Why I'm Restoring Horn & Hardart

David Arena, CEO of Horn & Hardart


The Return of the Automat

In 1888, business partners Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart opened a small restaurant in Philadelphia that would go on to become one of the largest restaurant chains in the country. Their secret? A new French-drip style of coffee which was advertised as a gilt-edge (meaning highest quality) brew. Horn & Hardart would eventually revolutionize the way Americans ate with the introduction of the Automat in 1902. Through it all, these visionary founders instilled ideals of innovation, quality, and artistry into every aspect of the company.

Today, 32 years after the last restaurant closed, Horn & Hardart is returning by reintroducing this high-quality coffee in our Automat Box. This is an important step to reestablish the devoted community of Automat enthusiasts while creating a vital revenue source to fund a new chapter of H&H. 

However, just like in 1888, coffee is not the only focus. My larger strategy is to bring the company back in a modern way. This includes a vision to restore the beloved Horn & Hardart Automat and reimagine what Horn & Hardart can provide for the modern consumer, both online and in retail locations.

You may be thinking, are we really going to drop a nickel in a slot at an Automat again? Not exactly, but I believe that the concepts that Horn & Hardart pioneered fit consumers today just as well as it did a century ago: fast service, quality ingredients, beautifully crafted spaces, and seamlessly integrated technology.

Why I’m Going All In

When I first learned about Horn & Hardart I became intrigued by the technology it introduced, the values that guided it for over 100 years, and the profound impact it had on society. There is no question in my mind that Horn & Hardart has a place in today’s array of restaurant options.

As many fast-casual restaurants shift towards automation, I see them also shift away from people-centered connection, prioritizing machines over employees and profits over people. My plan to restore the Automat is focused on innovation where it helps and people where it matters. 

I am resolute in my commitment to building back H&H with the same ideals set forth by its founders: innovation, artistry, and quality. My goal is that Horn & Hardart will once again be a steward of corporate responsibility in the food we eat, the spaces we create, the way our communities gather, and the role technology plays in our restaurants. 

    It won't happen overnight, but I hope that you will join us on this journey so that we can #restoretheautomat