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SF’s Popular Quinoa Automat to Join Midtown’s Legion of Soulless Lunch Options

Humans make the food, but you don’t have to interact with them

Automat, but with quinoa

San Francisco-based quinoa restaurant eatsa"a fully automated" fast food spot that doesn’t require any human interaction for purchases — will be opening its first New York outpost in Midtown this year. The meat-free bowls with quinoa, which people in SF have been waiting in long lines for, can be ordered from an eatsa app or on an iPad in the store. Diners then pick up their lunch from glass cubbies, customized with displays of personalized graphics. A real person in the restaurant can answer questions about the process and real people make the food out of sight, but Midtown office drones who wish to avoid communication with other human beings can do so. The chain, which has locations in SF and LA, will be debuting at 285 Madison Ave., between 40th and 41st Street, in the fall.

The idea behind no people running cashiers is to lower the overhead and price. Every bowl at the existing locations costs $6.95, including versions of a Greek salad, a burrito bowl, and a bento bowl. The veggie-only menu and focus on quinoa stems from the founders’ mission to offer a high protein lunch that’s more environmentally-friendly. Quinoa production needs 1/30th the amount of energy of animal protein, according to eatsa’s website.

The tech-obsessed crowd in the Bay Area has been going gaga for it. Locations attract long lines when they open, and early reviews of the food call it "actually good." Eatsa may sound more like a Bay Area techie thing, but some SF food people who initially expressed skepticism ended up enjoying the experience. SF Weekly’s Peter Lawrence Kane writes: "I feel like finally, tech is solving actual problems, and solving them well."

This is the second automat-style restaurant to open in Midtown this month.

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