A cafeteria or cafetería is a type of food service location in which there is little or no table service, whether 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 canteen (in UK English). Cafeterias are different from coffeehouses, although that is the Spanish meaning of the English word.
Instead of table service, there are food-serving counters/stalls, either in a line or allowing arbitrary walking paths. Customers take the food they require as they walk along, placing it on a tray. In addition, there are often stations where customers order food and wait while it is prepared, particularly for items such as hamburgers or tacos which must be served hot and can be quickly prepared. Alternatively, the patron is given a number and the item is brought to their table. Sometimes, for some food items and drinks, customers collect an empty container, pay at the check-out, and fill the container after the check-out. Free second servings are often allowed under this system. For legal purposes (and the consumption patterns of customers), this system is rarely or never used for alcoholic beverages.
Customers are either charged a flat rate for admission (as in a 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.
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 residence halls, department stores, hospitals, museums, military bases, prisons, and office buildings often have cafeterias.
boarding school will often require students to help out as part of a rotating chore.
A cafeteria in a U.S. military installation is known as a chow hall, a mess hall, a galley, mess decks or, more formally, a dining facility, whereas in common British Armed Forces parlance, it is known as a cookhouse or mess. Students in the USA often refer to cafeterias as lunchrooms, though breakfast as well as lunch is often eaten there. Cafeterias serving university dormitories are sometimes called dining halls or dining commons. A food court is a type of cafeteria found in many shopping malls and airports featuring multiple food vendors or concessions, although a food court could equally be styled as a type of restaurant] as well, being more aligned with public, rather than institutionalised, dining.
Some monasteries, boarding schools and older universities refer to their cafeteria as a refectory. Modern-day British cathedrals and abbeys, notably in the Church of England, often use the phrase refectory to describe a cafeteria open to the public. Historically, the refectory was generally only used by monks and priests.
A college cafeteria is a term in the United States that denotes a cafeteria that is designed to serve college students at the university. In the UK the word refectory is often used. Also see the different meanings of the word college around the Anglosphere. 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. 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. It is not uncommon for the entire food service operation to be outsourced to a managed services company.
Cafeteria and spanking
In a boarding school setting, especially one with a mix of day students and boarders, the evening meal is a time when all the boarders are assembled in one place. This occasion can be used for a planned public spanking on an issue that effects the entire boarding school, much the same way an assembly during class would be used for a day school.
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