The folks behind Hey Zeus debuted their kiosk-only, cashless restaurant concept about a year ago in New South Wales, Australia. Now, they’re bringing the concept to the U.S., with plans to open a location in Spokane, Washington by the end of this year (via Restaurant Hospitality).
Founder Jason Beye is actually a native of Spokane, having left in 2008 to pursue a marketing degree in Australia. To create the Hey Zeus concept (named after Beye’s dog), he merged his years of working tech-driven customer service at the Apple store with a love of fresh, fast food.
The Hey Zeus Spokane location will reportedly be identical to its Australian counterpart, where customers select food items and customize dishes using a digital kiosk. Healthy wraps and bowls are the main menu items—brown rice, quinoa, fresh veggies, and a variety of sauces and dressings. Food arrives in a plain brown bag on a conveyor belt, similar to restaurants like Yo! Sushi, with a unique I.D. for each customer. Since this is fast-casual, all food is for pickup; there are no servers or any other front-of-house staff.
This unmanned restaurant concept has proved remarkably popular for Beye at the Australian location—so much so that, after just a couple days, he axed the idea of having a concierge on hand to guide customers at the kiosks: “I thought I would have to spend more time teaching people how to work the ordering system, and I planned to have a concierge in store all the time but after about a day or so you could tell that they were just getting in the way and ruining the experience,” he noted recently.
The question is whether the exact same concept will work in the U.S. Here, there’s plenty of action around self-serve kiosks, but results vary. Wow Bao just opened a new Chicago location powered by Eatsa’s automated kiosk technology, and NYC’s Sous Vide Kitchen just opened as a kind of automated food hall. Shake Shack, on the other hand, shuttered its self-service concept after a barrage of customer complaints.
An automated restaurant’s success comes down to things like how easy it is to use the kiosk interface, how quickly the kitchen staff can make the food, and its overall quality. In Australia, at least, Beye’s particular take on the concept works. Hey Zeus reportedly plans to open five locations in five years, according to Restaurant Hospitality. How the Spokane location performs will tell us if that goal is likely to become a reality.