Posts Tagged san-francisco

The Future of Fast Food is Serverless

Eatsa - Cubby - Food Innovation

There has been much hype around Eatsa, the newly opened futuristic restaurant in San Francisco’s Financial District (FiDi), having appeared on major outlets like TechCrunch, Fast Company, NPR, TIME, and NYT.

So of course I had to go eat there myself.

When I walked into Eatsa during my work lunch, I saw no cashiers, but instead 8 iPads lined up on the walls.

Using an iPad, I selected my order from a variety of $6.95 vegetarian quinoa bowls (I could even choose to customize a bowl from scratch if I had wanted). After swiping my credit card to pay through the iPad, I stood on the side to wait for my name to appear on one of the cubbies, where my ordered dish magically appeared behind the transparent LCD screen.

No servers, no busboys, no cash needed.

Here are my favorite things about my Eatsa experience:

  • Alternative form of protein
    • In a world highly concerned about how we feed and treat animals for consumption, Eatsa eliminates meat from their menu, offering only vegetarian dishes that use quinoa as its core source of protein. The menu lists how many grams of protein each bowl contains. Being a meat lover, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the meat-less bowl and how full I was from it.
  • Fast
    • I hate long lines. Especially during workday lunches at noon where all the good places in FiDi are overcrowded with professionals. I just want to go in and out. Eatsa is perfect for the working professional who don’t have time to wine and dine. Although the line was super long when I first visited (because of its recent launch and attention and a tech hiccup), I did receive my order literally within minutes after finally placing it in the iPad.
  • Cheap but healthy
    • I can usually spend around $12 for a typical lunch out during my workday. So the hearty $6.95 quinoa bowls at Eatsa are absolutely dirt cheap here in San Francisco. And they are super healthy. My Teriyaki Bowl was 488 calories, contained 24g of protein, and was filled with scrumptious ingredients: stir fry-style quinoa, edamame, crispy wonton strips, teriyaki sauce, miso portabello, and apple-cabbage slaw (Check out their other items). Rejoice for cheap and healthy options that make your tongue sing!
  • No cashier
    • Because you place and customize your order on the iPad yourself, any possible confusion or mistakes by the middleman cashier is removed. This isn’t the first time food delivery have removed that middleman human interaction. Japan have shokkenki food ticket machines as well as food vending machines that can dispense ready made baked goods to hot meals, and Amsterdam has their 24 hour FEBO Wall of Food. Also in the 1900’s, the US had popular automats by Horn & Hardart that took coins. However, I think Eatsa does a great at adding a last element of magic that makes the experience possibly better than anything before it.
  • Magical
    • With the lack of servers around, you may expect Eatsa to feel cold, impersonal, and well…automated. But they did a great job of creating a very friendly and approachable environment that felt quite magical, from the cute animations that wiggled on the LCD screens, to seeing your own name and food “magically” appear in a very sleek futuristic looking cubby, minutes after ordering. (Check out the video below to see it work)

 

Automation has definitely transformed many industries, and one could ask if the dining experience should be one of them? At what point would the speed and efficiency that automation provides not be worth more than the actual human interaction? That would be a careful thing to explore. I could see the benefits of speed/efficiency being less important in settings where the intimate ambience and conversation are sought – such as a during romantic dinner for two where a courteous waiter talks you through all the different specials of the day and answers your questions.

But again, given its location, hours, and type of food, Eatsa clearly isn’t for that.

By taking note of their target consumers’ needs as well as leveraging existing technology, Eatsa has successfully created a fast, efficient, and charming way to deliver food for the working professionals in the FiDi, who want inexpensive, fast, healthy food that they can just grab and go.

We look forward to seeing if Eatsa will be the catalyst for more cashier-less restaurants. How will other new fast food joints and casual restaurants leverage technology to innovate themselves?

Eatsa - Fast Food Innovation

Eatsa - Food Innovation

Uber is 5!

Future of Transportation

Wow! Uber is 5 year old. It has become such a regular part of my everyday that it’s hard to imagine life without it. There was a lot of coverage about the celebrations that took place for their 5th birthday but the thing that really stood out was reading Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s vision for the future.

What’s Kalanick’s vision for the future?

To make Uber so inexpensive that it’s cheaper than owning a car, but also even taking public transportation. Uber will go where transit won’t, he says, and will deliver riders to their destinations more safely and efficiently.  “This is our ultimate vision of the future,” Kalanick says. “Smarter transportation with fewer cars and greater access”

I definitely agree that transportation is changing in cities – particularly cities with lackluster public transportation (i.e. San Francisco) But I don’t agree that Uber will become the main form of transportation for people across the nation.

I have to admit that I do indeed take Uber Pool (or Lyft Line) to and from work every single day. But I’m not loyal to either one – I just need a ride. And I know a lot of people that are fiercely loyal to Lyft as well as Sidecar – If anything, I think more options will pop up giving Uber more competition.

In his vision, Kalanick states that he sees this becoming cheaper than Muni. But so far, I’ve just seen prices increase for UberPool and I can almost never get an UberX that isn’t surging – pushing me over to Lyft and Sidecar. And OK I’m not even including Muni as an option there, but it’s not about the price as much as it is about the convenience of the time I save.

I’ve recently been contemplating selling my car so that I no longer have a car payment, insurance, and garage rent to pay – especially since I take these car services so much. But there are a number of things that I really enjoy about Uber…

  • I get an opportunity to meet and connect with really interesting people via my daily Uber Pool commute. Ands any day that I get to connect with people is a good one.
  • It is a much lovelier experience than taking Muni or having to deal with parking (especially in less than desirable neighborhoods)
  • Occasionally I get a driver that really goes above and beyond. I recently had an Uber driver pull over at a gas station to buy me water because he didn’t have any in the car when I asked him.

 

But, there is something I LOVE about my car – sometimes I just like that alone time to belt out songs where no one can hear my tone-deaf voice. And going for a drive is something that can often clear my mind… some of my best thinking happens in there! PLUS with the addition of services like Getaround I can rent out my car for all of my Uber-filled days to help offset the cost.

So, in the end I feel like there are lots of holes in the details that Kalenick shared. I’m sure Uber has lots up their sleeve that goes beyond the current offering of services – but without knowing more about them it’s hard to say.

The whole transportation industry is exploding with alternatives to driving a car and taking public transportation. Services like Chariot and Loup run on designated routes in the comfort of a car and cost less than Uber Pool – and let’s not forget all of the research and innovation around making self-driving cars a reality. Uber definitely did a great job of leading the charge over the past 5 years – but, with new and creative alternatives popping up it, feels like we’re just at the beginning of figuring out what’s possible.

The Problem with Tautophrases

You do you

This morning, my sister and I had a short chat about Dexter’s motivations as a serial killer (typical 9am topic in our family, apparently). The whole conversation was quickly shut down when I said, “You know, he just likes killing people and stuff. You do you, Dexter”.

Immediately after I said it, it bothered me immensely. Not because I thought it wasn’t funny – the idea of accepting anti-societal, murderous behavior with a simple, undeniable statement like “you do you” is just absurd – but because this kind of tautophrase (a statement like “it is what it is” that basically repeats the same thing twice as a logical, Undeniable Truth) actively shuts down any kind of educated discussion or consideration of the world around us. I pride myself in being a thinker, but tautophrases stop thinking in its tracks – it’s just really mentally lazy to say “you do you” without any deeper thought into the topic of conversation.

It reminded me of a New York Times article I read a couple months back. It’s titled, appropriately, “How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture”, by Colson Whitehead, and it describes how tautophrases like “you do you” or “it is what it is” have shifted in cultural use over time. These thought-blocking statements used to be about supporting the status quo (“what will be will be”), but in recent years hip-hop and then pop culture have reclaimed the tautophrase to celebrate Me, as a beautiful and special Individual. Even, as Whitehead says, if that person is Taylor Swift – she can’t help it that the “haters gonna hate hate hate”; it just goes to support how unique and worthy she is as an individual. “Regardless of how shallow that individual is.”

Living in San Francisco, a Mecca of counter-culture, I see this attitude of celebrating individuality for the sake of individuality every day. Anti-culture is the current glorified culture (especially in the tattooed and vintage-ridden Mission district), while “normal” is something to be embarrassed by – “you do you” glorifies the traits that make people stand out, while “Basic Bitch” shames people who may agree with a mainstream trend.

Of course, I’m all about celebrating differences and uniqueness. It’s the shallowness, the lack of thoughtfulness behind “you do you” that stands out to me. If we’re using “you do you” to brush off any abnormal or weird behaviors (like my neighbor’s obsession with mushrooms, or Dexter’s killing tendencies), we’re not digging deeper to understand what makes people that way, who they truly are beneath the surface “uniqueness”.

While tautophrases used to be used so people wouldn’t question the status quo, are they now used so that we don’t have to question each other as individuals? So that we don’t have to get deeper than appearances – maybe because it’s just uncomfortable to do so?

Normally when we write blog posts, we’re writing about what our industry can learn from someone or something. In this case, though, I think that we, in our personal lives and how we interact with others, can learn from research. Research is all about getting deeper with people, about exploring people as more than stereotypes to truly understand their motivations and attitudes. In our “you do you” culture, how can we take cues from research into our daily lives, to get deeper with the people around us?