Speed Up Lunch Lines Lauren Gilchrist by Lauren Gilchrist Lauren Gilchrist Taco Tuesday Enthusiast Read time: As a former recipient of the "Hungriest" senior superlative award, it’s safe to say I enjoyed my lunch hour. But, in every grade aside from senior year, I didn’t have enough time to eat. Come Taco Tuesday, we barely made it through the line before the bell rang, leaving us no time to eat – let alone enjoy – our meticulously crafted taco trays. My high school cafeteria dilemma is not unique; it’s a common struggle many students and lunchroom staff face. How can schools make lunchroom procedures more efficient to ensure students have ample time to fuel their growing bodies and minds? Take a Design-Thinking Approach When trying to develop a solution to a problem like this one, there’s no better approach than the design-thinking mindset. While traditional problem solving may help you reach the conclusion that “the line of students is too long and we don’t have enough time,” looking at the problem from a wider angle will help you dig deeper to discover underlying causes. It’s important to carry out several on-site observations in the cafeteria to make sure you’re asking the right questions and compiling accurate answers. Questions to ask may include: Are there obvious bottlenecks? Does every lunch period face the same issues or do they vary? What circumstances could be causing this variation? Is there space to add another checkout station? How could technology simplify or speed up the process? Skyward Solutions and Peripherals It’s hard to beat technology when it comes to eliminating steps and making procedures more efficient. Let’s look at a few solutions that can improve the flow of your lunch lines: Online payments: When parents and students have access to personal online food service accounts, it’s much easier for them to be sure their accounts never run dry. Through our integration with several popular online payment vendors, parents can make payments with credit or debit cards, check lunch balances, and even set up notifications for when balances run low. A system like this helps decrease the likelihood of students discovering they don't have ample funding to cover their meals when they are already in line. Real-time info & answers to questions: Informational discrepancies are a surefire way to create confusion and clog up an otherwise smoothly-moving lunch line. The Skyward food service module always displays real-time information, from hot lunch counts to newly enrolled students. Profile photos pop up on the screens as students make their way through the line, and food allergy information is immediately available so you can help ensure kids are making safe choices. Barcode readers: Punch or scan and go! Keep the line moving steadily by installing self-service devices for students, such as barcode readers, keypads, or biometric scanners. Programmable cash drawers: You can save valuable seconds during each transaction by installing cash drawers that automatically open when a payment is made. Since these drawers were designed for use with the Skyward food service module, there’s no need to worry about compatibility issues. Custom point-of-sale screens: Consider creating a custom point-of-sale screen for each of your schools that best fits its checkout process and helps the line move as efficiently as possible. Using touchscreen monitors can make tapping buttons even quicker. Online free & reduced lunch applications: Take advantage of the ability to collect free & reduced lunch applications online during the enrollment process. Doing so will help ensure all forms are properly filled out at the start of the year and can be easily accessed by staff at any time. There’s no need to settle for a rush hour experience in the lunchroom. With a systems-thinking approach and the right technology in place, you can make overcrowded, slow-moving lines a thing of the past. Why not make the change this year? From the lunch line to your students’ homes, food service really can be a breeze. Find out more about Skyward Food Service here. Lauren Gilchrist Taco Tuesday Enthusiast Share this story: Want tips, tricks, and feature updates delivered to your inbox once a month? Sign up here!