In many schools, the cafeteria is the largest open space. It is often one of the few revenue-generating spaces in the building. Unfortunately, more often than not, it is also underutilized.
If designed progressively, the cafeteria can become more of a cafetorium—a place for eating as well as performance and events. This opens a range of options for uses both during and after school.
Today’s well-designed cafeteria has more in common with a restaurant or food court than a cold, sterile institutional eating space and can have a wide range of benefits.
- Increased revenues from more students choosing to utilize the space.
- A visual representation of school pride and community.
- Greater practice in interpersonal skills, a key focus in 21st century education and a prime indicator of future success.
- Reduced congestion, not only in serving meals to hundreds of students, but also in the flow of students to the classes before and after mealtimes.
- Increased parent and community engagement by providing a space in which people want to congregate.
- Provides a revenue-generating space for private events and functions.
The first step is flexibility. Seating does not have to be provided by huge, immovable benches. Progressive designs incorporate bistro-style seating, booths in which small groups can gather and collaborate, and table that are easy to fold and stow when not in use.
Key in alleviating that sterile feeling is the current ability to incorporate a school’s color scheme and logos into the design. The right sound system and some acoustic panels can help control the overall noise generated by the students. A vibrant space can be created that is more welcoming, boosting the space’s overall value to the school.
Cafetoriums and food courts present an opportunity to transform a school’s culture. It is possible for students to want to spend time (and money) there. It can be a space that can be utilized more than just one hour of the school day. And it can be a center for the community to gather, improving the prospects of the school and the neighborhood as a whole.