Students choose Café Lab payment methods for convenience

Students+stand+in+the+cafeteria+line+during+their+lunch+period.+Those+who+use+their+MealTime+account+checkout+quicker+compared+to+students+who+use+credit+cards.

Andrew Burke-Stevenson

Students stand in the cafeteria line during their lunch period. Those who use their MealTime account checkout quicker compared to students who use credit cards.

Louis Auxenfans, Reporter

The return to in-person school means long lunch lines at Café Lab are back for credit card users who accept the annoyance for payment convenience, but students who cannot bear waiting in line use their MealTime account for a quicker checkout. 

Two lines in the café are dedicated to paying with cash or MealTime, an online system where students can preload funds to their school ID. Only one line is for credit card payment, which many students use, even though the wait can extend for 15 minutes into the lunch period. 

The long credit card line has not deterred ninth grader Lisa Tao, who finds a credit card easier to manage. 

“I don’t have time to figure out how to put money on my ID, so I prefer using a credit card,” Lisa said. “It is just more convenient for me.” 

Other students, such as junior Milo Jarard, also find adding money to a MealTime account requires extra effort. 

“I kind of feel like it’s a lot of extra work to put in,” Milo said. “I’d have to put money into MealTime whenever I’m low, but I just think credit cards are more useful because I have it on me all the time.”

Meanwhile, students who use MealTime appreciate the lunch time saved. Senior Sophia Park used to use a credit card to buy lunch but switched because the lines were too long.

I kind of feel like it’s a lot of extra work to put in. I’d have to put money into MealTime whenever I’m low, but I just think credit cards are more useful because I have it on me all the time.”

— Milo Jarard

Part of the reason for the longer wait is that the credit cards have to connect through the Future Point-of-Sale payment network, according to Brian Lipinski, director of finance. 

“There’s extra layers of security that have to be implemented that aren’t in place for MealTime, and that doesn’t make MealTime less secure,” Mr. Lipinski said. “It’s just because, since it’s a stored value, you’re just simply deducting the stored value, whereas the credit card [machines], you have to run each transaction individually.”

Future POS charges Quest Food Management Services, which runs Café Lab, 4% of the sale amount for each credit card transaction. This added expense has led Quest to encourage students and families to use MealTime, which does not charge a fee per transaction. 

Alisha Culverson, food service director, said Quest and the school are currently in discussion on how best to reduce the lunch lines, but they continue to encourage students to use a MealTime account. 

“Right now we don’t plan to add another portal in for credit card payment, just because it is a large investment as well as an investment of time to build another portal,” Ms. Culverson said. “But, we also are looking for more students to start using their MealTime accounts and this will help the lines move faster and be more efficient.”