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Has Fast Food Killed off all the cafeterias??

  • m

are there any cafeterias where you live?? do you even know what a cafeteria is??

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  1. Yes. Other than institutions and some large companies, Ikea comes to mind.

    1. Great topic and growing up in the northeast, we did have plenty of them.
      I always looked at a cafeteria and a cost conscious, appetizing way of selling food. In fact there are many of them still in business here in NYC. Many are serving foods from the owners homeland, in areas where they and their compatriots live. these cafeterias tend to be small without wait staff and a few tables. The food displayed on a typical hot or cold counter, behind glass.

      If I recall the cafeterias of my youth from the 50's and 60's it is more like Horn & Hardart...

      In essence 'fast food" establishments became a different way to market food, and have taken the tray you would carry to your table with your selections, to a bag of food handed to you in the front seat of your car with a beverage you so proudly place in your cupholder.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PHREDDY

        The type of place you describe is popular in the Latin and Chinese Communities. The Latin places usually feature specials for a day of the week. You can get small or large portions with rice and beans.

        In NYC Chinatown, there are places where you pick 4 items and come with rice for <$5. There are also many places combined with food shopping that have tremendous selections of prepared foods, some have table, but most do not.

        If I lived closer to either...there would be no need to cook.

        BTW...Finally, Some *Cafeteria* in the Latin community are not, or do not resemble the cafeterias we are talking about here. They are more Luncheonettes. Places like these will serve Empanels, Croquettes and Sandwiches, no steam table food.

        1. re: PHREDDY

          For us Delaware Valley residents, H&H was a favorite childhood haunt. Whether in Willow Grove, PA or Market Street in Philly, you knew you were getting the same quality fare. And it was good!

          The long standing Colonnade (going back to the 1920s through the 60s) had a breakfast menu featuring a machine for fresh squeezed orange juice, waffles to order and an amazing array of fresh fruits, omelets and pastries. Alas, long gone.

          In the 70s through 1991, we had Steve Poses' Commissary in Philly where he made carrot cake a household staple.

          If anyone has the opportunity to be invited to lunch at The Center for Advanced Studies in Princeton, you will have the paramount cafeteria experience of the world - bar none!

        2. Cafeterias are alive and well...in hospitals and colleges. I live in the PNW.

          The general public can go there and eat anytime. I just don't know why anyone would. Mass produced ordinary food in warming trays is less of a lunchtime desire, than a FF burger.

          9 Replies
          1. re: sedimental

            Old Country Buffet has a modest number of locations in Washington and Oregon. Nationwide their locations seem to match population densities.

            Years ago Bishops Buffet was a family favorite in Iowa and Indiana. That seemed to be most popular with the Sunday after-church crowd.

            Casinos still pull in good business with buffets.

            Is there a difference between cafeterias and buffets? I suspect there are region differences. Bishops for example was modestly upscale, better than institutional cafeterias. If anything it was chains like Olive Garden that did them in.

            1. re: paulj

              Old Country Buffets pulled out of the Northeast market 5+ years ago. There use to be 3-4 within an hour drive of me they have all closed.

              The primary difference in my experience is a buffet you serve yourself and is generally all you can eat for one set price. A cafeteria you walk down the line, select foods priced on a per serving or per plate basis, and pay for what you have selected. Cafeterias are not all you can eat.

              1. re: jrvedivici

                Bishops was like your cafeteria description. I think they used the 'buffet' name to sound more upscale.

              2. re: paulj

                Cafeterias and buffets are two different things.

                  1. re: paulj

                    In general,

                    In cafeterias (like on most colleges campuses, hospitals, work places) there are a few set entrees that are dished up together (chicken/dumpling meal or Salisbury steak/potato meal), or you can order separate items like soup, salad, sandwich. You can choose from a few dessert items. Pay when your tray is full, for what is on it, before you sit down to eat.

                    In buffets, usually now AYCE, you pay a single price up front, and can choose from a variety of items. There are no "meals" and you can't order a grilled sandwich or burger, etc.

              3. re: sedimental

                The last two hospitals I had to spend any time (visiting...Toronto Western and Toronto General), didn't have cafeterias. They had food courts instead.

                1. re: Sooeygun

                  Food Courts -- Is that where they put each meal on trial?

              4. San Francisco still has Tommy's Joynt. There used to be a whole bunch of similar places called Hofbraus, long gone.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mwhitmore

                  There are still 3 Harry's Hofbraus- I frequent the San Leandro location for the excellent beer selection, believe it or not:


                  Brennan's in Berkeley is still going strong, and, again, not too shabby a beer list:


                  1. I am in Silicon Valley (California). There are many cafeterias in the "work" areas, not too many in the "residential" areas.

                    We have both stand alone cafeterias and company sponsored.

                    1. Having grown up in Central NJ I never experienced cafeterias here, but with several trips a year to North Carolina I did get chances to experience them then. K&W was and still is the most popular down there, serving good ole' southern comfort food. I still try to make it a point of visiting one when I'm in town visiting family, nothing like their chicken n dumplings. Yummmmm

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        I used to get a kick out of going to K&W in Myrtle Beach for one meal when on golf trips....I would fill up two trays for myself.

                        I miss Morrison's as well. My introduction to them was back in the 70's from friend's during college.

                        If I ever hit Lotto, I plan to open a cafeteria down in South Jersey. I figure Monmouth, Ocean or below. I've mentioned this before somewhere, but I can't seem to find it. I would look for a distressed property with a big parking lot...Kind of the like the shopping mall off of the Asbury Circle (66/67?), where there was a Value City anchor store. I would charge $4.99 for a Blue Plate special, kind of a meat an three. extra sides would be 79 cents and desserts a buck. I would get the state to be involved to fund it. I would hire those who were on Unemployment or those who have been non-violent criminal offenders who need to be be reintroduced into society. I'd also make it a training ground for a culinary program for the under privileged....or a place for internship. Any profits would be donated to local charities.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            From what I remember (it's been at least 5 years since I've been to one) that seems like a similar price point to K&W, and obviously they are for profit.

                            Nice idea though.....

                        1. Sbarro is somewhat like a cafeteria.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: kagemusha49

                              Yes, for the second time in the past 5(?) years? I actually posted about it on Food News and Media.

                          1. They are still popular in Texas. Luby's and Furr's especially.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                              Not to mention the Highland Park Cafeteria (Dallas area)

                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                It's been a long time but years ago I really liked Furr's or Wyatt's cafeteria. "Fried" fish with tarter sauce was always on the menu for me. But when push came to shove and it was my choice, it was Wyatt's for their infamous eggplant casserole as a side. Oh yeah ~ good stuff.

                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                  I was responsible for a mall in Waco in the 80's that had a Piccadilly Cafeteria that I thought was pretty good and well managed. It is now gone, and so is the Lake Air Mall. Malls are no longer "cool" and not a single one has been built in the US for 8 years.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    "...not a single (mall) has been built in the US for 8 years."

                                    Not true. It's also off topic for CH, so I'm not going to go into lots of detail, but there have been a few.

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      Where, and what size? In industry parlance, a regional center is not a mall.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        I'm well aware of the definition of a mall, and as I said, this is OT. Plus, I'm not your research department, but I know of 3 offhand...Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Arkansas.

                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                            I Googled "new malls in the US" and 2 articles popped up that there have been no new malls completed in the US since 2006.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              A Snopes discussion
                                              Maybe the claim needs refinement - no new ENCLOSED malls?

                                              I found reference to a new City Center in SLC, but that looks like a downtown revitalization.

                                              The latest addition to my nearest mall (north of Seattle) was open, and that must date before the recession.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                An unenclosed mall is a regional center at best. Some malls have been expanded, but there have been no new ones. The decline of malls and their transformation into other uses is common knowledge in the industry. Example: I transformed the Appletree Mall in Cheektowaga NY into primarily an IRS data processing center, with other GSA tenants.

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  Community Centers max out at 400,000, and contain discount stores, grocery stores, and specialty discount stores. Above that size, malls, and their new cousin, "town centers" or whatever name one wants to give them, contain full line department stores, junior department stores, fashion stores, etc. Many of these have been built lately, such as City Creek in SLC (over 500,000 sf of retail), Shoppes at Summerlin in Las Vegas(1.8 million sf of retail and commercial space), etc. These developments function as regional malls.

                                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                                    I wish them prosperity in a challenging retail and restaurant environment.

                                              2. re: Veggo

                                                Bakery Square is in Phase 2 (residential phase).
                                                It's got a hotel too (and google) and stores.

                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                  BS describes itself as 'a mixed used development'.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Coincidentally on CBS Sunday Morning News, they did segment on the dying industry of indoor malls. They quoted the same statistic that no new "in-door" mall has been constructed since 2006.


                                      2. Growing up in SW CT we didn't have cafeterias but what fast food killed around here were "hamburger stands".In the late 1950's and early 1960's we'd take Sunday drives usually up Route 7 toward beautiful Litchfield County. Almost every town had a roadside joint where you could get made to order hot dogs & hamburgers or if you were exotic, shrimp in the basket. Now nobody wants to wait that long.They go through the drive through @ one of the national chains.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. I eat at the cafeteria at the schools where I work all the time. You're not missing much. Although they do make a good salad (Asian, caesar or chef) once a week.

                                          1. I've never heard of a cafeteria other than in a hospital or in a school.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                              Ikea has them. Some of the long gone department stores had them too. I worked at a business that had one for employees only.

                                              1. re: ChillyDog

                                                The Ikea cafeteria are outstanding for quality and value - expecially if you like Swedishy items like shrimp salad with dill

                                                1. re: kagemusha49

                                                  The best deal...free coffee from 9:30-10.

                                                  PS- Love the word "Swedishy"!

                                                2. re: ChillyDog

                                                  Well if we're counting Ikea as having a cafeteria, and I guess technically that is what they call it, then I do have one cafeteria in my town. :)

                                              2. I've been to this cafeteria at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC many times.


                                                1. Anytime I ever had to ride a charter bus for a school event or field trip, we would stop at one of those cafeterias. I haven't been to one in several years, though, and no, we don't have any in the town I live in.

                                                  1. sweet tomatos/ souplantation near me

                                                    1. Very strong local cafeteria chain here in NC, K&W. Love it!

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: carolinadawg

                                                        As stated above when visiting my family in NC (Mt. Airy) we normally would take a trip to Winston Salem to K&W. So many fond memories passing Mt. Pilot on the way....and those chicken and dumplings!!! I'll be going down in June with my father, I think we will take the trip to Winston Salem one more time.

                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                          K&W us still around, and still great. I had those chicken and dumplings a couple of weeks ago. Damn, maybe we can be friends after all, lol.

                                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                                            A friendship based on the foundation of chicken and dumplings sounds pretty good to me. Am I correct in remembering a plate probably goes for $5.00 add a salad beverage and desert you are probably looking at $10-$12 for dinner?

                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                              Less than that...everything is a la cart, of course, but usually an entree, salad, couple of veggies and bread is about $8 bucks. Extremely good value.

                                                      2. Just about every small town that I've been to here in Georgia has one. It's the same menu everywhere. Fried chicken, beef tips, chicken fried steak, greens, pintos, mac and cheese, green beans, cornbread, peach cobbler... often it's priced as a meat 'n three.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. There's a lovely cafeteria-style cafe in our local art gallery building. But instead of steam tables, hot foods are displayed in a cold case, and heated to order in a combi oven. Very popular location for casual business lunches, and there's a covered patio.

                                                          1. Oh gosh...totally forgot about cafeterias. Thanks for the memories! I grew up in NJ and don't remember them from there, but do remember them from multiple family road trips.

                                                            Here, it's either fast food or else the buffet-type places.

                                                            1. >> Has Fast Food Killed off all the cafeterias??


                                                              >> are there any cafeterias where you live??

                                                              Souplantation and Shau Mei to name just two.

                                                              >> do you even know what a cafeteria is??


                                                              You've now used up your quota of question marks for the month of February. Just so you know.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cafeteria

                                                                With reference to a specific type of cafeteria:

                                                                "At one time, upscale cafeteria-style restaurants dominated the culture of the Southern United States, and to a lesser extent the Midwest. There were several prominent chains of them: Bickford's, Morrison's Cafeteria, Piccadilly Cafeteria, S&W Cafeteria, Apple House, K&W, Britling, Wyatt's Cafeteria, and Blue Boar among them. .... These institutions ... 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 "casual dining". A few chains — notably Luby's and Piccadilly Cafeterias [and] MCL Cafeterias... are still very much in business."

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Isn't Paula Deen's restaurant cafeteria style?
                                                                  I though I read that somewhere.

                                                                  1. re: sedimental

                                                                    Yeah, imagine her behind the counter in a cafeteria. One look at that hair, and I'd bolt and flee...

                                                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                                                      Well if we are going to be technical, if she were working the counter of a cafeteria she would have to wear a hear net or hat, so you wouldn't get the full affect.

                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                        Little as I like Paula Deen (whether for her grossly overfattening cuisine or her shameless bigotry), I do have a head of thick, salt and pepper hair. I'd never think of working in food service without a scarf over my hair - Often I wear a scarf or headband even when preparing foods for friends (if not, hair is always in a braid at the back).

                                                                        Hope you won't flee!

                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                      MCL still in our local malls -- my kids used to enjoy the process of eating there. And the food was better than fast food.

                                                                    3. There are plenty of real cafeterias out there still -- and not just in hospitals and schools. I recently saw a list of more than 30 around the nation, still in business and highly regarded. Shapiro's in Indianapolis and Silver Sands and Swett's in Nashville come to mind, as do Bryce in Texarkana and Bertha's in Charleston, SC.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                        One from fact and fiction. Victor's Cafeteria in New Iberia, LA is famous from the Dave Robicheaux novels and in real life. While not the best eats in that small town I do love the country vegetables there and it is voted No.1 in the town by Trip Advisor.

                                                                        1. re: collardman

                                                                          Off topic -- I LOVE Burke's Robicheaux novels. I met him some years ago at a book signing. A true gentleman.

                                                                      2. Hell no!
                                                                        We have multiple greek cafeterias, an Indian Cafeteria, a handful of middle eastern ones, an African one (they may microwaves the food).

                                                                        Anyplace serving pizza by the slice that you don't wait for is serving it cafeteria style.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. Panda Express = fast food cafeteria

                                                                          Are they national?

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: seamunky

                                                                            "Are they national?"

                                                                            1,600+ locations in 42 states.

                                                                          2. I grew up on Long Island and my dad worked in the garment industry. Every so often he would let us (me and my sister) skip school and he would take us around to the showrooms and we always had lunch at Dubrow's Cafeteria on 7th Avenue and 38th Street (or maybe Broadway?).

                                                                            It was a novelty and we (particularly me) loved it. I always got tuna salad on rye. Fond memories.

                                                                            1. They seem to have remained more popular in some European countries, and not just at IKEA. Rick Steeves had a board about them on his site. A variation on them in Italy is the Tavola calda, with prepared foods kept warm. Some are awful, but I remember a really nice one near Largo Argentina in Rome. I really liked having lunch there when I was eating alone.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. I haven't read the responses, but I hope fast food hasn't killed off cafeterias--let alone made people not even know what they are! I love cafeterias, whether American style or other. I hope they never disappear from the culinary landscape as they can offer good options for healthy wellrounded meals at affordable prices if done right.

                                                                                1. There are Chinese buffets all over the place here in Florida. Sweet Tomatoes (Souplantation to much of the rest of the country) is going strong. But neither of these types of restaurants is a traditional cafeteria. We also have Piccadilly, a traditional cafeteria, and, maybe, Morrison's. (I don't recall one I have seen recently, but the name rings a bell.) Also, there is a chain of truck stops here that have a cafeteria attached.

                                                                                  The problem with cafeterias, in general, is that the food is not very good. It is held at a high temperature for long periods of time, instead of being recently cooked. I'm not surprised that casual dining has pretty much done them in.

                                                                                  1. The word cafeteria here in America conjures up memoties of high school meat loaf lunches. In europe, regional gastronomic specialties are featured at each Autogril rest stop off the Autostrada in Italia. Similarly, in France,,delectable and very nutritious food is found at the Flunch cafeteria style chain.. I am of the generation that remenbers when wholesome food could be had at Woolworths 5 and dime.lunch counters, or at the automat. Not only is fast food killing off cafeterias (even in schools) but it is slowly killing us all. To thrive we must eat well.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: heybaldy

                                                                                      FWIT's worth, Frank Woolworth's home on Indian Creek, near my deceased grandfather's home (Veggo 1) is for sale for $60M.

                                                                                    2. I ate at a couple of Morrison's in Florida over 30 years ago. They were alright, but paled in comparison to the best of them all......in my experience anyway.

                                                                                      1. This is a tale of Long Ago but not far away and the lingering presence. Picadilly Cafeteria, mentioned in the thread, is still alive---I do not know how "well" it is. But they are still going and I have had serviceable meals at one particular one in Baton Rouge, LA as recently as two months ago. They were social hubs fifty years ago and often had organists to "entertain" people. The original one I recall was in downtown Baton Rouge on third Street and it had very good "institutional" food. It was one of the forst places to popularize crawfish etoufee.

                                                                                        The procedure will surprise the young and even middle-aged of today. One took a tray and placed ito on the metal shelf (there were three tubes ---I can still see them) and selected a salad...some with Jell-O, some with cottage cheese, and a few with anchovies..then on to the main course..Salisbury Steak..fried chicken (always good but maybe not The Best) Smothered chicken...basic stuff. And so forth, including good greens cooked with pork grease. You did not pay at the end of the line. A cashier totted up you goodies, product a rreceipt from the regiter and stuck it to the damp exterior of your water glass.

                                                                                        Then a waiter, in tuxedo garb with a white messjacket, black tie and a heavy nickel-plated lapel button that had hi number on it (In red) took up your tray and escorted you to the table where you sat down and he then set it up.

                                                                                        At the end, you took the recieipt up front and paid, having left a tip for the waiter, of course. Over time you developed you "own" waiter, of course.

                                                                                        It's true....it's facts and history.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: hazelhurst

                                                                                          Very much like my Picadilly experience in Waco, when few if any knew I managed the mall. Good folks and good chow. I paid cash. Thanks for refreshing the memory.