Remembering department stores' cafeterias before fast food took off

Cafeterias were once all the rage. Source: Pexels.

Fast food, chain stores and smaller supermarkets have taken off in recent years, making buying food simple and accessible.

But it wasn’t always the case.

Just a few decades ago, people dined in department stores’ in-house cafeterias, enjoying a buffet of hot meals on offer and often running into well-known faces.

And while many offices in the city are now surrounded by a variety of food shops, back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there was little choice other than the office cafeteria.

Do you miss the old days?

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Facebook page Australia Remember When recently shared a photo from inside the Coles cafeteria, taken years ago, while the writer reminisced about his favourite memories there.

“Long before the fast food chains arrived in Australia, the main emporiums and department stores catered for their customers with a cafeteria style dining room, offering the ‘fast food’ of the day,” he wrote.

“You could have a pie with chips and sauce on a plate, eaten with a knife and fork. 

“To a young child Coles Cafeteria was a wondrous place. It always seemed so large, so many tables and so crowded. There was a plastic tray which you pushed along the shelf and in front of you the ‘bain marie’ full of steaming hot food, served by the matronly ladies in their white Coles coats, always offering a large dollop of gravy.”

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More users have shared photos of Coles stores across the country on social media too, as they remembered similar experiences.

Did you visit there as a child?

One fan commented on a photo shared on Facebook page Lost Perth: “Mum would take us there for a treat. Walking up the stairs as a kid, hearing the plates and cutlery was SO exciting!! I had a chicko roll and chips….. Heaven !!”

While another added: “This place was massive treat for me. When I came down to Perth from Kal for school holidays, my nanna would take us to the movies (when the cinema was only in the city) and then to the Coles cafeteria for lunch. Oh how I miss these times, oh how I miss my nanna.”

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Meanwhile, Sydney’s general Post Office was always crowded full of workers getting their hot meal of the day, with the hustle and bustle no doubt a welcome distraction from the working day.

Now of course, chains such as McDonald’s, KFC, and other small supermarkets have taken over, providing more options for people.

Ordering food is as simple as the click of a button, or simply ringing for a take-away.

So do you miss the old ways? Did you visit a department store cafeteria?