From Academic Kids

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One of a number of cafeterias at Electronic City campus, Infosys Technologies Ltd., Bangalore, India. The clientele are employees of the company.

A cafeteria is a type of restaurant in which there is no table service. Instead, patrons select items that they want, placing them on a tray, and then report to a cashier to pay.

As cafeterias require few employees, they are often found within a larger institution, catering to the clientele of that institution. For example, schools, colleges and their halls of residence, department stores, museums, and office buildings often have cafeterias.

At one time, cafeteria-style restaurants dominated the dining-out culture of the Southern United States, and there were several prominent chains of them: Morrison's, Blue Boar, and S & W among them. These institutions went into a decline in the 1960s with the rise of fast food and were largely finished off in the 1980s by the rise of "casual dining". However, newer chains, notably Luby's and Picadilly Cafeteria, have arisen to fill some of the gap left by the decline of the older chains.


Other names

A cafeteria in a military institution is known as a mess hall. Some monasteries and boarding schools refer to their cafeteria as a refectory. Students often refer to cafeterias as lunchrooms, though breakfast as well as lunch is often eaten there.

College cafeteria

A College Cafeteria is one that is designed to serve college students at the university. These cafeterias can be a part of a residence hall or in a separate building. Many of these colleges employ their own students to work in the cafeteria. The amount of meals served to students varies from school to school, but is normally around 20 meals per week. Like normal cafeterias, a person will have a tray to select the food that they want, but instead of paying money, they pay beforehand by purchasing a meal plan.

The method of payment for college cafeterias is commonly in the form of a meal plan, whereby the patron pays a certain amount at the start of the semester and the details of the plan are stored on a computer system. Student ID cards are then used to access the meal plan. A meal plan is not necessary to eat at a college cafeteria however. Meal plans can vary widely in their details to best fit the needs of the students. Typically, the college tracks the student's usage of their plan by counting either the number of pre-defined meal servings, points, dollars, or number of buffet dinners. The plan may give the student a certain number of any of the above per week or semester and they may or may not roll over to the next week or semester.

Many schools offer several different options for using their meal plans. The main cafeteria is usually where most of the meal plan is used but smaller cafeterias, cafés, restaurants, bars, or even fast food chains located on campus may accept meal plans. College cafeterias are prone to having poor food due to the lack of competition. A college cafeteria system often has a virtual monopoly on the students due to an isolated location or a requirement that residence contracts include a full meal plan.


See also


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