Fast-casual chain MAC’D announced yesterday it has partnered with eatsa to bring the latter’s tech platform into its restaurants. Doing so will automate much of the restaurant experience for MAC’D customers, who can build their own mac-n-cheese dishes via kiosk and pick them up in designated cubbies.

Back when it was still an actual restaurant chain, eatsa got a lot of press for its automated front-of-house experience: customers could order their meals via a touchscreen kiosk, then wait for the food to appear in a designated cubby a few minutes later. But in October of 2017, eatsa shuttered most of its locations and pivoted to a new approach: using its technology to power other restaurants. A partnership with Wow Bao was announced not long after, and obviously liking how it worked, Wow Bao opened a second automated location.

The eatsa system manages a restaurant’s entire digital ordering process. Besides the aforementioned kiosks and cubbies, the eatsa platform also synchs with the back of house, speeding up order fulfillment and also giving restaurant operators access to real-time customer data. The eatsa site claims this combination leads to “lightning-fast fulfillment times.”

As Michael Wolf wrote about eatsa, “this is the future of fast food and fast casual,” especially in large cities with busy lunch hours. But the other thing eatsa has going for it is that it’s, well, fun. The front-of-house kiosks are so low friction that they make choosing food and customizing an order quick and enjoyable, rather than intimidating and frustrating (as is sometimes the case with self-serve kiosks.) And who doesn’t want their food to appear seemingly magically in a futuristic cubby with their name on it?

MAC’D said via press release that it will use the full eatsa platform, which includes the kiosks, cubbies, status boards, back-of-house software, and a mobile app. The chain will roll that out first in its Polk St. store in San Francisco. Meanwhile, for those who still want the full (and quinoa-centric) eatsa experience, the company still operates a couple of stores in San Francisco.

The whole touchscreen-to-cubby concept will doubtless become old-hat at some point, which will normalize the eatsa-like dining venture. Getting there will be about more than just placing kiosks in the front of house, though. Restaurants — at least QSR’s and fast casual ones — will need to treat touchscreens, management software, and magical cubbies not as a bunch of new, disjointed technology, but as a unified suite that links the customer to their eating experience.

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Jenn is a writer and editor for The Spoon who covers restaurant tech and food delivery, developments in agriculture and indoor farming, and startup accelerators and incubators. On the side, she moonlights as a ghostwriter for tech industry executives and spends a lot of time on the road exploring food developments in more remote parts of the country. Previously, she was managing editor of Gigaom’s market research department and was once a competitive pinball player. Jenn splits her time between NYC and Nashville, TN.

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