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In Japan, in addition to regular vending machines which sell prepared food, many restaurants also use food ticket machines (食券機, shokkenki), where one purchases a meal ticket from a vending machine, then presents the ticket to a server, who then prepares and serves the meal. (See Wikipedia in Japanese for an example.) Conveyor belt sushi restaurants are also popular.
The Dutch automats provide a variety of typical Dutch fried fast food, such as frikandellen and croquettes, but also burgers and sandwiches, in vending machines that are back-loaded from a kitchen. Their automat is called an automatiek. FEBO is the best-known chain of Dutch automat snackbars. Some outlets are open 24 hours a day, and are popular with locals, and those leaving clubs and bars late at night. The Dutch concept has been successfully exported overseas.
In Spain, one can also find the typical Dutch automat machines. For example, a complete automatic restaurant is installed in a University Jaume I of Castellón. Fresh healthy hot plates are sold from the hot food vending machines. The cold versions provide freshly made salads.
Originally, the machines in U.S. automats took only nickels. In the original format, a cashier sat in a change booth in the center of the restaurant, behind a wide marble counter with five to eight rounded depressions. The diner would insert the required number of coins in a machine and then lift a window, hinged at the top, and remove the meal, usually wrapped in waxed paper. The machines were replenished from the kitchen behind. All or most New York automats had a cafeteria-style steam table where patrons could slide a tray along rails and choose foods, which were ladled from tureens.
The first automat in the US was opened June 12, 1902, at 818 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia by Horn & Hardart; Horn & Hardart became the most prominent American automat chain. Inspired by Max Sielaff's AUTOMAT Restaurants in Berlin, they became among the first 47 restaurants, and the first non-Europeans, to receive patented vending machines from Max Sielaff's AUTOMAT GmbH Berlin factory, Ludwig Stollwerck, creators of the first chocolate bar vending machine. The automat was brought to New York City in 1912 and gradually became part of popular culture in northern industrial cities.
The automats were popular with a wide variety of patrons, including Walter Winchell, Irving Berlin and other celebrities of the era. The New York automats were popular with unemployed songwriters and actors. Playwright Neil Simon called automats "the Maxim's of the disenfranchised" in a 1987 article.
The format was threatened by the arrival of fast food, served over the counter and with more payment flexibility than traditional automats; in the 1970s, the automats' remaining appeal in their core urban markets was strictly nostalgic. Another contributing factor to their demise was inflation of the 1970s, making the food too expensive to be bought conveniently with coins, in a time before bill acceptors commonly appeared on vending equipment.
At one time there were 40 Horn & Hardart automats in New York City alone. The last one closed in 1991. Horn and Hardart converted most of its New York City locations to Burger Kings. At the time, the quality of the food was described by some customers as on the decline.
An automat in Manhattan, New York City in 1936
A form of the automat was used on some passenger trains. The Great Western Railway in the United Kingdom announced plans in December 1945 to introduce automat buffet cars. Plans were delayed by impending nationalisation, and an automat was finally introduced on the Cambrian Coast Express, in 1962.
In the United States, the Pennsylvania Railroad introduced an automat between Pennsylvania Station, New York City and Union Station, Washington, DC, in 1954. Southern Pacific Railroad introduced automat buffet cars on the Coast Daylight and Sunset Limited in 1962. Amtrak converted four buffet cars to automats in 1985 for use on the Auto Train. The last one in use in the United States was on the short-lived Lake Country Limited in 2001.
- Bernardo Friese, grandson of Max Sielaff
- Automat-Restaurants – AUTOMAT GmbH, 23 Spenerstrasse, Berlin, N.W. :: Trade Catalogs and Pamphlets - oclc
- Smith, A.F.; Oliver, G. (2015). Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City. Oxford University Press, Incorporated. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-19-939702-0. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
- Lui, Claire (2006). "Bamn! The Automat Is Back – Restaurant – Food & Drink". American Heritage Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
- "Horn & Hardart Automat, 968 6th Ave. between 35th & 36th Sts. (1986)", 36th Street, New York City Signs -- 14th to 42nd Street.
- Barron, James (April 11, 1991). "Last Automat Closes, Its Era Long Gone". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-16.
- "New York's Last Automat Closes". Associated Press. April 11, 1991. Retrieved 2009-07-16.
- Matthews, Karen (2006-08-28). "Updated Automat to open in New York City". Associated Press. Retrieved 2006-08-28.
- The Shutter: Felled Bamn! to Become Baoguette? - Eater NY
- O'Neill, Natalie (19 July 2016). "This Midtown vending machine is serving up lunch". Retrieved 5 June 2017.
- "Automat Buffet Cars For British Railways". Reuters. 26 December 1945.
- "Railway Gazette". The Railway Gazette. 119: 709. 1963.
- "Automatic Buffet-Bar Car Introduced By Pennsy". Locomotive Engineers Journal. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. 88: 236. 1954.
- Jane's World Railways. Jane's Yearbooks. 1988. p. 700. ISBN 0-7106-0871-3.
- "The Last Automat," by James T. Farrell (New York, May 14, 1979)
- Automatenrestaurant Qusisana, Mariahilfer Straße 34 im 7, Vienna, Austria, 1972 from Pohanka, Reinhard; Sinalco-Epoche kenne ich
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Automats.|
- In Praise of the Automat – slideshow by Life magazine
- Sielaff Automaten Berlin – Max Sielaff, Automat inventor website
- used and new Automats in the United States
- Doris Day at the Automat in That Touch of Mink (1962)
- Before Horn & Hardart: European automats
- Token from Automatencafe Quisisana, 57 Kärntner street, Vienna, Austria
- Automat Restaurants :: Trade Catalogs and Pamphlets - oclc
- Automat Restaurants – over 100 years ago – My Stockholm BLOG