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Monday, June 18, 2012

The coin-operated happy hour

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 9:02 AM

A wine dispensing system and beer vending machine at Press It.
  • Ian McNulty
  • A wine dispensing system and beer vending machine at Press It.

Signs heralding its future opening appeared quite some time ago, stoking curiosity about just what Press It Bistrot & Automat would look like and how it would function. “Automat,” after all, references a type of coin-operated food dispenser, and the cheap, quick-serve eateries that used them were once a fixture of American cities, starting back in 1902 when the company Horn & Hardart opened the first in Philadelphia.

Press It Bistrot & Automat is now open in the CBD, and it does have some automation to it, though don’t expect any vintage apparatus of chromed-out, food-dispensing cubbies. Rather, this restaurant has a very contemporary look, with flat screen TVs and menu displays, a lounge-meets-coffee shop ambiance and a number of different service styles, most of which are already familiar enough.

Press It Bistrot & Automat is in the ground floor of the Exchange Center.
  • Ian McNulty
  • Press It Bistrot & Automat is in the ground floor of the Exchange Center.

Pre-made lunch items like wraps, salads, personal pizzas and panini are stocked in a corner of the room for people who just want to grab and go, while you can also get the same items prepared fresh at the deli line by punching in your order at self-serve kiosks. There’s an online ordering function on the restaurant’s Web site and a phone app too. Press It also has a selection of gelato, pastries and other sweets from Sucre.

The automat part of the operation concerns beer and wine. Beer is sold by the bottle from vending machines, while wine is dispensed directly from the bottle using a card-operated system. You pay for your drinks at the register, where a cashier can verify your age and then issue tokens (for the beer) or a prepaid card (for the wine) to operate the vending machines. Wine can be purchased by the glass or by the ounce for sampling. Press It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the drink machines seem aimed squarely at the happy hour crowd.

Press It is in the ground floor of the Exchange Center (formerly the Chevron Building) and its developers have expansion ambitions. The concept comes from Doyle International, a New Orleans-based restaurant company that specializes in franchising, and marketing director Brittany Earle says the business model is intended for duplication in other office buildings and at airports.

Press It Bistrot & Automat
935 Gravier St., 800-928-3960

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