Are Automats Restaurants? | FREE WHITEWATER

Are Automats Restaurants?

There’s a story over at the New York Times about a new business in San Francisco, Eatsa, that’s like an old-fashioned automat: “[a]t this restaurant, customers order, pay and receive their food and never interact with a person.”

See, Restaurant of the Future? Service With an Impersonal Touch @ NYT.

(The story’s somewhat puzzling because reporter Claire Cain Miller never mentions that America once had many establishments like this, including the Horn& Hardart chain.  Not identical, of course, but very close in character.)  

I’m not sure that automats, let alone an even less-personal one like Eatsa, should be called restaurants. They’re more like grocery stores to me.  Even a fast-food restaurant takes orders, but in Eatsa, there’s no order-taker, just as there wasn’t in an automat.  One selects one’s own, brings it to a cashier, or in the new version even pays without a cashier.

That’s akin to a grocery store or a vending machine.  

There may be times when that’s convenient, and efficient, but without any human service, even in taking one’s request, I wouldn’t think of Eatsa as a restaurant.  

It’s more like a vending machine with a roof.  

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Dr. X
5 years ago

No, they are not really restuarants. Not enough service to be one.