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A cafeteria, sometimes called a canteen outside the
U.S. The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all ...

U.S.
, is a type of
food service Food service (US English) or catering industry (British English) defines those businesses, institutions, and companies responsible for any meal prepared outside the home. This industry includes restaurant A restaurant (), or an eatery, is a ...
location in which there is little or no
waiting staff Waiting staff (British English), waitstaff (North American English), waiters (male)/waitresses (female) or servers (North American English), are those who work at a restaurant or a Bar (establishment), bar and sometimes in private homes, att ...
table service, whether a
restaurant A restaurant is a business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." ...

restaurant
or within an institution such as a large office building or
school A school is an educational institution An educational institution is a place where people of different ages gain an education, including preschools, childcare, primary-elementary schools, secondary-high schools, and universities. They p ...

school
; a school dining location is also referred to as a dining hall or
lunchroom A cafeteria, sometimes called a canteen outside the U.S. The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a c ...
(in
American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English is the m ...
). Cafeterias are different from
coffeehouse A coffeehouse, coffee shop, or café is an establishment that primarily serves coffee of various types, e.g. espresso, latte, and cappuccino. Some coffeehouses may serve cold drinks, such as iced coffee, iced tea, and other non-caffeinated be ...

coffeehouse
s, although the English term came from Latin American
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
, where it had and still has the meaning "coffeehouse". Instead of table service, there are food-serving counters/stalls or booths, either in a line or allowing arbitrary walking paths. Customers take the food that they desire as they walk along, placing it on a
tray A tray is a shallow platform designed for the carrying of items. It can be fashioned from numerous materials, including silver Silver is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisti ...
. In addition, there are often stations where customers order food, particularly items such as
hamburger A hamburger (or burger for short) is a , typically considered a , consisting of one or more cooked —usually , typically —placed inside a sliced or . The patty may be , , smoked or . Hamburgers are often served with , , , , , , or ; s such ...

hamburger
s or
taco A taco (, , ) is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of a small hand-sized corn Maize ( ; ''Zea mays'' subsp. ''mays'', from es, maíz after tnq, mahiz), also known as corn (North American North America is a continent entir ...

taco
s which must be served hot and can be immediately prepared with little waiting. Alternatively, the patron is given a number and the item is brought to their table. For some food items and drinks, such as sodas, water, or the like, customers collect an empty container, pay at the check-out, and fill the container after the check-out. Free unlimited second servings are often allowed under this system. For legal purposes (and the consumption patterns of customers), this system is rarely, if at all, used for
alcoholic drink An alcoholic drink is a drink A drink (or beverage) is a liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible In fluid mechanics or more generally continuum mechanics, incompressible flow (isochoric process, isochoric flow) refers to a fluid f ...
s in the United States. Customers are either charged a flat rate for admission (as in a
buffet A buffet can be either a sideboard (a flat-topped piece of furniture with cupboards and drawers, used for storing crockery, glasses, and table linen) or a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area where the diners serve ...

buffet
) or pay at the check-out for each item. Some self-service cafeterias charge by the weight of items on a patron's plate. In universities and colleges, some students pay for three meals a day by making a single large payment for the entire semester. As cafeterias require few employees, they are often found within a larger institution, catering to the clientele of that institution. For example,
school A school is an educational institution An educational institution is a place where people of different ages gain an education, including preschools, childcare, primary-elementary schools, secondary-high schools, and universities. They p ...

school
s,
college A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in rel ...

college
s and their
residence halls A dormitory (originated from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through ...

residence halls
,
department store A department store is a retail Retail is the sale of goods In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics) ...
s,
hospital A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized Medical Science, health science and Allied Healthcare, auxiliary healthcare staff and medical equipment. The best-known type of hospital is the general hospit ...

hospital
s,
museum A museum ( ; plural museums or, rarely, musea) is a building or institution that cares for and displays a collection Collection or Collections may refer to: * Cash collection, the function of an accounts receivable department * Collec ...

museum
s,
places of worship A place of worship is a specially designed structure or space where individuals or a group of people such as a congregation A congregation is a large gathering of people, often for the purpose of worship. Congregation may also refer to: *Churc ...

places of worship
,
amusement park Wonder Mountain at Canada's Wonderland An amusement park is a park that features various attractions, such as rides and games, as well as other events for entertainment purposes. A theme park is a type of amusement park that bases its struc ...
s,
military base A military base is a facility directly owned and operated by or for the military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense arm ...
s,
prison A prison, also known as a jail or gaol (dated, English language in England, standard English, Australian English, Australian, and Huron Historic Gaol, historically in Canada), penitentiary (American English and Canadian English), detention ...

prison
s,
factories A factory, manufacturing plant or a production plant is an industrial Industrial may also refer to: Industry * Industrial archaeology, the study of the history of the industry * Industrial engineering, engineering dealing with the optimization ...

factories
and
office buildings An office is generally a building A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. Buildings come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and functions, and h ...
often have cafeterias. Although some of such institutions self-operate their cafeterias, many outsource their cafeterias to a food service management company or lease space to independent businesses to operate food service facilities. The three largest food service management companies servicing institutions are
Aramark Aramark Corporation, known commonly as Aramark, is an American food service, facilities, and uniform services provider to clients in areas including education, healthcare, business, prisons, and leisure. It operates in North America Nor ...

Aramark
,
Compass Group Compass Group plc is a British multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state ...
, and
Sodexo Sodexo (formerly Sodexho Alliance) is a French food services Food service (US English) or Catering, catering industry (British English) defines those businesses, institutions, and companies responsible for any meal prepared outside the home. T ...

Sodexo
. At one time, upscale cafeteria-style restaurants dominated the culture of the
Southern United States The Southern United States, also referred to as the Southern States, the American South, Dixie, the Southland, or simply the South, is a geographic and cultural region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally ...
, and to a lesser extent the
Midwest The Midwestern United States, also referred to as the Midwest or the American Midwest, is one of four Census Bureau Region, census regions of the United States Census Bureau (also known as "Region 2"). It occupies the northern central part of ...
. There were numerous prominent chains of them: Bickford's,
Morrison's Cafeteria Morrison's Cafeterias was a chain of cafeteria-style restaurants, located in the Southeastern United States with a concentration of locations in Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia and Florida. Generally found in shopping malls, Morrison's primary compet ...
,
Piccadilly Cafeteria Piccadilly Restaurants is a group of cafeteria-style, casual dining restaurants in seven, mainly southeastern United States with the majority located in the Gulf Coast of the United States, Gulf Coast region. They are owned by Piccadilly Holdings ...
,
S&W Cafeteria
S&W Cafeteria
, Apple House,
Luby's Luby's, Inc. (formerly Luby's Cafeterias, Inc.) is a parent company that operates restaurants under the brands Luby's, Fuddruckers, Koo Koo Roo, and Cheeseburger in Paradise (restaurant), Cheeseburger in Paradise. 77 Luby's Cafeteria, cafeteria-st ...
, K&W, Britling, Wyatt's Cafeteria and Blue Boar among them. Currently, two Midwestern chains still exist, Sloppy Jo's Lunchroom and Manny's, which are both located in
Illinois Illinois ( ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspape ...

Illinois
. There were also a number of smaller chains, usually located in and around a single city. These institutions, with the exception of K&W, went into a decline in the 1960s with the rise of
fast food Fast food is a type of Mass production, mass-produced food designed for commercial resale and with a strong priority placed on "speed of service" versus other relevant factors involved in food science, culinary science. Fast food was created a ...

fast food
and were largely finished off in the 1980s by the rise of "
casual dining Restaurants fall into several industry classifications, based upon menu style, preparation methods and pricing, as well as the means by which the food is served to the customer. Origin of categories Historically, ''restaurant'' referred only to ...
". A few chains — particularly Luby's and Piccadilly Cafeterias (which took over the Morrison's chain in 1998) — continue to fill some of the gap left by the decline of the older chains. Some of the smaller Midwestern chains, such as MCL Cafeterias centered on
Indianapolis Indianapolis (), colloquially known as Indy, is the List of U.S. state and territorial capitals, state capital and List of U.S. states' largest cities by population, most-populous city of the U.S. state of Indiana and the county seat, seat of ...

Indianapolis
, are still very much in business.


History

Perhaps the first self-service restaurant (not necessarily a cafeteria) in the U.S. was the Exchange Buffet in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
, opened September 4, 1885, which catered to an exclusively male clientele. Food was purchased at a counter and patrons ate standing up. This represents the predecessor of two formats: the cafeteria, described below and the
automat An automat is a fast food restaurant where simple foods and drinks are served by vending machines. The world's first automat was named Quisisana, which opened in Berlin, Germany in 1895. By country Germany The first automat in the world was t ...

automat
. During the 1893
World's Columbian Exposition The World's Columbian Exposition (the official shortened name for the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair) was a world's fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columb ...
in
Chicago (''City in a Garden''); I Will , image_map = , map_caption = Interactive map of Chicago , coordinates = , coordinates_footnotes = , subdivision_type = Country , subdivision_name ...

Chicago
, entrepreneur John Kruger built an American version of the
smörgåsbord Smörgåsbord () is a type of Scandinavia Scandinavia; Sami languages, Sami: ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a Subregion#Europe, subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In English us ...

smörgåsbord
s he had seen while traveling in Sweden. Emphasising the simplicity and light fare, he called it the 'Cafeteria' - Spanish for 'coffee shop'. The exposition attracted over 27 million visitors (half the U.S. population at the time) in six months, and it was because of Kruger's operation that America first heard the term and experienced the self-service dining format.Amy Zuber
"Samuel & William Childs"
''Nations Restaurant News'', February 1996
"A Restaurant Timeline"
''CuisineNet Diner's Digest'', retrieved April 28, 2009
Meanwhile, in mid-scale America, the chain of
Childs Restaurants Childs Restaurants was one of the first national restaurant chain, dining chains in the United States and Canada, having peaked in the 1920s and 1930s with about 125 locations in dozens of markets, serving over 50,000,000 meals a year, with over $ ...
quickly grew from about 10 locations in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
in 1890 to hundreds across the U.S. and
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, ...

Canada
by 1920. Childs is credited with the innovation of adding trays and a "tray line" to the self-service format, introduced in 1898 at their 130 Broadway location. Childs did not change its format of sit-down dining, however. This was soon the standard design for most Childs Restaurants, and many ultimately the dominant design for cafeterias. It has been conjectured that the 'cafeteria craze' started in May 1905, when Helen Mosher opened a downtown L.A. restaurant where people chose their food at a long counter and carried their trays to their tables. California has a long history in the cafeteria format - notably the Boos Brothers Cafeterias, and the and Schaber's. The earliest cafeterias in California were opened at least 12 years after Kruger's Cafeteria, and Childs already had many locations around the country.
Horn & Hardart Horn & Hardart was a food services company in the United States noted for operating the first food service automats in Philadelphia and New York City. Philadelphia's Joseph Horn (1861–1941) and German-born, New Orleans-raised Frank Hardart (1850 ...
, an
automat An automat is a fast food restaurant where simple foods and drinks are served by vending machines. The world's first automat was named Quisisana, which opened in Berlin, Germany in 1895. By country Germany The first automat in the world was t ...

automat
format chain (different from cafeterias), was well established in the mid-Atlantic region before 1900. Between 1960 and 1981, the popularity of cafeterias was overcome by the
fast food restaurant A fast food restaurant, also known as a quick service restaurant (QSR) within the industry, is a specific type of restaurant that serves fast food cuisine and has minimal Foodservice#Table service, table service. The food served in fast fo ...
and
fast casual restaurant A fast casual restaurant, found primarily in the United States and Canada, does not offer full table service, but advertises Food quality, higher quality food than fast food restaurants, with fewer frozen or processed ingredients. It is an interm ...
formats. Outside the United States, the development of cafeterias can be observed in France as early as 1881 with the passing of the Ferry Law. This law mandated that public school education be available to all children. Accordingly, the government also encouraged schools to provide meals for students in need, thus resulting in the conception of cafeterias or cantine (in French). According to Abramson, prior to the creation of cafeterias, only some students were able to bring home-cooked meals and able to be properly fed in schools. As cafeterias in France became more popular, their use spread beyond schools and into the workforce. Thus, due to pressure from workers and eventually new labor laws, sizable businesses had to, at minimum, provide established eating areas for its workers. Support for this practice was also reinforced by the effects of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
when the importance of national health and nutrition came under great attention.


Other names

A cafeteria in a
U.S. military The United States Armed Forces are the military forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between ...

U.S. military
installation is known as a chow hall, a mess hall, a galley, mess decks or, more formally, a dining facility, often abbreviated to DFAC, whereas in common
British Armed Forces The British Armed Forces, also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces, are the military, military services responsible for the defence of the United Kingdom, its British Overseas Territories, overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. They a ...
parlance, it is known as a
cookhouse A cookhouse is a small building where cooking takes place. Often found at remote work camps, they complemented the bunkhouse A bunkhouse is a barracks Barracks are usually a group of long buildings built to house military personnel or laborer ...

cookhouse
or
mess The mess (also called a mess deck aboard ships) is an area where military personnel Military personnel are members of the state's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized forc ...

mess
. Students in the United States often refer to cafeterias as lunchrooms, which also often serve school breakfast. Some school cafeterias in the U.S. and Canada have stages and movable seating that allow use as auditoriums. These rooms are known as cafetoriums. In some older facilities, a school's
gym A gymnasium, also known as a gym, is a covered location for . The word is derived from the . They are commonly found in athletic and centres, and as activity and s in educational institutions. "Gym" is also slang for "", which is often an are ...

gym
nasium is also often used as a cafeteria with the kitchen facility being hidden behind a rolling partition outside non-meal hours. Cafeterias serving university dormitories are sometimes called ''dining halls'' or ''dining commons''. A
food court A food court (in Asia-Pacific also called food hall or hawker centre) is generally an indoor plaza or common area within a facility that is contiguous with the counters of multiple food vendors and provides a common area for self-serve dinner. It ...

food court
is a type of cafeteria found in many
shopping mall A shopping mall (or simply mall) is a North American term for a large indoor shopping center A shopping center (American English) or shopping centre (Commonwealth English), also called a shopping complex, shopping arcade, shopping plaza or ga ...

shopping mall
s and
airport An airport is an aerodrome An aerodrome (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval En ...

airport
s featuring multiple food vendors or concessions, although a food court could equally be styled as a type of
restaurant A restaurant is a business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is "any activity or enterprise entered into for profit." ...

restaurant
as well, being more aligned with public, rather than institutionalised, dining. Some institutions, especially schools, have food courts with stations offering different types of food served by the institution itself (self-operation) or a single contract management company, rather than leasing space to numerous businesses. Some
monasteries A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical langua ...

monasteries
, boarding schools, and older universities refer to their cafeteria as a ''
refectory A refectory (also frater, frater house, fratery) is a dining room, especially in monastery, monasteries, boarding schools and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminary, seminaries. The name d ...

refectory
''. Modern-day British
cathedral A cathedral is a church Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services and other Christian religious activities. The term is used ...

cathedral
s and
abbey An abbey is a type of monastery A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in Cenobitic monasticism, communities or alone (hermits). A mo ...

abbey
s, notably in the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
, often use the phrase refectory to describe a cafeteria open to the public. Historically, the
refectory A refectory (also frater, frater house, fratery) is a dining room, especially in monastery, monasteries, boarding schools and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminary, seminaries. The name d ...

refectory
was generally only used by monks and priests. For example, although the original 800-year-old refectory at
Gloucester Cathedral Gloucester Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England Gloucester ( ) is a cathedral city and the county town of Gloucestershire in the South West of England. Gloucester lie ...

Gloucester Cathedral
(the stage setting for dining scenes in the
Harry Potter ''Harry Potter'' is a series of seven fantasy literature, fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The novels chronicle the lives of a young Magician (fantasy), wizard, Harry Potter (character), Harry Potter, and his friends H ...

Harry Potter
movies) is now mostly used as a choir practice area, the relatively modern 300-year-old extension, now used as a cafeteria by staff and public alike, is today referred to as the refectory. A cafeteria located within a movie or TV studio complex is often called a
commissary A commissary is a government official charged with oversight or an ecclesiastical official who exercises in special circumstances the jurisdiction of a bishop. In many countries, the term is used as an administrative or police title. It often cor ...
.


College cafeteria

In American English, a ''college cafeteria'' is a cafeteria intended for college students. In British English it is often called the ''
refectory A refectory (also frater, frater house, fratery) is a dining room, especially in monastery, monasteries, boarding schools and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminary, seminaries. The name d ...

refectory
''. 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 number of meals served to students varies from school to school, but is normally around 21 meals per week. Like normal cafeterias, a person will have a tray to select the food that they want, but (at some campuses) instead of paying money, pays 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 details of the plan are stored on a computer system. Student ID cards are then used to access the meal plan. Meal plans can vary widely in their details and are often not necessary to eat at a college cafeteria. Typically, the college tracks students' usage of their plan by counting the number of predefined 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, on nearby streets, or in the surrounding town or city may accept meal plans. 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

*
Automat An automat is a fast food restaurant where simple foods and drinks are served by vending machines. The world's first automat was named Quisisana, which opened in Berlin, Germany in 1895. By country Germany The first automat in the world was t ...

Automat
*
Coffee service Coffee service refers to the many and various styles in which coffee is made available to people, such as in restaurants and hotels. Coffee service is also a catch-all term for services related to the delivery of coffee to employees of a busines ...
*
Coffeehouse A coffeehouse, coffee shop, or café is an establishment that primarily serves coffee of various types, e.g. espresso, latte, and cappuccino. Some coffeehouses may serve cold drinks, such as iced coffee, iced tea, and other non-caffeinated be ...

Coffeehouse
*
Food court A food court (in Asia-Pacific also called food hall or hawker centre) is generally an indoor plaza or common area within a facility that is contiguous with the counters of multiple food vendors and provides a common area for self-serve dinner. It ...

Food court
*
Hawker centre A hawker centre or cooked food centre is an open-air complex commonly found in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore. They were built to provide a more sanitary alternative to mobile hawker carts and contain many stalls that sells different variet ...

Hawker centre
*
List of cafeterias This is a list of cafeterias. A cafeteria is a type of food service location in which there is little or no waiting staff table service, whether a restaurant or within an institution such as a large office building or school; a school dining locat ...
*
Refectory A refectory (also frater, frater house, fratery) is a dining room, especially in monastery, monasteries, boarding schools and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminary, seminaries. The name d ...

Refectory
* *


References

{{reflist Rooms Restaurants by type