History of Automats
Food lockers, also known as Automats, were created in the late 19th century in Berlin but didn’t grow in its popularity until the 20th century for restaurants and fast food.1 Even so, the popularity since then has died down, but it’s slowly making a comeback.
In the early 20th century, Automats were vending-machine style restaurants and a waiter-less service. These machines were coin-operated food lockers that contained beverages and hot food.2 In 1902, “Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart opened their first Automat named Horn and Hardart.”3 This was the first Automat in the United States, and it was an instant hit due to its futuristic features.
By the 1950s, the Automat chain became the world’s largest restaurant chain. Automats not only served and stored hot food and beverages, but also cold meals and beverages at this point.4 Although it was a waiter-less operation, workers behind the Automats worked to prepare the meals and beverages, fill the empty slots, and collect the dirty dishes.
As the years went on, the style of fast-dining and fast food changed. Drive-thru services and takeout restaurants emerged, and the Automat seemed like an invention of the past. However, they are now making a comeback again and it is quickly growing in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic. Having said that, they have benefited many restaurants, and could potentially benefit yours.
Our generation’s Automat Kitchen
Automat Kitchen officially opened in 2021 in New Jersey with a few key differences from the original.5 The Automat Kitchen as fresh and made-to-order food and beverages. The new Automat Kitchen offers cashless and contactless payments for their customers as well.
Upon entering an Automat Kitchen, customers have an option of contactless ordering. Customers can either pre-order on their phones or order on one of the touchscreen kiosks that’s in the Automat Kitchen.
After placing their orders, customers can track their orders on the big screens in the restaurant. Then, when their order is ready, customers will receive a text with a code that opens their box with their meal.
Benefits of food lockers and Automat kitchens
When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, restaurants were looking for new ways to expand their business and keep their operation running successfully. With the help of technology, food services during the pandemic have helped restaurant owners tremendously around the world. “A recent report showed that a whopping 67% of the average restaurant’s revenue now comes from orders placed online or over the phone.”6
Food lockers started to pop up in several restaurants as a new way to incorporate contactless payment and contactless ordering, along with security and health benefits. As said before, food lockers are self-ordering kiosks that allow the customers to order ahead online and then take home.
Furthermore, food lockers have been a huge help when it comes to staff shortages in recent years. With more people wanting to work remotely, restaurant owners have been struggling to find anyone willing to work in their restaurants.
Having said that, a restaurant in North Carolina has benefited a lot in revenue and labor costs with its food locker systems. Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken has “recently deployed a touchscreen ordering kiosk and heated locker system at its 932-square-foot location in downtown Durham, North Carolina.”7
According to Cherryh Cansler, senior editor of FastCasual.com, she stated that many limited-service restaurants usually aim to keep their labor cost percentages at around 25% of sales.8 Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken has kept their labor cost percentage at around 18.18% and it has even dipped as low as 16.14% during last year.9
Moreover, food lockers may not provide the convenience of food delivery and takeout, but since the start of the pandemic, it’s a safer alternative because of the built-in security features.10 Customers don’t have to worry about receiving the wrong order from their courier, they don’t have to worry about several hands touching their order before receiving it themselves, and customers don’t have to worry about their food getting cold or stale before arriving at them.
With the help of QR codes, or the pins provided by the food locker services themselves, it helps prevent anyone from accessing someone else’s food without paying for that item, and it helps eliminate the possibility of someone receiving another person’s order.
Goliath Consulting Group is a restaurant consultancy group based in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information on our services visit http://www.goliathconsulting.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org