The sharp competition in all lines of manufacture and the strife for supremacy in all that goes to make up an efficiently productive manufacturing plant has not lessened the effort to improve the conditions of the workmen and to render their surroundings more pleasant and congenial. On the contrary, it would seem that those manufacturers of a broad-minded comprehension of the necessities and conditions of the case, and with a liberal desire to do the fair and proper thing by the employees who serve them faithfully, have taken up voluntarily many of these problems and, much to their credit, be it said, perfected wise and beneficent plans to this end.

Among these is the Shop Dining Room, wherein the men may congregate to eat their lunches at noon, or to purchase at cost prices such lunches as they desire.

This room should be sufficiently large to easily accommodate all the employees, who may sit upon fixed seats on each side of fixed tables, the construction of both being of a plain description such as any ordinary carpenter may build, and covered with white oilcloth.

In many cities and even in smaller communities it is the custom of a large majority of the workmen to eat cold lunches which have not been improved by lying in a lunch box five or six hours, and drinking coffee that has been made for that length of time, corked up in a bottle and then "warmed over" by setting the bottle on a hot steam pipe or suspending it with a string in the hot water in which the men are to wash up before they eat their lunch.

To these men the privilege of assembling in a clean dining room where a cup of hot coffee, freshly made, is served at the employer's expense is one which all shop men would enjoy. To effect this is a comparatively simple matter for any shop owner, and requires but a moderate outlay as to first cost and for maintenance, as the dishes necessary may be of a very plain and inexpensive quality and the coffee may be made by one of the men who quits his regular work a half hour before the meal hour for that purpose.

Some progressive firms have gone much further than this in organizing the Shop Dining Room and made it practically a noonday restaurant wherein the employees may get a warm lunch of well cooked and wholesome food at exactly cost price, which of course is much more reasonable than can be obtained at a restaurant which must be run for the profit there is in it.

In one such Shop Dining Room the firm have completed its arrangements until it would seem that it is well-nigh perfection in this respect. The men may be divided in squads of ten and one of their number detailed as a waiter for the week or two as arranged, another taking his place at the end of that term. This waiter is provided with a tray and an apron with three pockets, in which he carries hard rubber meal checks of different colors, each color representing a different denomination of one, two, and five cents. These meal checks are kept by the time clerk and sold to the men in lots of from twenty-five cents to one dollar.

To show the inexpensiveness of the dishes that may be served the following menu is given, and vouched for as being entirely practical and possible in any ordinary city.

Pea Soup.............. 3 cents

Roast Lamb............ 5 cents

Stewed Tomatoes........ 2 cents

Mashed Potatoes........ 2 cents

Ham Sandwich.......... 3 cents

Cheese Sandwich........ 3 cents

Bread Pudding.......... 3 cents

Mince Pie............. 4 cents

Coffee ............... 2 cents

Tea................. 2 cents

Milk................. 2 cents

Ginger Snaps, 5 for....... 1 cent

Crackers, 5 for.......... 1 cent

Among other dishes served may be included sausages, hamburg steak, pork and beans, corn, cabbage, sauerkraut, turnips, parsnips, butter, bread, etc.

At each meal the menu for the following day is displayed and each man given a chance to select what he desires for the next day's dinner, which the waiter enters upon a printed blank used for the purpose, which he gives to the cook, who may thus know what to prepare for the next day, so as to avoid unnecessary waste. The waiters assemble in the dining room fifteen minutes before the men quit work, don their aprons, line up and each in turn calls off his order from the order card and pays for the same in the checks above mentioned. By the time the men arrive the food is on the table and ready for them.

By promptness in this matter they are all easily served even if the lunch time is for only a half hour.

The kitchen equipment for a shop of moderate size need not be elaborate, and one cook and one assistant can easily prepare food for two hundred men, although at meal time he will need two extra men to assist in issuing the food to the waiters.

There is no doubt that such a dining room would be of great advantage to the workmen of any establishment, and that by its organization and maintenance the physical well-being of the men would be very much improved, the mutual good feeling between the owners and their employees fostered and strengthened, and many of the ills resulting from the cold lunch practice in the shop would disappear.

The only expense of maintenance to the firm is the pay of the cook and his assistant and the fuel needed for cooking. To this must be added, however, the cost of broken dishes and similar incidentals. This, of course, does not include the first cost of installation, or an amount representing the rent of the necessary rooms.