The Future of Fast Food Arrives

WASHINGTON D.C.’s newest fast-food restaurant is noticeably different from others.

There’s no one behind a counter to greet you and take your order. There’s no visible assembly line where meats, cheeses and sauces are piled into a bowl — there isn’t even a window into the kitchen.

And there’s no chance you’ll leave with a double-patty burger and a side of greasy fries.

At eatsa, it’s all about using technology to serve fast, healthy food.

“We truly believe that paying a premium for nutritious food is not really in the cards for most people,” said eatsa co-founder Scott Drummond. “And so what we’ve tried to do is create a new model for fast food … for the first time, fast food is truly fast.”

Drummond says cutting out the cashier eliminates the long lines which, during lunchtime in D.C., can be daunting. It also helps to cut down on overall costs, making it possible for eatsa to offer its customizable meals at a lower price point than most of its competitors.

Ordering can be done one of two ways. Customers can place an order on their smartphones before they even leave the office to pick up lunch. Those who don’t have smartphones, or who pop in spontaneously, can order at one of the many touch-screen kiosks inside the restaurant.

When the food is ready, it appears in an assigned high-tech cubby, located along the back wall. Drummond says it typically takes about 90 seconds for the made-to-order bowls to appear (“maybe three to four minutes during the lunch rush”).

“Automation is really important to us,” Drummond said. “You’re not waiting in line; you’re not waiting forever for your food.”

The menu at eatsa is based around quinoa: a protein-packed, sustainable grain that’s a staple in many cultures around the world.

The options range from “build-your-own” to a bento bowl (stir-fried quinoa with egg, edamame, crispy wonton strips, Teriyaki sauce, miso portobello and apple-cabbage slaw) to a Toscana bowl (basil pesto, cauliflower, Parmesan, minestrone, pumpkin seeds, roasted winter squash, roasted roots, parsley, warm lemon-herb toasted quinoa and fried spaghetti) to a hummus and falafel bowl.

All lunch and dinner bowls are $6.95; breakfast (a variety of scramble bowls) ranges from $1.95 to $3.95. Compare that to a Big Mac meal at McDonald’s ($5.99) or an Egg McMuffin ($2.79), and the prices are pretty comparable.

“There’s all the talk about farm-raised and sustainable-this and locally sourced, and all of that’s really great, and we’re big believers in sustainability … but when we look at the lunch options out there for most people, that kind of farm-raised, sustainable, highly nutritious food is not really relevant because it’s too expensive,” Drummond said.

“We think everybody has the right to nutritious food.”

Sides, such as falafel and harissa and fresh fruit cups, are just a few bucks, and low-sugar house-made soft drinks are under $1.

“We’re all big believers that most soft drinks out there are just irresponsible with the amount of sugar that they provide,” Drummond said.

Eatsa’s D.C. location is the California-based company’s first on the East Coast (and first eatsa outside of the Golden State). It opens at 1627 K St. NW on Nov. 29 at 7 a.m.

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