eatsa — as located at 285 Madison Avenue between 40th and 41st Street — is a unique establishment for a number of reasons. It is defying conventional wisdom that fast food is not healthy. It is proving that a fully-automated dining experience can still be a warm and welcoming one. It is also showing that vegetarian food can be appealing to the average diner in Midtown.
Opened late last year, eatsa’s first New York City location — keeping hours between 7:00 AM on 9:00 PM on weekdays — is actually the San Francisco-based company’s seventh location; there are currently four spots in California and two in Washington D.C. Its New York City menu features the same delicacies that the other eatsa branches offer up, including the Bento Bowl, Smokehouse Salad, No Worry Curry Bowl, and the Berry Chia Parfait. But for those seeking a more customized meal, eatsa’s first-of-its-kind automated food pick-up system allows diners to create custom bowls from 78 ingredients. Meals can be served in as little as 90 seconds.
Downtown spoke with co-founder Scott Drummond — as partnered with Tim Young — about the origins of eatsa, capturing the who, what, where and why of the growing company. eatsa can be visited online at www.eatsa.com and followed via both Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
What does the name “eatsa” mean?
Scott Drummond: “eatsa” is a new word that was created to stand for a completely new type of eating experience.
Besides the technology itself, do you have a way of describing eatsa?
SD: Better, faster food.
What is your favorite item on the eatsa menu?
SD: We think that our customizable options and large number of ingredients insure everyone can have a favorite. We’re not biased toward a specific menu item!
Who are the people behind the eatsa menu?
SD: Our customers. Literally. We developed our menu by identifying the flavors that people like, but can’t typically find in more nutritious food.
eatsa is located in Midtown East. What drew you to that area? As opposed to something in lower Manhattan? Or in a more experimental neighborhood of New York City?
SD: We don’t view what we are doing as experimental. In fact, New Yorkers are always looking to find something at a better price, that they can get more quickly, with no lines and no hassle. With that in mind, just about any neighborhood in New York City works for us.
Are there plans to open additional eatsa locations in New York?
SD: We see an infinite amount of potential for eatsa in New York City. With our laser focus on affordable access to fast, tasty and nutritious food, we can be anywhere.
How does your New York location compare to your original in San Francisco?
SD: The New York stores are slightly smaller, and every location has small touches unique to that specific opportunity.
Some people may refer to eatsa as a “fast food” establishment. Is that something that you are fine with?
SD: Yes, because we set out to bring back the original promise of fast food — very quick, affordable and great tasting food. We don’t think that exists anymore, which is where we see the opportunity.
Are there any plans to do anything with your app besides letting people order food with it? Like a rewards program? Or including original content?
SD: We have some things up our sleeves, but nothing we can divulge as of yet.
Aside from eatsa, are you big on automated technology or functions?
SD: We believe that automation and technology can help to make nutritious food accessible to more people, by making it faster and better.