Under the category of “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” is the return of the Automat.
The original Automat opened in Berlin in 1895. America’s first Automat was opened by Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart in Philadelphia, in 1902. Their Automat chain, Horn and Hardart, grew in popularity, with over 100 restaurants in New York City by the 1950s.
Restaurants served home-style comfort food. Many even had a wall of pies, with hot coffee being one of their most popular items. Diners could see their item through a window, and then insert a coin and turn a chrome and porcelain handle to receive their hot meal. At its peak, over 800,000 customers ate at a Horn and Hardart’s each day.
The Automat offered customers an efficient and affordable dining experience, with at one time over 400 choices of food. Behind the scenes, an assembly line of workers replenished the items in the machines.
However, their popularity declined as the popularity of fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, grew to replace them in the marketplace. In fact, in the 1970s, several of Horn and Hardart’s Automats were replaced Continue reading