"There'll be good, fresh coffee at the Waldorf Lunch today. It's always the same."

waldorf cafeteria downtown albany 1945

Here's what that corner looks like now.

This photo caught our eye this week as we browsed through the Albany Public Library's growing online collection of historical images. The building -- which housed the Waldorf Cafeteria and Rudolph's jewelry -- was on the southeast corner of State and Pearl in downtown Albany. (Here are two more angles from the Albany Flickr group.) This photo is from 1945.

We kind of love the signage.

Curious about the Waldorf Cafeteria, we did a little bit of research. The "Waldorf Lunch System" was one of the first restaurant chains -- it started in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 and eventually expanded to seven states. Here's a clip from some advertising copy for the chain, as highlighted by the trade publication Cafeteria Management in 1922:

HOW A SMALL BANK ACCOUNT -- PLUS A BIG IDEA -- BECAME A $10,000,000 BUSINESS.
More than 17 years ago the first Waldorf Lunch opened its doors to the people of Springfield, Mass. That Waldorf represented an idea, backed by all its founders savings -- the most sum of $1,800. But it was a good idea -- and it prospered because it performed a service the public wanted, and did it well.
Today that idea is represented by the familiar Waldorf Lunch establishments in this city, and in twenty-seven other cities in seven States.
The foundation idea of the Waldorf system is this: the undeviating purpose to maintain worthy dining-laces where they will perform real public service, the purpose to serve tasteful food of unquestionable quality to men and women at such small profit per person that we shall have many patrons to make those small profits profitable to our employees and shareholders.
During the past year the lunch rooms of the Waldorf system have served more than 37,000,000 meals at an average of less than twenty-eight cents each, and at an average profit of a fraction over two cents per meal.
Over $10,000,000 of annual business built up by efficient management, uncompromising standards of quality, cleanliness, courtesy and quick service!
There'll be good, fresh coffee at the Waldorf Lunch today. It's always the same.

The writer of the trade mag article described that last paragraph of the ad copy as "the touch of the word artist."

photo via Albany Public Library History Collection

Comments

There were 3 Waldorf sites on State St. into the 1950s. This, another one on same side of State, just down from Wellington, and a third, below this on State. (If memory serves, there was also one on Central at one point.) The Waldorf System was the closest thing to an Automat Albany ever had.

The Waldorf "System" was to have several sites in a city with a central commissary kitchen. This painted sign survives on the back of a Syracuse building: https://www.flickr.com/photos/army_arch/5409229336/

One of the offices upstairs in this building housed Albany Associates, the Cornings' insurance company. My great-aunt worked as a secretary there for Mayor Erastus Corning's brother, Edwin.

In 1968 i noticed a crowd in front of a downtown bank. They were filming "The Honeymoon killers", a film noir about a true life lonely hearts club murder. They asked if i wanted to be an extra in it. I said i would have to ask my family. They said my family could all be extras. I met them at Jack's restaurant, and was treated to a delicious dinner of filet mignon, and lobster tails. The stars of the movie, Tony LaBianca, and Shirley Stoller ate with the director,and i. After the dinner my parents, sister, and i were extras for their filming in The Waldorf Cafeteria. Passer bys peeked in the cafes windows, so they closed the shades. My parents sat right by the stars. They had to do lots of shots, because my sister, and i giggled,and kept looking at the camera! We had to pretend to enjoy our burgers,and millk shakes! That was hard to do for me after dinner at Jack's. When that scene was done the dilrector treated my sister,and i to Joe's deli. Tony LaBianca asked my sister what she thought of him, and she said she was not interested in anyone who "wore more make-up than she did"! She confided in me "He' ll never go anywhere". Since that film he toured in "Fiorello", the t.v. show "Mr Inside- Mr. Outside" & the pizza shop owner in "The French Connection"! We were invited to their wrap party, but our parents frowned upon us going to a Hollywood type party where they could use drugs, or have orgies! Before that invite i had been considered for a screen test, it never came to be!

Man, I remember these Waldorf Cafeterias. They were so good and so easy to eat and enjoy.
.... You walk in (I can't remember if you paid before or when you left) but you'd walk up to the selection you wanted, whether it was entree, beverage, side-dishes, dessert.... and you open the little door and take your item, put it on the tray and sit down to eat.
.... There was a kitchen staff in the back that kept those little cubby-holes filled with food items from the little doors in the back of the cubby holes.
.... Didn't have to worry about tipping waiters as there were none. And surprisingly, the food was very tasty.
.... They need to revive the cafeteria style eateries.

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