Innovation That Matters

Bamn! Rebirth of the automat

Food & Drink

Photos by kind permission of Matt Jacobs, Capn Design. The hottest new eatery in New York won’t get rave reviews for fine service provided by its waiters. It doesn’t have any. Nor does Bamn! have tables, cashiers or any of the other basic amenities diners have come to expect. Instead, Bamn is a throwback to the first half of the 20th century — it’s an automat diner. Windowed compartments display hot, fresh food. Customers throw in a few coins and are rewarded with instant gratification. Bamn’s menu focuses on fast comfort food: hot dogs, grilled cheese, chicken strips, mac & cheese, etc. So-called ‘waiterless restaurants’ were first brought to the United States from Berlin in 1900, and Horn & Hardart Automats was once the largest chain of restaurants in the world. The last automat closed in 1991. Repeating history, Bamn’s founders came up with the idea of reviving the automat after visiting Amsterdam two years ago. (Fast foodies in The Netherlands never gave up on automats — the Febo chain is a mainstay of Dutch food culture.) Convinced that the “satisfaction is automatic” approach would once again be a hit with New Yorkers, Bamn imported automats from Holland, and set up shop at 37 St. Mark’s Place. Most items are less than USD 2.50, and the retro-futurist snack shack is open 24 hours a day. reported on dormandise (“dormant products, brands, logos, campaigns and spokespersons that still reside in the collective consumer conscience, even though the actual merchandise has long ceased to exist”) a while back. Shall we baptise this concept dormandining? 😉 Hungry, hurried customers in most cities are likely to welcome another option for cheap and super-fast food, especially if it’s available 24/7. So there’s no reason why shiny new automats can’t be a (recycled) hit across the world.



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