Restaurant Report | Eatsa: Food for the New Generation

Restaurant Report, Eatsa, millennials
Photo courtesy of Eatsa
Restaurant Report, Eatsa, millennials
Photo courtesy of Eatsa

By Angie Sommer, ZFA Structural Engineers

This article will also appear in The VIEW, the quarterly newsletter of Commercial Real Estate Women San Francisco (CREW SF). CREW SF’s mission is to develop and advance women as leaders in the commercial real estate industry. It is dedicated to changing business’ gender trends and closing the parity gap by giving women in real estate the support, resources, and opportunities they need to connect, influence, and lead. For chapter news, events and membership information visit crewsf.org.

Restaurant Report, Eatsa, millennials
Sommer
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith each new generation comes progress. A different perspective. Change.

The new kids on the block nowadays are the millennials—a term loosely assigned to the slew of people who were born in the 1980s and ’90s who were the first to come of age in the new millennium. Millennials have recently surpassed the baby boomers in population: in 2015 the US Census Bureau tallied millennials at just over 75 million— the largest generation in US history—while boomers slipped to just under that milestone. And, as nature goes, the next decades will be dominated even more strongly by this “Nintendo generation,” whose population is projected to peak at over 81 million people in 2036 (due largely to immigration).(1)

As we all scramble to adjust to—or initiate—the changes that these young adults bring to our culture, we dutifully note their effects across all facets of our society. Millennials are changing the way we shop, work, live, and, yes, eat.

To generalize, one of the new generation’s often-cited food trends is their preference for local, organic, and healthier foods. Another is that many of these hip young adults don’t necessarily cook as much as their parents did and tend to eat at restaurants (or order through delivery apps) much more than previous generations. And as a result, given their seemingly innate familiarity with technology, the market has adapted to provide many options for fast, healthy food that can be ordered quickly and easily online.

Which brings us to Eatsa: a new eatery that successfully combines speed, freshness, and technology to give millennials just what they seem to want. The premise of Eatsa is this: show up at the shop, order and pay via touch screen at a tablet kiosk (or order beforehand on an app from your phone), watch your name pop up on a big screen TV (like the standby list at the airport) with a cubby number next to it, and then proceed to retrieve your warm, freshly made food. No interactions with other humans, no sneeze-guarded assembly line—just the novelty of a delicious meal ushered to you by way of well-groomed technology.

Having heard of this “robot restaurant” in mid-2015 (a somewhat exaggerated moniker for this seemingly automated eatery), I did a walk-by but was too intimidated by the huge line to go in. In late September 2016, however, I approached the California Street location with resolve, determined to try it.

I arrived in the back of the line at 12:09 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. There were approximately 15 people in front of me in a snaking, stanchion-formed line. Surveying the crowd, I estimated all but a few at under 35 years old.

At 12:13, I had made it through the line and was ordering at one of eight kiosks. At 12:15, I had placed my order by credit card and walked to the main vestibule, where the cubbies were located, to see my name pop up on the bottom of the large TV screen mounted overhead. I watched, mesmerized, as my name climbed up the list until, at 12:16, it glowed green, indicating that my food was ready in cubby #7. I found it in just a moment: the front was a semi-transparent screen that now displayed my name. A small circle in the corner of the cubby flashed the words “double tap to open,” and after doing so, the door opened like an old-fashioned garage door, allowing me access to a perfect little compostable bowl of food.

I was nearly giddy with the experience at the time, and thoroughly enjoyed the Bento Bowl I had ordered. I went back the following two afternoons, this time with my coworkers, who similarly approved. I can see how this ticks all the boxes for millennials—fast, cheap, healthy, and tasty—and so far as I can tell this time around, the new generation has done a good thing.

All of Eatsa’s food is vegetarian, with quinoa-based bowls making up the majority of the menu. Quinoa, one of San Francisco’s newest favorite superfoods, is a complete protein, with all the amino acids necessary for human nutrition. It’s also cholesterol and gluten-free, and great as a staple food, not just an accompaniment. If you haven’t tried it, think it of it like rice or couscous, except way more nutritious.

But before you turn up a snooty nose, look at a few of Eatsa’s choices and the accompanying nutrition facts:

  • Hummus and Falafel Bowl: pita chips, tahini dressing, arugula, feta cheese, tomato-cucumber salad, tzatziki, warm lemon-herb toasted quinoa, falafel, kalamata olives, hummus, harissa. Calories: 622; grams of protein: 22.
  • Aloha Bowl: sesame seeds, edamame, orange miso sauce, portobello poke, macaroni salad, taro root chips, cucumber, island-style quinoa, lomi lomi tomato, wakame (edible seaweed), pickled ginger, Napa cabbage. Calories: 584; grams of protein: 26.
  • Spice Market Bowl: corn curry, roasted yams, saag paneer (spinach and marinated cheese), cucumber raita, tandoori tofu, warm lemon-herb toasted quinoa, pita bread, fried chickpeas. Calories: 717; grams of protein: 27.

Other choices include the Tres Chiles Bowl (“an explosion of Latin American flavors”), Cantina Kale Salad (“a tender kale salad with a fiesta of southwestern flavors”), Burrito Bowl (“a fresh and flavorful Mexican mix”), and Bento Bowl (“a quinoa spin on classic teriyaki”). It also offers smaller breakfast bowls between 7 and 10:30 a.m., such as a southwestern scramble, a Mediterranean scramble, and goat cheese and veggie bowl.

Aside from the interesting, varied menu, each lunch bowl is only $7 (breakfast bowls are under $4). And even if the line is long, your food is ready in minutes, so lines move lightning fast.

So…fast, fresh, healthy, relatively inexpensive, and fully integrated with fun, easy-to-use technology? Sounds like just what the millennials ordered.

1 Population statistics: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/

About the Author
Angie Sommer is an associate at ZFA Structural Engineers, a 60-person engineering firm with five Bay Area offices and a broad range of experience in the commercial, educational, residential, retrofit, and hospitality sectors. In her spare time, she volunteers on a variety of industry committees, including CREW SF and the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California, where she is incoming chair for the SE3 (Structural Engineering Engagement and Equity) committee. She also helps people write wedding vows, ceremonies, and speeches via her business, Vow Muse (vowmuse.com), which was featured in the New York Times in June 2015.

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