As restaurants around the world start to reopen, health concerns are first and foremost, and one New York hospitality maven is betting big on a retro concept for safe food service: the automat. 

Slated to open in the East Village later this summer, Brooklyn Dumpling Shop will feature a number of modern updates implemented with pandemic protocols in mind, from self-cleaning food lockers to contact-free ordering systems. According to owner Stratis Morfogen, a founder of the celebrity-favorite chain Philippe Chow, such measures are simply a matter of common sense. “I want our staff and guests protected at all costs,” he tells Lonely Planet. 

A rendering of the rapid pickup system at Brooklyn Dumpling Shop
Diners will retrieve their dumplings from a self-cleaning locker after placing their order contact-free © Eye Catch

When diners – no more than two at a time – enter the 24-hour quick-serve restaurant, they’ll pass under UV lights and through metal detectors that take their temperature, and those who get the go-ahead will be allowed to proceed to a hands-free ordering kiosk. Those who don’t will be pulled aside for a secondary scan, and they’ll be turned away if they don’t meet the standard. 

Brooklyn Dumpling Shop Exterior Rendering Courtesy Oscar Martinez.jpg
Brooklyn Dumpling Shop is slated to open in Manhattan on the corner of First Avenue and St. Marks later this summer © Oscar Martinez

After placing an order, patrons will wait for the kitchen’s cooks to deliver their dumplings to the bank of lockers. “The locker goes from red, when your order is in, to yellow, which means two minutes out, to green, when you scan your phone on a keypad, the locker opens, and you take your food and go,” Morfogen told the New York Post

The 800-square-foot space will also feature triple-filter air conditioning, antibacterial silicone shoe coverings, and disinfectant strips to monitor treatments on all services, but the technology isn’t the only thing getting a 21st-century upgrade. The menu will boast an array of “sandwich” dumplings, 32 varieties in all –  think: pastrami, bacon cheeseburger, lamb gyro, French onion soup, and peanut butter and jelly – and as the Post reports, they’ll be dispensed via a stainless-steel machine at the pace of 30,000 dumplings an hour. “We call it the dumpling lab,” Morfogen told the paper. 

Pastrami dumpling at the Brooklyn Dumpling Shop
The shop will feature 32 varieties of "sandwich" dumplings, including pastrami © Colin Clark

A quintessential fixture of the city’s dining scene circa the 1950s, the automatic restaurant is finding new relevance in this era of social distancing. “It’s cost-effective, and it’s really safe,” Morfogen tells Lonely Planet. “The only reason the automat failed was because technology failed the automat.” 

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