By JoAnne Robinett, MSA, SNS 2017-08-09 04:45:22
» Whether you’re a shiny, new employee or you can ring up reimbursable meals in your sleep, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on the basics. When SN asked me to write an article about cashier training, I knew that I could. That wasn’t just the confidence of my experience in writing past articles for the magazine talking, either. Cashiering was one of the very first school foodservice jobs I was trained to do. I also trained, or planned the training, for hundreds of cashiers during my career. Plus, I have very fond feelings about this school nutrition task. When I first ran the cash register, I worked primarily with actual cash—most wadded up (damp with sweat) or handed over in fistfuls of coins. Sometimes it was even retrieved from shoes! Still, I loved it—it was the best location to interact with the students. Time has flown by. The last cashiers that I personally trained worked at point-of-sale (POS) computer terminals, rarely handling cash at all. Instructions have changed from my first nickel to my last trainee. I recall being directed to place change in designated envelopes, bundle bills just so and complete the deposit slip with precision. It was easy to miss a step and earn the occasional ire of the bank. Then, once I’d mastered the system, the school switched banks and I had to learn a whole new process! TECH PROS AND CONS Prior to POS systems, some young students would announce to me that they should get a free or reduced-price lunch. I knew this fact was confidential, so I worked on learning names and faces so I could intervene and engage quickly before they broke their own anonymity. It meant a quick review of the tray, check the name off the daily roster, smile and be ready for the next student—all in mere seconds. POS technology has really helped cashiers with this issue. Students have unique PINs, ID cards or photos loaded into a system that knows automatically whether their meals are free. Still, greeting the student by name, with a “Hello,” or “How are you today?” is still the best way a cashier can maintain a customer relationship and double-check to confirm the name that pops up on the computer screen. While the POS system helped solve problems like identity and anonymity, it also created a few new ones. When I was a district director, some of the very best and most experienced cashiers on my team often felt so intimidated by the touch screen that they asked to be reassigned. Today, however, most new hires are computer literate, and they are able to show off tricks with the POS that are new to me! But there’s another problem with POS systems that old-school cashiers didn’t encounter. Just as with any technology, it is fabulous when it works, and an utter disaster when it doesn’t! KEEP THE CHANGE Despite the passage of time, there are some cashiering basics that I learned 30 years ago that haven’t changed one bit. Maybe you are a relatively new manager or supervisor asked to instruct an even-greener cashier-in-training. Or perhaps you’re a veteran who has given these directions so many times, you may have lost sight of the responsibilities and context in the minutiae. Or maybe you are a cashier who has never received in-depth training at all. Each of you may find the following fundamentals helpful. A cashier needs to know what makes a meal. Whether it is breakfast or lunch, the specific components eligible to complete a reimbursable meal should have been recorded on a meal production record beforehand. That form indicates the particular menu item and the serving size and, usually, which component of the meal pattern the item satisfies. Reviewing this document, or discussing the food items with a manager, is essential in helping the cashier to recognize whether a student’s plate can be entered into the cash register or the POS as a reimbursable meal. Why is this so important? If I were to record a reimbursable lunch when the required items weren’t on the tray, I would be cheating the USDA out of monies it transfers into my district to help pay for the meals. Reimbursements at different levels are paid to the district for all the meal categories—free, reduced-price and paid. Even if a school site is included in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), where all the meals are served for free, cashiers still need to track how many reimbursable meals were selected by students. Meal components aren’t the only required items for cashiers to review. They must be familiar with portion sizes, too, as these also help determine if a meal meets the federal standards to be deemed reimbursable. So, the cashier needs to be aware in advance if the serving size is ¼ cup or a ½ cup or one slice of bread or two and so on. A cashier needs to understand Offer versus Serve (OVS). Most districts I work with choose to implement OVS, and there are rules in place for lunch indicating students must have the opportunity to take full servings of the five components of lunch (Meat/Meat Alternate, Fruit, Vegetable, Grain, Milk), but may select less if the student has at least a 1⁄2 cup of creditable fruit or vegetable on the tray, along with full servings of two other components. A full tray is not an indicator that the meal meets the OVS criteria! A cashier must know the specific components of the meal, in addition to the serving size of a full component. Then, he or she must practice eagle-eyed precision to quickly assess whether the lunch tray has at least 3 of the 5 components, one being either a fruit or vegetable. A cashier needs to know that meal requirements vary at different grade levels. If you are a floating cashier, or you transfer to another site, double-check the meal pattern requirements and serving sizes. Also, remember that breakfast and lunch have different rules and meal patterns. A cashier needs to know what items are not included in the meal. Are students allowed to purchase extra items? Is there a limit on how many extra (a la carte) items a student may select? Are customers required to take a meal before they can buy a la carte items? How much do these items cost and are there rules about how students can pay for them? Have parents placed restrictions on the purchase of select items? These answers can vary. A cashier needs to know what to do if a student who is not eligible for a free meal has no money. Can the customer charge a meal? Is there a limit to the number of meals that can be charged? What happens when the limit is exceeded? Does your district provide an alternate meal? With “lunch shaming” a hot topic in the news lately, it’s essential that cashiers fully understand the charge policy and always behave with compassionate customer service. But do not simply give a meal to a student without documenting it just because he or she has no money—follow district procedures. A cashier needs to be honest. Even with POS systems in place, school sites continue to handle a limited amount of cash transactions, particularly if there are barriers that prevent parents from paying via an online account. Stealing, or even “borrowing,” from that money drawer is always wrong and will be discovered. It is also stealing if you let a student pass by you with a meal without paying or failing to enter an electronic ID. A cashier needs to keep things confidential. If you discover a student is eligible for free meals, forget that you know that. Don’t treat the child differently in any way. It is a cardinal rule of school meal operations: Do not overtly identify a student receiving meal benefits. Do not discuss it with anyone, not in the kitchen or outside the school building. You might not think it is a big deal, but this violates federal law and there are penalties for unlawful disclosure. Even if the principal approaches you about a student because a charitable organization wants to provide the family with a food basket at Thanksgiving, it is not your responsibility to divulge this information. Instead, direct the principal to ask the teacher, who likely has a good idea about a family’s status. A cashier needs to know how to handle guests, both students from other schools and adults. Is there a set price for adult meals, or are menu items sold a la carte? Can teachers charge a meal? The bottom line is that adult meals cannot be recorded as student meals. A cashier needs to be on the lookout. The cashier can be valuable eyes and ears for a variety of potential concerns or crises. For example, if an allergy alert shows up in the POS, do not let the student have any items that might contain the allergen, even if the student protests. You may become aware of a student whose family should apply for free meals; pass along this name to the manager. Also, know your district policy about reporting suspected cases of abuse or bullying. If you see something, say something. A cashier needs to be kind! You are the face of the entire school nutrition operation to the children at your site. Show courtesy, smile, use kind words, be respectful and be helpful whenever you can. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN As if the expectations here aren’t high enough, feeding all these kids requires a cashier to do them all really, really fast!! This is no job for mere mortals, but that’s why we hired you! JoAnne Robinett is owner of America’s Meal (www.americasmeal.com), providing training, speaking and consulting services to school nutrition professionals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.