This New All-Quinoa Restaurant Has No Staff, Just Vending Machines

This New All-Quinoa Restaurant Has No Staff, Just Vending Machines

The weirdest quick-service concept yet?

By Lindsay Tigar

So, you’ve got about 15 minutes to make it back to the office after your lunchtime yoga class but you’re starved. You know the line at nearly every healthy-ish place will be out the door, but obviously you can't grab fast food. You just did yoga. How does a fully automated, all-quinoa restaurant sound to you? If you answered good, you're in luck: A new chain called Eatsa is now serving its grain bowls out of vending machines in San Francisco, Los Angeles and now New York City. The place is kind of like a quick-service restaurant, except there's zero human interaction; the whole process is handled via technology.

And yeah, you heard that right: It serves only quinoa. Nope, this is not a long-lost episode of Portlandia… It’s um, our future?

Assuming the concept appeals to you, here's what you do. First, you place your order on an iPad: Do you want a quinoa parfait, a quinoa burrito bowl, or quinoa topped with roasted veggies, feta, chimichurri sauce, and what have you? Oh, there's coffee too (not to worry, it's quinoa-free). Then you swipe your card. No cash is accepted here; that would require a person. Then go ahead and check your email (just in case the boss is missing you), scroll Instagram and Facebook (and Tinder?), and look out for your name to pop up on an LCD screen. But where's the food? Like something out of The Jetsons, your bowl will show up in a large cubbyhole-type-thing. It’s kind of like a giant vending machine. Sound crazy? It’s actually not a completely novel idea.

Back in the Depression era, Horn & Hardart Automats launched with the same concept. Started by two friends in Philadelphia and inspired by a German idea, the Automats had a giant wall of oversized vending machines, through which you would look to find sandwiches, cakes, pies, complete meals and side dishes. You'd pick whatever you wanted from behind a glass door, slip in your coin and—wa la! Lunch in a hot second.

The Automats expanded to New York and New Jersey, and remained popular until the mid-1970s when other fast food restaurants—operated by actual humans—started to beat them out. There were some attempts to bring back the concept, but it never again met with the same excitement.

Could Eatsa be the answer? Wacky as it may sound, we’re betting this idea stands a chance. Especially if the quinoa comes with a side of Pokemon.

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