• Karin Lane

Food ordering kiosks extra: Kiosk ordering only

Eatsa, seller of customized quinoa bowls, has a new storefront in midtown Manhattan. Ordering in-store is by kiosk or app only. Let’s visit and see how the experience differs from our visits to other ordering kiosks. There is no option to place an order at a counter or with a person, though cheerful staff members circulate to offer help. Custom meals then appear in a wall of high-tech cubbies, without visible human help.

Lunchtime in midtown NYC. Something healthy, tasty and not too pricey? Let’s go!

Eatsa is a small storefront on Madison Avenue, and looks fresh and brightly designed from the door.

The store has a fresh, new, somewhat minimalist appearance. Permanent signage is to the side and in the back. Since it is a very new concept at the moment, and serves a very specific menu, it might benefit from a temporary explanatory signage towards the front.

Once inside, the store layout follows a counter-clockwise movement: 1) Order on the right wall in the kiosks, 2) Pick up at the back wall, and 3) optionally sit near the left wall. This is very logical – but it is a bit disorienting at first, as if something is missing, despite the friendly staff who welcomed us and led us to a kiosk. Again, initial signage up front might help orient new customers.

The kiosks are cute but tiny and low.

We’re so glad to see kiosks at what appear to be wheelchair accessible height; however, they do feel quite low and small for taller users, and small for multiple users such as a family group to see together. The screen itself feels dwarfed by the stand. Could the screens be raised and lowered? Could they be slightly bigger, or integrated into tables or another type of stand? Though much thought has clearly gone into these, some physical changes to the kiosk itself could make this an even more pleasing experience. There might be something to learn from large bank branches with multiple ATMs, for example.

Swipe my card first? But I have no idea if I really want to order.

The Eatsa kiosk experience begins with a credit card swipe. As a first time user, this feels momentarily odd, given that offerings and prices are unclear.

But immediately afterwards, my name appears on screen, along with a history section – which is an elegant workaround to provide membership benefits without requiring a separate membership card (assuming use of the same credit card). Some improved signage, additional paper menus as at Panera, and/or a clearer splash screen/walkthrough could all help alleviate the first time brief hesitation.

OK, I need to choose a bowl. How are these bowls different? Are there more? Is Hummus + Falafel the most popular? I’ll go with Burrito Bowl.

The navigation panel at left and product offerings at right are both simple and clear. Some minor adjustments might be to label the navigation choice ‘Chef’s Bowls’ to match the page label, and to provide a tile or button in the content area for ‘Build a Bowl’ (which gets a little lost in the side navigation with the other menu items).

The main content area seems clearly a set of tiles that can be tapped. Some refinements might include differentiating the bowls a bit more through photos emphasizing their differences and moving the labels above the photos (though we appreciate the photos appearing to break out of the tile box); showing a bit of the next row to clarify that there is a vertical scroll with more products below; and ordering the bowls in an obvious way, either alphabetically, or calling out some as featured and therefore at the top of the list.

I’m moved into a customization mode, organized by element.

When selecting a Chef’s Bowl, this step was briefly surprising since it feels like I must start from scratch here, though we appreciate the logic of the summary on the right. If the screen provided a centralized summary of the Burrito Bowl, as appears on the side here, followed by additional customizations below, it would feel more logical as a flow. Simply including page labels that are a little more directive, e.g. ‘Pick up to X veggies and fruits’ to add to your Burrito Bowl’ might also smooth the way.

To further emphasize this as a customization flow, suggest making the navigation contrast a bit more from the main navigation, and perhaps explore adding next/previous buttons.

In terms of ingredient information, many elements have quite a bit of seasoning, and are not only the vegetable listed: it would be very helpful to read information about their flavorings and preparation here.

What is in the sauces? Exactly how hot is the Szechuan Fire Oil?

When selecting sauces, it would be helpful to have information about their ingredients/allergens – and maybe special qualities such as heat/spiciness.

The ability to ask for the sauce on the side would be a welcome addition.

Looks like I should pick a side now?

After adding a bowl, the screen displays Sides. Since this is a directed flow, slightly more directive page labels would feel more friendly and grounding, especially since the tiles are so similar in format and color from page to page. The pricing information on the tiles is helpful.

There is an aesthetic decision to crop the photos, maybe given the horizontal format of the tiles; this works better on some pages than others; here it starts to feel a little like the photos are falling off the tile a bit.

Ready to checkout

The checkout button position in the lower left is unusual, but findable given the streamlined navigation.

Checkout is seamless, since my card has already been swiped. There is an option to add an email, but it’s easy to move through.

Oh so futuristic…

There’s a futuristic thrill in seeing the translucent screens display customer names when an order silently appears. The screens are lovely and easy to use (a double tab opens).

How was the overall experience?

The simplicity of the UI was impressive. We did note that in places it became almost too simplified and consistent from page to page: light directives/guidance and a little more variation from screen to screen would be welcome, making it easier to differentiate bowls would be helpful.

The replacement of membership cards with the use of the credit card as an identifier was a wonderful simplifier and welcoming touch.

The physical presence of the kiosks feels less successful than Panera’s customized store, or even long rows of bank ATMs, though we appreciated the accessibility of the kiosk height.

We did miss more details on the flavorings of the customizable elements, since it was unclear how each vegetable was spiced and cooked.

...And in the end we did not love our meals...

Each element seemed over- or oddly- seasoned in the combinations we chose. Furthermore, the portion of some of the selected add-ons seemed quite small for the price we paid. As a result, customization, the clearest benefit of kiosk ordering, was not a positive experience, and made us miss the sure hand of tasty lunch bowls at places such as Prêt a Manger, or the synchronous flavors of customizable elements at Chipotle. Also, the fundamental limitation of quinoa-only bases seems like a strong point of view given all the other available customizations; a rice or other grain option would have been welcome.

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