Reviving Horn & Hardart: Why We Started with Coffee

One year ago, we embarked on a journey to revive Horn & Hardart by reintroducing Automat Coffee. But why did we start with coffee before even considering reopening the Automat? What does coffee have to do with restoring this beloved institution?

To understand this decision, we must rewind to the origins of Horn & Hardart. Founded in 1888 by Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart, the company began as a small restaurant in Philadelphia. What set them apart was their introduction of a new French-drip style of coffee, touted as a gilt-edge brew of the highest quality. This coffee became synonymous with the brand's identity and was instrumental in launching their success.

However, over the years, Horn & Hardart experienced a decline, marked by management missteps and a departure from the very thing that made it unique—the Automat. In the 1970s and 80s, the company shifted away from its core concept, leading to a stagnation in innovation and ultimately, the closure of its restaurants.

Recognizing both the potential for revival and the need for a strategic roadmap, our first step was to reintroduce Automat Coffee to today’s consumers. This decision served multiple purposes:

  • Reintroducing Automat Coffee allowed us to gauge the level of enthusiasm and nostalgia for Horn & Hardart. Through interactions with customers we have gained invaluable insights into what made Horn & Hardart special and the level of interest people have in seeing its return.
  • Automat Coffee served a catalyst in the process of reestablishing the Horn & Hardart brand. By focusing on a single product, we are able to concentrate our efforts on crafting a narrative that resonates with today's audience while paying homage to the company's esteemed legacy. 
  • Automat Coffee provides a vital revenue source to fund our efforts in reviving Horn & Hardart. This initial step was not only about reconnecting with the brand's heritage but also about laying the financial groundwork necessary for future expansions, including reopening the Automat.

So, what does coffee have to do with restoring the Automat? In essence, everything. Automat Coffee serves as the foundation upon which we could build a thoughtful and strategic approach to reopening the Automat. By honoring the original while embracing innovative opportunities for today's consumers, we aim to breathe new life into this iconic institution.

The decision to start with coffee was not merely about beverages; it was about reconnecting with the essence of Horn & Hardart, understanding our past, and paving the way for our future. As we continue on this journey of revival, we remain committed to honoring the legacy of Horn & Hardart while embracing the possibilities of tomorrow.