Blog Section

How Hospital Cafeterias Use Bar Code Technology

A cashier scanning bar coded merchandise at the check-out point of any retail store is a very familiar and expected occurrence. Weather items are waved in front of a standing devise, scanned by a hand held model, or swept across an in-counter scanner; bar code scanning is a standard part of any retail environment and POS system to help get customers on their way fast. The retailer gains many operational benefits when bar code scanning is used together with a POS Inventory Control system, including the adjustment of inventory levels as items are sold or returned, and tighter control and management of merchandise pricing.

Although highly common in virtually all areas of retail, bar code scanning was not widely used as part of a POS System in hospital cafeterias until fairly recently. After all, most of us don’t think of food as being “inventory,” and therefore don’t see a logical connection between a UPC bar code number and a yogurt parfait. The increasing number of cafeterias offering pre-packaged “Grab n Go” items, however; has changed this traditional view.

“Over the past few years, more and more of our hospital cafeteria customers have added a “Grab n Go” section as a convenient way to offer appealing yet quick food choices to their employees and guests,” said Kathy de la Torre of ARBA Retail Systems. By offering a varied selection of pre-packaged food items which can be purchased quickly, the cafeteria attracts patrons who otherwise would not have enough time to eat. The added traffic definitely helps increase cafeteria revenues, which more and more hospital retail areas are required to attain. Placing a scannable, bar code label on each food item in the Grab n Go section means the purchase can be quickly scanned at the point of sale, getting patrons on their way very quickly to return to work or visitation. After all, if patrons have to wait in long lines to pay for their Grab n Go items, the convenience of pre-packaged food offerings would be completely lost.

A traditional retail store monitors and tracks inventory and sales as merchandise is scanned and sold at the cash register. Similarly, the hospital cafeteria needs to monitor sales as well so that kitchen production can be in synch with the speed and quantity at which food items are being sold. It’s all about getting out the right food, in the right amount, and at the right time. Imagine the hospital healthcare worker who finally has a few free minutes in their busy day to run down to the cafeteria to get a quick sandwich, only to find that the Grab n go cooler is completely out of sandwiches. Or worse; consider the hospital employee who regularly heads to the nearest fast food restaurant to eat because the cooler in the cafeteria is frequently out of their favorite soda flavor. Over the span of a year, that lost business translates to lost revenue. In today’s economy, that’s something no retail area wants to see happen.

Hospital cafeterias are not limiting their use of Bar code scanning to just Grab N Go items. Most POS Software can capture and recognize the manufacturer’s UPC bar code information on everything from canned soda and bottled water, to chips and candy bars. Some hospital cafeterias have taken the next step in retail automation, and have set re-order points within their POS Software for these items which are consistently re-stocked. To learn more about POS software designed for your corporate cafeteria visit Arba POS Cafeteria Page. To learn more about POS software designed for your hospital cafeteria visit Arba POS Hospital Food Services Page.

The best way for a cafeteria to have an accurate picture of what’s selling, in what quantity, and at what time is with the use of bar code scanning technology combined with a good POS system. Visit us at to learn how our POS solutions can help.