Q&A with Marianne Hardart, co-author of 'The Automat'

Horn & Hardart CEO, David Arena, sat down to talk with Marianne Hardart about the Automat. 

Marianne Hardart co-authored "The Automat: The History, Recipes, and Allure of Horn & Hardart's Masterpiece" with Lorraine B. Diehl. "The Automat" explores the rich history, culture, and culinary legacy of Horn & Hardart's groundbreaking Automat restaurants through archival photos, interviews, recipes, and more.

June 9, 2024 at 12 p.m. ET, 50 copies of The Automat, graciously supplied by Marianne Hardart herself, will be made available. Sign up for alerts at this link!

David: From your perspective, what made Horn & Hardart so special?

Marianne: One was the commissary in Philadelphia and New York, where most of the food was prepared. For quality control and freshness, that was really helpful. Then there was also a tasting table where the executives would taste any new recipes, seasonal recipes, or anything if anyone complained about anything. The overall quality control measures were intense and systematic. 

The other thing that the co-founders, Frank Hardart and Joe Horn, had in common was a passion for the experience that people had when they came to the restaurants. It wasn't just about serving people a good meal, it was making people have a full experience in their restaurants. That went on behind the scenes too. So many people I met who worked at Horn & Hardart talked about how you felt that family feeling in the way they took care of people and treated people within the business. 

David: In an interview after the initial release of the book you are quoted saying “My father would always come out with these outrageous stories” in reference to his time as VP and treasurer. What are some examples of the stories he would tell?

Marianne: One I remember in particular is about my grandfather. He was a character and a bit of a prankster. He heard about someone who was stealing butter from the commissary. So he addressed it by casually running into this person on his way home. It was July or August and just struck up a conversation and kept chatting with him until after a little while, the butter started dripping down his hat.

David: We are asked all the time about H&H recipes. How did you determine what recipes to include in the book? 

Marianne: Some of it was availability. We couldn't find recipes for every favorite that people would mention. So we did our best to find what we could. Some of the recipes were already broken down into household sized recipes and some of them were in commercial quantities on restaurant recipe sheets. I worked with a nutritionist and she broke down the recipes and tested them.

David: What would a revival of the Automat mean to you?

Marianne: I do think that what it stood for is needed today more than ever in terms of the respect that they had for their customers, for the bricks and mortar, for the people who worked there, and for each other. I know that you have ideas and have thought about this very carefully and you know how to do that in a way that's actually sustainable and can succeed. And I'm excited about it. I'll be there!