Eatsa on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley before it closed. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

On Saturday, Berkeleyside editors noticed that Eatsa’s location at 2334 Telegraph Ave. was shuttered. A sign on the door said, “Temporarily closed. Sorry for the inconvenience.” It turns out the closure was more than temporary. The automatic restaurant chain announced today that it has shut down its Berkeley location, along with four others in New York and D.C.  The two-year-old company will keep its two San Francisco eateries open.

At Eatsa, customers place orders for grain bowls and salads on iPads or smartphones and then pick up their food in a glass cubicle, without interacting with any front-of the-house staff. Behind the scenes, prep cooks prepare the meals, although even most of the food prep is automated. In August 2016, when Nosh spoke with Eatsa around the opening of its Berkeley location, co-founder Scott Drummond had high hopes for Eatsa’s technology in providing fast, cheap, nutritious and flavorful food. “We think there are parallels in fast-food quick service,” he told Nosh. “We could really be anywhere. There could be cubbies on multiple street corners.”

Now, however, the company realizes that it was a little quick on the draw. Eatsa explained on its blog that it expanded too quickly. “In particular, operating in four different markets has made it difficult to quickly test and iterate our food product,” the company wrote. Closing the five Eatsa locations will allow for its San Francisco eateries to serve as its testing grounds. “We hope that with fewer locations, we can experiment and innovate faster, and resume our retail expansion in the future.”

In lieu of running those extra locations, the company is refocusing on working with other restaurants. Eatsa did not say which restaurants it will be working with, but it says it will be sharing its technology and platform to “improve customer experience and operations” at other non-Eatsa eateries.

So for now, Berkeley has lost its Eatsa automat, but it sounds like we’ll soon be seeing other restaurants with similar formats in our future.

Nosh has reached out to Eatsa for more information and will update the story as it develops.

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Sarah Han was the editor of Nosh from 2017 to 2021. Previously, she worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In 2020, Sarah won SPJ NorCal's...