Schools generally find it easier to teach a few more students than to feed in the limited time available to them. The payment line at the cafeteria is a serious bottleneck in a school’s educational process.
At a private school, the lunchroom bottleneck can mean lost tuition. The school’s business problem is to get as many students through the payment line as quickly as possible.
A debit card system offers one solution but conventional systems are not fast enough, because every transaction has to go through a public payment network. If the network is slow or unavailable at lunchtime, the schools cafeteria lines would back up out of the cafeteria, all the way to the main entrance.
When we designed our swipe card system, we focused on speed. Our system does not use a public network; it authorizes each purchase and registers charges on a local server.
At the start of each day, the Financial Institution pushes a file containing the student’s balances to the Local Server. During the day, the server authorizes and records student’s charges. At the end of the day, the server makes a file of student’s charges (in standard ACH format), which the financial institution pulls up to its system to processes the transactions.
We exchange data with the financial institution before the students arrive and after they leave. When students swipe their card, the system processes the payment in less than 1/10 of a second.
We also kept our focus on the speed when we designed the cashier interface. We store all menu items in a database, so that the cafeteria manager can change the special items on the fly. However, we also made the database remember which items are routine and appear on the menu nearly every day. We built the cashier’s screen so that entering a routine item takes only one button click and the button appears in the same place every day.
Keeping the lunch lines moving requires not just speed but also reliability. We tackled the reliability requirement in three ways. First, our design is simple and uses only proven technology. Second, all cashier stations have mirrored disks and their own Uninterruptible Power Supplies. The cafeteria can continue to ring sales for an hour after the building loses power. We made the systems back each other up. No single failure can bring down the system, and as long as any one station is working the school can still finish the day’s processing.
Benefits for the School are:
Benefits for the Credit Union are:
Benefits for the Parent
Clients and Testimonials: