The new automated eatery Eatsa on Telegraph Avenue will hold its grand opening Tuesday and its founders hope it will appeal to health-minded individuals in a hurry. As Nosh reported in July, Berkeley is the third Bay location for the unusual restaurant, which has two outposts in San Francisco, as well as one in Los Angeles.
Visitors who stop by the sleek restaurant at 2334 Telegraph Ave., about a half-block south of campus (in the former Crêpes A-Go-Go), can order vegetarian salads, bento boxes, burrito bowls and quinoa bowls with a variety of toppings and dressings from one of the iPad-equipped kiosks. And while they won’t see anyone making their food – the production process is a well-guarded trade secret – their order will be ready to pick up from glass boxes in just a few minutes. Alternatively, diners can order on an app and have their bowls waiting when they arrive.
“We have an incredibly convenient experience,” Scott Drummond, one of the co-founders, said Friday at a press preview. “People can get their food within two to three minutes. It’s all really flavorful, satisfying and super nutritious with a price people correlated with fast food.”
Eatsa serves several different kinds of bowls, all high in protein and relatively low in calories. The standard bowl costs $6.95 and Drummond said they have been able to keep prices down by not serving meat. For the quinoa bowl, diners have a choice of hot, cold, or red quinoa or Greek-style with cucumbers and tomatoes. The quinoa is fair trade and comes from Bolivia.
Each bowl comes with a variety of toppings such as yams, apple-cabbage slaw, jicama, olives, and cheese. The burrito bowl comes with corn, beans and guacamole. The bento boxes come with stir-fry quinoa, edamame, teriyaki sauce, mushrooms and crispy wonton strips. There are also salads. Everything can be customized.
The Berkeley automat is the first East Bay Eatsa and the venture-backed company plans to open two more outposts, in New York City and Washington, D.C. this year, and another location in Chicago in early 2017, Drummond said.
The two Eatsas in San Francisco are geared toward workers. (The one in the financial district even serves breakfast). The Berkeley restaurant aims to test the idea that college students will like getting food fast, said Drummond. If the company’s theory is right, there could be Eatsas at college campuses across the country, he said.
Eatsa is betting that automating serving and (mostly) removing humans from the equation is a billion-dollar idea. Founded by Drummond and Tim Young, one of the company’s biggest investors is David Friedberg, a former Google Inc. executive who sold his company, Climate, to Monsanto in 2013 for $930 million. While Drummond declined to specify who has invested in Eatsa, he did say that the company has done a Series A round of funding. He would not reveal the names of the venture capital firms he said have invested in the company.
Part of the appeal is that Eatsa is combining cutting-edge technology with social responsibility, he said. Most of the food preparation is automated, although there are a few people “behind the curtain” in the restaurants to smooth things along. He declined to give this reporter a peek into the kitchen because the technology is proprietary, he said. There are no cashiers and no servers.
Drummond likened the use of technology in food preparation and delivery to disruption in other businesses, such as banking.
“We think there are parallels in fast-food quick service,” he said. “We could really be anywhere. There could be cubbies on multiple street corners.”
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