Cashless canteens: What’s on the menu for schools?

What's on the menu for your lunch payments
By Toby Lester | 29th May 2020 | 9 min read

What kind of experience are you serving up at lunchtime? The trials and tribulations of cash on school grounds are well known. Cash in the canteen, however, results in a huge number of issues, many of which you may not have considered.

The benefits of online payments are being realised by more schools than ever. When it comes to school meals, eliminating cash promises to improve security, hygiene, efficiency and more. Here’s why… 

Allergies and safety in the canteen

Schools can’t afford to put the health and safety of any child at risk. Unfortunately, food allergies are incredibly dangerous; anaphylactic shock is a very real threat for children, one which schools need to be vigilant of at every turn. 

 It is unrealistic to expect students to be conscientious of every menu option at lunch time; this is particularly true when it comes to young children. However, avoiding allergens is practically impossible for schools, too. While you can’t eliminate the allergies themselves, you can tackle the issue at its’ root, before children even step foot in the canteen. 

An online payments system enables schools to share menus with parents in advance; parents read the menu, make selections on behalf of their child and pay upfront. An online system ultimately alleviates students of the responsibility of monitoring every menu option, providing peace of mind for all involved. 

Canteen health and hygiene 

Cash and germs go hand in hand, in more ways than one. The money we handle is a breeding ground for bacteria; in fact, in a controlled study, London Metropolitan University found 19 strains of bacteria living on a range of British bank notes and coins.  

We’ve all heard the rumours of drug contamination on cash and, unfortunately, these rumours have been found to be true. Class A drug residue is present on over three quarters of paper banknotes. Due to the prevalence and risk of drug contamination, over £15 million is destroyed every year to eliminate notes from circulation. 

The risk of contamination in your school canteen as a direct result of cash is high. Any opportunity to reduce cash on school grounds is preferable; in the canteen, it is vital for the safety of students. 

No more waiting around  

How long do students stand in queues waiting to be served lunch, every day? With many schools opting to shorten breaks in order to extend lessons, students need to be served and seated quickly to ensure they benefit from a much-needed break. 

Handling cash at the till can be time-consuming. Not only do online payments speed up the exchange, but most cashless systems (including +Pay) offer meal selection functionality, too. With menu data collected early, kitchen staff can prepare the right quantities of each dish, reducing waste and ensuring every student receives their preferred option. 

Collecting, counting and banking cash is an inconvenient task which many time-strapped teams can ill-afford. Online payments streamline reconciliation and finance processes, improving efficiencies whilst vastly reducing security issues or chance of human error. 

Parent arrears, debt and payments

The expectation for every parent to send their child to school with lunch money is about as practical as hoping for a paper newsletter to make its way to parent hands; that is to say, very impractical indeed. 

Dinner money debt is an increasing issue for many schools; it’s also one which is unlikely to improve while schools fail to take action. Providing a quick and easy way to top up lunch money is the only way to meet the issue head on. Unless your processes meet the needs of modern families, your school will continue to shoulder the financial burden of parent arrears. 

Safety and security in the canteen

Sadly, for many children, lunch times are a huge source of anxiety. The stigma around free school meals remains prevalent today. In fact, many students claiming FSM admit that they’d rather go hungry than be seen to be claiming a free meal. 

Creating a supportive environment in which all students feel safe to enjoy their lunch is the responsibility of your school. Online payments provide every student with the same experience at the till; no money is exchanged, making the process discreet for those claiming free school meals. 


Food for thought 

We’re on a mission to showcase the benefits of online payments to UK schools. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and the end to closures, school life will be different; now is the time to investigate practical steps towards ensuring the health and safety of your school community. Going cashless in your canteen is a step in the right direction.

+Pay provides a contactless, convenient way for parents to top up lunch money. Our free mobile app and desktop portal offers flexible payment options to suit all parents. Free low balance reminders, advance bookings functionality and integration with cashless catering providers make +Pay a favourite with schools and parents. We’re ready to support you on the road to a cashless environment; get in touch to find out more.