Late last year I excitedly wrote about a new, fully automated restaurant called Eatsa that opened in New York City and other locations around the country.
Eatsa was going to change the way people eat. Customers place their orders and pay from self-service kiosks or on their own devices and then stroll over to a window to pick up their food that had been put together by a combination of food preparers and machines.
“The technology ,” I gushed, “should enable future entrepreneurs to deliver a quality service with lower overhead — if they can figure out the right balance of people and machines.”
Unfortunately, that balance was never achieved. In what many may feel is a victory for humans over machines, Eatsa announced this week in a company blog that it was closing five of its locations, including the one in Washington and one in New York.
“In our eagerness to get the [Eatsa] experience in front of as many people as possible, we now realize that we expanded our retail footprint too quickly,” the company announced. “In particular, operating in four different markets has made it difficult to quickly test and iterate our food products — something that is critical in any restaurant business, but is even more important when it comes to introducing a new type of nutritious fare.”
I still like the concept. And, as I pointed out previously, it’s not exactly a new idea: Horn & Hardart was doing automats back in the early 20th century. But unfortunately, the managers at Eatsa made the mistake that so many other growing small businesses make: the company just expanded too fast.
The good news is that things are not completely over for Eatsa. The company will keep its two San Francisco locations opened as testbeds for their concept and are working on other partnership deals with plans to expand again in the future. “We’re still committed to changing how people eat, and we will continue to pursue this goal as the company evolves,” they promised.