HUDSON, WI – Three Square Market is testing self-checkout kiosks as a cost-cutting approach to the traditional school lunch line. The first of the company's micromarkets are operating in a pilot at three high schools in Minnesota. They're run by a vending operator who has a commissary that supplies the packaged cold meals.
The way it works is that each student helps themselves to one of three choices of cold meals that meet nutritional guidelines from a refrigerated cooler that replaces the lunch line. The meals are barcoded and stocked by the operator.
The student then scans the meal at the Three Square kiosk and pays by cash or card (debit or credit), by using a biometric thumbprint reader or by punching in the identification code for their school account. Payment is discreet for students who receive subsidized meals, who simply enter their codes.
Three Square kiosks can be programmed to give parents the ability to track what their children eat. Parents can also restrict their children from buying certain foods if they have allergies or health conditions such as diabetes.
"With the budget crunches so many schools face, they can take out all the kitchen equipment, and eliminate kitchen and maintenance staff, except for a person to oversee it," said Three Square Market vice-president Patrick McMullan. "So far, the test has been very successful and we plan to expand it."
MICROMARKET ABCs: Three Square's Patrick McMullan demonstrates company's adaptation of micromarket to automate school lunch lines during NAMA OneShow.