NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Looking like something from the Jetson's cartoon series, a futuristic spaceship-like drive-through restaurant has landed just outside of trendy Los Angeles, ready to serve hungry earthlings fresh meals, sandwiches, and bakery items.
Autobistro, anchored by steel "pods" that double as a meal delivery system, is situated along a busy stretch of Pacific Coast Highway here. Designed to provide high-quality food in a convenient fashion, the restaurant is accessible only by car. No sit-down or walk-up service is provided, according to Jonathan Rodriguez-Akatz, co-founder, president, and chief executive officer of the Seattle-based company.
"The desired [design] attributes included an ability to utilize challenging sites, an image that would cut through the clutter of the surroundings, and a site environment that would provide added value to the customer."
Here's how it works: Upon entering the Autobistro footprint, motorists take an in-car menu from a kiosk. They then pull forward and place their order with one of the restaurant's "no-waitperson," as opposed to the conventional quick-service speaker box. Using an electronic remote order pad, the staffer transmits the order to the kitchen facility 12 feet above the ground.
The customer then drives under the Autobistro structure and pulls up along side one of three "pods" that house a modern dumbwaiter system that delivers the food.
The menu spans all dayparts and includes a full-service espresso bar, smoothies and baked goods. The breakfast selections include three varieties of Bistro Biscuits, which use as their base a buttermilk biscuit and scrambled eggs, at $2.75 each. Also available are scones, muffins, panetones and related items at prices points ranging from $1.50 to $2.75.
The All Day Bistro Menu centers on Hot Panini Sandwiches ($5.50 each), Fresh Filled Bistro Rolls ($4.75 each), Salads and Sides, Kids Meals, and Bakery items. Complimentary "Doggie Treats" are distributed with the meals, at request.
According to Phil Voorhees, marketing manager for Autobistro, most of the business generated thus far has been by word of mouth.
"[We're] relying on the visual of the architecture itself to pique people's curiosity," he said. "We get about 10 people a day just coming in to pick up a menu."
The food is all freshly made, some on-site, and the rest assembled from components prepared at a central commissary that will grow as more Autobistro units are opened in the future. Company officials declined to be more specific about the actual kitchen operation at this time.