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**History of Cafeterias:**
– The first self-service restaurant in the U.S. was the Exchange Buffet in New York City in 1885.
– John Kruger introduced the American version of smörgåsbords at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition.
– Cafeterias gained popularity in the early 1900s, with Helen Mosher opening a restaurant in L.A.
– Cafeterias’ popularity declined between 1960 and 1981 due to the rise of fast-food restaurants.

**Variety of Names for Cafeterias:**
– U.S. military installations refer to cafeterias as chow halls, mess halls, or dining facilities.
– British Armed Forces call cafeterias cookhouses or messes.
– School cafeterias in the U.S. and Canada are also known as lunchrooms and serve breakfast.
– Some school cafeterias have stages and movable seating, known as cafetoriums or All Purpose Rooms.
– In France, cafeterias originated in schools but expanded to workplaces due to labor laws and health concerns post-World War II.

**Operations in Cafeterias:**
– Cafeterias offer self-service with food counters, stalls, or booths.
– Customers take desired food and place it on a tray.
– Some items like hamburgers are ordered at stations for immediate preparation.
– Payment can be flat rate admission, per item, or by weight of items on a plate.
– Cafeterias are found in schools, colleges, hospitals, museums, and other institutions, often outsourced to food service management companies.

**Industry Insights on Cafeterias:**
– Cafeterias are part of larger institutions like schools, hospitals, and office buildings.
– Food service management companies like Aramark, Compass Group, and Sodexo cater to institutions.
– Upscale cafeteria-style restaurants were prominent in the Southern U.S. and Midwest.
– Chains like Lubys and Piccadilly Cafeterias continue to operate.
– Some smaller chains like MCL Cafeterias in Indianapolis are still in business.

**Global Impact of Cafeterias:**
– Cafeterias originated in the U.S. and expanded globally.
France developed cafeterias in schools in 1881 with the Ferry Law.
– Cafeterias in France expanded to workplaces due to labor laws and health concerns post-World War II.
– Other countries have adopted cafeteria-style dining in schools and workplaces.
– The concept of cafeterias has evolved to meet the needs of diverse populations and institutions.

Cafeteria (Wikipedia)

A cafeteria, sometimes called a canteen outside the U.S. and Canada, is a type of food service location in which there is little or no waiting staff table service, whether in a restaurant or within an institution such as a large office building or school; a school dining location is also referred to as a dining hall or lunchroom (in American English). Cafeterias are different from coffeehouses, although the English term came from the Spanish term cafetería, which carries the same meaning.

A corporate office's cafeteria in Bangalore, India, December 2003.
A student getting food from a school cafeteria

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. In addition, there are often stations where customers order food, particularly items such as hamburgers or tacos 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 check-out, and fill the container after 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 drinks in the United States.

Customers are either charged a flat rate for admission (as in a buffet) or pay at 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 employees or clientele of that institution. For example, schools, colleges and their residence halls, department stores, hospitals, museums, places of worship, amusement parks, military bases, prisons, factories, and office buildings 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, Compass Group, and Sodexo.

At one time, upscale cafeteria-style restaurants dominated the culture of the Southern United States, and to a lesser extent the Midwest. There were numerous prominent chains of them: Bickford's, Morrison's Cafeteria, Piccadilly Cafeteria, S&W Cafeteria, Apple House, Luby's, 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. There were also several smaller chains, usually located in and around a single city. These institutions, except K&W, 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 all-you-can-eat buffets and other casual dining establishments. 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 in Indianapolis, are still in business.

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