The origin of fast food culture can be traced back to this restaurant in Germany
Horn and Hardart, a well-known restaurant chain in the 1950s, once had 40 establishments in New York City and was one of the first restaurants in the days when automatons served thousands of customers every day.
However, the first restaurant in the world to have a vending machine opened in Berlin, Germany, in 1895. Quisisana was a German company that opened the first American vending machine in Philadelphia in 1902. The restaurant was successful, selling more than 5,000 sandwiches, 9,000 glasses of wine, and 22,000 cups of coffee on the first Sunday of its business, according to Wikipedia.
Automat is a type of self-service restaurant in which consumers procure food in small compartments by placing the necessary coins in slots so that the doors can be opened.
Quisisana also made automatic machines, which include a milk dispenser, suitable for use in German schools.
History of Quisisana
After the first automaton was introduced in Berlin and the technology was demonstrated at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1887, the company quickly expanded its branches to other European cities such as Vienna in 1898.
Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart, owners of the first automaton in the United States, took inspiration from the Quisisana restaurant after Hardart, himself of Bavarian descent, visited one in 1900. Hardart then convinced Horn to order an automaton. to the Quisisana company to extend their catering services.
According to sources, they bought their vending machines in 1901 from a certain Max Sielaff, a salesman looking to sell vending machines designed by a German engineer. Sielaff is said to have encouraged partners to purchase automatic equipment since 1898.
It took two years for Quisisana’s equipment to reach Philadelphia, due to the first machine shipped by a steamboat that sank. Their insurance company covered the bill and they got their automatic equipment in 1902 – the same year they opened their automaton under Horn and Hardart. The restaurant ordered other German equipment in 1905, 1907 and 1912.
In the United States, customers paid for their meals by exchanging huge sums of money for change in a cashier without a number display.
There were also tokens displaying an unknown illustration on the back side instead of writing, perhaps suggesting that they were used by various Quisisana automata. The original machine in Berlin is also said to have used tokens exclusively. It is not known whether this token system applied to other establishments in Europe, or whether it was reserved for automatic buffets located in Germany and Austria.
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