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3 Tips to Modernize a School Cafeteria

To complement the efforts of food service teams in enhancing their menu offerings, cafeteria operators need to update technology to provide an excellent experience for their customers. 


In 2018, 62% of all quick-service dining transactions were cashless, with customers utilizing debit and credit payment methods. Cashless dining is creating a quicker, more seamless dining experience, and extends beyond payment cards and into the use of existing student cards. Money loaded onto a student card provides a faster way for students to pay for meals, while allowing parents to remotely manage accounts and add funds through online portals like Volanté’s AMS portal. Visibility and remote management aren’t the only advantages, functions like automatic reloads help regulate spending habits and keep cafeteria spending within budget.

Payment methods such as credit, debit, or digital wallets like Apple Pay allow customers to tap and go, further reducing transaction times. The restaurant chain Sweetgreen found that its cashless locations processed 5 to 15 percent more transactions per hour

For those worried about the setup and maintenance of cashless accounts – account resets can be fully automated, pulling data automatically from a student management system. In addition, eliminating cash transactions can help reduce theft, which has led many schools to adopt complete cashless dining. The 2015 Retail Fraud Survey estimates that U.S. retailers lose $60 billion per year to shrinkage.


Implementing kitchen and POS technology can help your cafeteria reduce paper waste, improve order accuracy, and better manage the influx of orders. With some locations still utilizing pen and paper to calculate their cafeteria transactions, operators certainly struggle to track inventory, reconcile cash, and provide detailed receipts. In addition, paper receipts, especially in student cafeteria environments, tend to immediately find themselves at the bottom of the waste paper bin. 

POS terminals make it easy to print a receipt on demand, thus reducing unnecessary printing. Implementing portals that contain all transaction data to review student transactions eliminates the need for printed receipts altogether.

From a back of house perspective, kitchen management is moving away from standard printers that utilize chits, sometimes making use of 2-PLY paper, and is moving towards more eco-friendly kitchen display screens. Kitchen display screens do not require any paper and also provide details of orders and prep times, helping kitchens better manage their orders. They can also store recipes, and streamline overall kitchen operations.


A digital dining experience allows cafeteria operators to highlight your chef’s creations, showcase specials, and encourage upselling. Implementing digital menu boards makes cafeteria dining a visual and interactive experience. In addition, many digital menu boards are integrated with the POS, to ensure price changes and inventory are reflected in real-time. 

Self-Serve Kiosks guide students through the ordering process, encourage selections of add-ons and extras and are fun and easy to use. This emerging technology provides a sleek, simple, and convenient way to engage with students, allowing them to view their balances, loyalty offerings, and more. 

Online and mobile ordering allows students to plan their meals in advance, and engage with staff at a pick-up counter when retrieving their food. Some campuses have also implemented delivery options in order to bring even more varied dining experiences to students. Colorful customer-facing displays on POS terminals allow students to review their orders for accuracy and can be split-screen to highlight upcoming promotions or items. Showcasing pictures of food has proven to impact people’s ordering behavior. Putting specific items on showcase can help operators promote slow-moving items or items that may have a shorter shelf-life.

A visit to the cafeteria doesn’t just have to be just about the food. Digital technology tools can make it a fun experience and a refreshing break in the busy workday or school day.

Modern-day cafeteria operators need to consider technology tools to help drive buying behavior. Digital tools can be used to encourage upselling, promote specific items, highlight the meals being prepared by their chefs, reduce their footprint, and shorten lines and transaction times. An investment into your cafeteria dining technology goes a long way to improve your student dining experience, promote your hard-working kitchen staff’s delicious menus, and reduce the amount of paper waste that your cafeteria produces. 

Speak to a cafeteria technology expert from Volanté if you’d like to learn more about the many ways that we may be able to help you.