We just celebrated one of the biggest days for food…Thanksgiving……and the pandemic has made our family meals a thing of the past…..at least the large gatherings….well for those people that do not drink the poison kool-aid about “nothing to fear”…..
In these days of automation and the attack from the virus….is it possible that an old form of food distribution could make a re-appearance?
It all sounds so futuristic: a restaurant without waiters, without workers behind the counter, without any visible employees whatsoever, where you simply feed your money into a glass-enclosed kiosk, remove a steaming plate of freshly made food, and carry it to your table. Welcome to Horn & Hardart, circa 1950, a restaurant chain that once boasted 40 locations in New York City and dozens more across the U.S., at a now-distant time when automats served hundreds of thousands of urban customers every day.
The automat is often considered to be an exclusively American phenomenon, but in fact, the world’s first restaurant of this kind opened in Berlin, Germany in 1895. Named Quisisana—after a company that also manufactured food-vending machinery—this high-tech eatery established itself in other northern European cities, and Quisisana soon licensed its technology to Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart, who opened the first American automat in Philadelphia in 1902.
For those that are too self-absorbed to read…a short video…..
Look at vending machines today each machine generates about $100 a day…..and that is a $20 billion business a year……I bring this up because the vending machine is basically an automat….the pandemic could get this expanded….
There is a lot of money to be made in vending, and it shows in the current state of the industry. There are around 5 million operational vending machines in the US right now and they rake in over $7 billion in annual sales for their operators. As far as profits go, the snack niche alone generates $64 million in annual profits for vending machine operators.
As long as people eat and drink on the go, there will be a need for well-placed, well-stocked vending machines. But like any business, it is possible to have great success in vending machines, to fall in the middle of the pack, or even to fail. The key is having the right support, the right strategies and the right pricing structures in place to ensure a vending machine business makes money.
I present this short history lesson because of the pandemic…..what is the possibility that the Automat could make a comeback?
Before there were fast food jingles on TV and drive-thrus seemingly on every corner, there was the automat. In the first half of the 20th century, this system of vending hot meals to diners through a series of glass lockers seemed like the wave of the future. But over the past 40 or so years, automats have existed as little more than dated literary references.
But with restaurants still struggling to survive amid a pandemic that’s forced them to both drastically scale back and overhaul their operations, there are some early signs that automats could be positioned for an unexpected comeback. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that two automats, one in Manhattan and another across the Hudson River in Jersey City, should be opening up before the end of 2020.
In the case of Jersey City’s Automat Kitchen, the pandemic didn’t birth the idea for proprietor Joe Scutellaro. In fact, it pushed back its scheduled opening from April to December. “In the Covid-19 environment, it’s actually the right concept,” he told the Journal. “We didn’t go into this anticipating a pandemic, but here we are.”
Could this make a return?
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