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The Automat: A Must-See Documentary on the Origins of Fast Food

The Automat: A Must-See Documentary on the Origins of Fast Food

TLDR

The Automat was a commissary-style eatery that offered fresh cooked meals from vending machines. The Automat was popular in the 20th century and was known for being Depression-proof. However, social changes eventually led to its decline.

Intro

You may have seen the documentary The Automat recently. If not, we highly recommend you check it out. The film tells the story of the rise and fall of the first fast-food chain in America— known as Horn & Hardart in Philadelphia and the Automat in New York City.

The automat was a vending machine popularized in the 20th century that offered fresh cooked meals in a commissary-style eatery. Patrons could select their food from a series of compartments, which would then release their meal into a tray.

The documentary is interesting from a hospitality perspective. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the origins of fast food with a healthy twist.

A Revolutionary Documentary on the Origins of Fast Food

The Automat was a chain of restaurants that were popular in the 20th century. They were basically like vending machines, but instead of candy bars and chips, you could get fresh cooked meals.

There's a new documentary all about the Automat, and it's a really interesting watch. It was started in Philadelphia, and it was popular because the food was delicious and it was "Depression-proof." At one point the restaurants were feeding 10 percent of Philadelphians. For context, McDonalds serves 7.5 percent of the American population daily.

If you're interested in history or food, then I definitely recommend checking out the Automat documentary.

How a Vending Machine Changed the Way We Eat

The Automat was a chain of self-service restaurants in the early 20th century that were quite popular. The restaurants were pretty much like vending machines in that you took your food from metal compartments, but the food was cooked fresh in a commissary-style kitchen and then brought up to the machines.

The Automat was especially popular during the Depression because it was a cheap place to eat. And, even though fast food restaurants eventually replaced the Automat, I think there's something to be said for the appeal of convenience and freshness that the Automat offered.

A Look at the History of Horn & Hardart

If you're a fan of nostalgia, then you'll love The Automat.

This documentary takes a look back fondly on the history of the defunct Horn & Hardart cafeteria chain. It features high-profile interviewees, including Mel Brooks, who wax poetic about the delicious food and unique dining experience that the automats offered.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Horn & Hardart automat was a vending machine popularized in the 20th century that offered fresh cooked meals in a commissary-style eatery. Patrons would select their food from a window, and it would be delivered to them in a compartment within the machine.

Although automats are no longer in business, this documentary offers a fascinating look at their history and importance within the hospitality industry.

The Decline of a Popular Commissary-Style Eatery

The Automat provided cheap food and a sense of urban sophistication for new urban residents in the 20th century. However, the restaurant chain started to decline in popularity in the latter half of the 20th century as city dwellers began flocking to the suburbs. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the Automat as a nostalgic throwback to a simpler time.

Where Are They Now?

You might be wondering what happened to the Automat after its heyday. Unfortunately, the chain of restaurants slowly declined in popularity and was eventually forced to close its doors for good.

Part of the reason for the Automat's decline was the advent of fast food chains like McDonald's and Burger King, which offered customers cheaper and faster options. In addition, the Automat's vending machines became outdated and were no longer able to compete with the latest technology.

Despite its decline, the Automat holds an important place in American history as one of the first restaurant chains to offer fresh, cooked meals in a vending machine.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the Automat was a pretty revolutionary concept, and one that's still relevant today. With the rise of fast food and the popularity of vending machines, the Automat was definitely ahead of its time. Even though the original restaurant chain is no longer around, its impact is still felt in the food industry today.

The Automat: A Must-See Documentary on the Origins of Fast Food

The Automat: A Must-See Documentary on the Origins of Fast Food
by
Doron Segal
by
Tomer Molovinsky
by
Olivia Terenzio
by
Jessica Buckley
by
Ashley Rodriguez
October 10, 2022
TLDR

The Automat was a commissary-style eatery that offered fresh cooked meals from vending machines. The Automat was popular in the 20th century and was known for being Depression-proof. However, social changes eventually led to its decline.

Intro

You may have seen the documentary The Automat recently. If not, we highly recommend you check it out. The film tells the story of the rise and fall of the first fast-food chain in America— known as Horn & Hardart in Philadelphia and the Automat in New York City.

The automat was a vending machine popularized in the 20th century that offered fresh cooked meals in a commissary-style eatery. Patrons could select their food from a series of compartments, which would then release their meal into a tray.

The documentary is interesting from a hospitality perspective. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the origins of fast food with a healthy twist.

A Revolutionary Documentary on the Origins of Fast Food

The Automat was a chain of restaurants that were popular in the 20th century. They were basically like vending machines, but instead of candy bars and chips, you could get fresh cooked meals.

There's a new documentary all about the Automat, and it's a really interesting watch. It was started in Philadelphia, and it was popular because the food was delicious and it was "Depression-proof." At one point the restaurants were feeding 10 percent of Philadelphians. For context, McDonalds serves 7.5 percent of the American population daily.

If you're interested in history or food, then I definitely recommend checking out the Automat documentary.

How a Vending Machine Changed the Way We Eat

The Automat was a chain of self-service restaurants in the early 20th century that were quite popular. The restaurants were pretty much like vending machines in that you took your food from metal compartments, but the food was cooked fresh in a commissary-style kitchen and then brought up to the machines.

The Automat was especially popular during the Depression because it was a cheap place to eat. And, even though fast food restaurants eventually replaced the Automat, I think there's something to be said for the appeal of convenience and freshness that the Automat offered.

A Look at the History of Horn & Hardart

If you're a fan of nostalgia, then you'll love The Automat.

This documentary takes a look back fondly on the history of the defunct Horn & Hardart cafeteria chain. It features high-profile interviewees, including Mel Brooks, who wax poetic about the delicious food and unique dining experience that the automats offered.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Horn & Hardart automat was a vending machine popularized in the 20th century that offered fresh cooked meals in a commissary-style eatery. Patrons would select their food from a window, and it would be delivered to them in a compartment within the machine.

Although automats are no longer in business, this documentary offers a fascinating look at their history and importance within the hospitality industry.

The Decline of a Popular Commissary-Style Eatery

The Automat provided cheap food and a sense of urban sophistication for new urban residents in the 20th century. However, the restaurant chain started to decline in popularity in the latter half of the 20th century as city dwellers began flocking to the suburbs. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the Automat as a nostalgic throwback to a simpler time.

Where Are They Now?

You might be wondering what happened to the Automat after its heyday. Unfortunately, the chain of restaurants slowly declined in popularity and was eventually forced to close its doors for good.

Part of the reason for the Automat's decline was the advent of fast food chains like McDonald's and Burger King, which offered customers cheaper and faster options. In addition, the Automat's vending machines became outdated and were no longer able to compete with the latest technology.

Despite its decline, the Automat holds an important place in American history as one of the first restaurant chains to offer fresh, cooked meals in a vending machine.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the Automat was a pretty revolutionary concept, and one that's still relevant today. With the rise of fast food and the popularity of vending machines, the Automat was definitely ahead of its time. Even though the original restaurant chain is no longer around, its impact is still felt in the food industry today.

Doron Segal

About the author

Hey I'm Doron, the co-founder & CTO of Per Diem — a mobile app platform for restaurants. I'm also a dad and a husband. I love to travel and meet new people.I love creating things, and see people using the stuff I built.Prior to Per Diem I worked at Saildrone, OpenTable, Apple, Beats Music, Siemens.

Tomer Molovinsky

About the author

A second time founder with a passion for building products at the intersection of hospitality and technology. I've had the pleasure of launching reservation systems, mobile payment solutions, and loyalty programs at OpenTable and Resy, and witnessed how operators were losing a direct connection with their customers online. We built Per Diem to strengthen the relationships that businesses have with those customers, and to ensure that local businesses can thrive in today's economy.

Olivia Terenzio

About the author

Jessica Buckley

About the author

Ashley Rodriguez

About the author

Ashley is a freelance writer and podcast producer based in Madison, Wisconsin. She hosts a podcast called Boss Barista and writes an accompanying newsletter with full transcripts of each episode and articles about coffee and restaurant work. You can check out her work here (ashleyrodriguez.work/).

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