Horn and Hardart, a well-known restaurant chain in the 1950's,once boasted 40 locations in New York city and was one of the first restaurants in the era where automats served thousands of customers every day.
However, the world's first restaurant to have an automat was opened in Berlin, Germany in 1895. Quisisana was a German company that opened the first American automat in Philadelphia in 1902. The eatery was successful, selling more than 5,000 sandwiches, 9,000 glasses of wine, and 22,000 mugs of coffee on the first Sunday of its business, according to Wikipedia.
Automat is a type of self-service restaurant in which consumers obtain food from small compartments by depositing the required coins in slots so that the doors can be opened.
Quisisana also manufactured automat machines, which includes a milk vending machine, adapted for use in German schools.
History Of Quisisana
After the first automat was introduced in Berlin and the technology's demonstration at the Brussels World Fair in 1887, the company soon expanded its branches to other European cities like Vienna in 1898.
Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart, owners of the first automat in the US, were inspired by the Quisisana restaurant after Hardart, of Bavarian heritage himself, visited one in 1900. Hardart then convinced Horn to order an automat machine from the Quisisana company to expand their restaurant services.
According to sources, they purchased their vending machines in 1901 from one Max Sielaff, a salesman looking to sell vending machines designed by a German engineer. Sielaff had supposedly been motivating the partners to buy automat equipment since 1898.
It took two years for Quisisana's equipment to reach Philadelphia, owing to the first machine being shipped by a steamship that sank. Their insurance company covered the bill and they got their automat equipment in 1902 — the same year they opened their automat under Horn and Hardart. The restaurant ordered more German equipment in 1905, 1907 and 1912 .
In the US, customers paid for their meals by exchanging huge sums of money for change at a register without a number display.
There were also tokens displaying an unknown illustration on the back face instead of writing, possibly suggesting these were used by various Quisisana automats. The original automat in Berlin supposedly exclusively used tokens as well. It is not known whether this token system applied to other establishments in Europe, or whether it was reserved for the automat buffets located in Germany and Austria.