Automation is Embraced by Asian Chain, Wow Bao

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Foodable first interviewed Geoff Alexander, president of Wow Bao, back in 2014 to talk about regional versus national fast casual brand success among other topics.

The brand is now investing in technology in hopes to make automation mainstream.

Will this move help grow the brand at a faster rate?

Wow Bao is an Asian quick-serve, fast casual chain focusing on menu items like dumplings, noodle and rice bowls, potstickers, and bao (a meat or veggie stuffed bread roll). Come Dec. 1, Chicagoans will experience their first automated Wow Bao restaurant. 

What will be missing?

A waitstaff.

You heard it right! This Wow Bao location will be the first automated eatery for the brand.

According to “Chicago Tribune,” “Customers will order and pay at a kiosk and pick up their food from one of a dozen LED-lit cubbies, which will display their name on an LCD screen when their food is ready. Wow Bao is also introducing a new app in tandem with the Near North restaurant so visitors can order on their phones.”

Just because there is not waitstaff, though, it doesn’t mean real humans are not the ones cooking the food. They will just not be seen by customers.

The only staff member available at the automated Wow Bao in Chicago will be a “concierge” whose sole purpose is to guide customers through the food ordering process and assist with troubleshooting at the new store.

Alexander, told “Chicago Tribune,” he thinks the automated restaurant “is a natural evolution for us” since the company has been a leader in technology in the restaurant space since 2009 with its early introduction of self-kiosks and online-ordering. “Was the world ready for Facebook? Shopping on Amazon? It’s the same thing in restaurants,” Alexander said. “Hospitality is evolving.”

Wow Bao is licensing this technology from Eatsa, a grain bowl and salad chain based out of San Francisco, a company that hopes to license its technology to other businesses, as well.

Read more at “Chicago Tribune”