet. Eatsa — the modern-day Automat where quinoa bowls selected via kiosk magically populate a backlit wall cubby — is closing all but two of its cashierless locations. The concept did, very briefly, look promising in 2015 when its customer base was in the Bay Area, a place where robots are so dime a dozen that politicians have started demanding they pay taxes. Alas, the format didn’t go over quite as well in New York, D.C., or even Berkeley — cities where the model for excellent service is something other than HAL 9000.
A statement today by the chain argues that in its “eagerness to get the Eatsa experience in front of as many people as possible,” it simply expanded “too quickly.” While a total of five locations are being decommissioned, both of the original ones in San Francisco will remain open so that the company “can continue to test, iterate, and build out our retail brand.”
Service-industry workers aren’t totally out of the woods yet, though: Eatsa’s creators add that, yes, the restaurant concept itself may be a bust, but they see no reason to believe that the diners of tomorrow don’t want their meals still served with a bare minimum of human interaction. Moving forward, the company will “focus on enabling other restaurants to use the Eatsa platform.” In fact, it’s already “in discussions with a number of companies to do this,” the statement warns.