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The Horn & Hardart Co., one of America's pioneering restaurant companies and owner of New York City's last Automat, has announced plans to divest the last of its eateries.

Horn & Hardart, headquartered in Weehawken, N.J., near New York, said that by the end of March it will sell or otherwise divest the 83-unit buffet-style International King's Table Inc., which operates on the West Coast.

The move would mark the end of the company's storied foray into food, which dates to the turn of the century when luncheonette owners Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart teamed up in 1902 to open their first Automat in Philadelphia.

At its heyday, there were 40 of the buffet-style Automats in New York. The waiterless eatspots were once considered the wave of the future but were overwhelmed by the explosive growth in hamburger drive-ins and other quantum leaps in fast food.

The company already has put up for sale its last Automat on 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan, its five Tony Roma's restaurants in New York City and the Paddlewheel Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where the company is incorporated.

The divestment leaves Horn & Hardart with Hanover Direct Inc., a direct marketing subsidiary that publishes 22 specialized catalogs in four segments -- women's and men's fashion, home furnishings and giftware.

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