Eatsa, founded in 2015, is a self-serve foodservice concept that allows customers to order their meals and, by code, access a food locker and pick up their pre-ordered meal. This amazing concept strives to meet the demands of on-the-go customers and a mobile marketplace.

By Ralph H. Goldbeck, AIA, Partner, Kitchens To GoAutomat, founded in 1895, is a self-serve foodservice concept that allows customers to walk into a hotel lobby, select their meal, access a food locker and pick up their food. An amazing concept, designed to meet the demands of on-the-go customers and a growing marketplace.

As you can see, two somewhat similar new concepts hit the marketplace 120 years apart. So, is everything old is new again? Yes and no.

As we know, styles and trends seem to cycle back. Odds are if you kept those clothes from the 70s in the back of your closet, you might be on the cutting edge of a new fashion trend. I think the same is true in the foodservice industry. Technical advancement provides us with amazing tools to develop new and innovative equipment. But have we really advanced or are we just recycling the same old ideas?

When you compare the foodservice industry to others, we are lagging. Our speed of advancement has not kept pace with other industries. Apple Computer started in 1976 and is now the most profitable business in the world. And that is just one business in the technology sector. Google and Facebook have only been around 20 and 14 years, respectively, and are industry leaders.

History indicates that public eateries existed in Ancient Rome and China, but it is believed that the first restaurant, Boulanger, opened in Paris in 1765, to help meet the foodservice needs of travelers in northern France. In other words, our industry has been around much longer than the tech sector.

In 1866 Charles Goodnight invented the Chuck Wagon to provide a solution for feeding cowpokes on cattle drives in southern Texas – one of the country’s first food trucks. Yet 152 years later we continue to try to look for ways to apply that same approach in inner-city neighborhoods and deal with health code and zoning issues.

Our industry is lagging behind. The production, preparation and consumption of food is not an option. It is a life-sustaining need, but it continues to get less attention and focus than technology and other sectors. You can’t eat your iPhone.

We need to challenge ourselves and our industry to do more. All too often, foodservice programs have been the caboose on the train of progress. Foodservice is often the last to get funded and the last to get recognized. Food is comfort, food is fuel, and food is life. Believe it or not, we can live without technology, we cannot live without food. It is time to take a stand and take our place along with the other sectors of our economy.

Congratulations to the folks at Eatsa for providing a creative and unique offering to feed today’s busy marketplace, but retro is not new. Our industry must create its own seat at the table of our global economy!