As students return to campus for the fall semester they’ll find a number of changes in place, including the rollout of campus dining reservation systems. It has quickly become evident that limiting the number of students in dining facilities at a given time via electronic reservations can be a godsend in this new world of physical distancing.
Over the summer, universities worked diligently to evaluate and implement actionable steps to make dining safer. CBORD was also hard at work all summer – and that work continues – launching reservations for its campus clients across the country.
In early March, company representatives began guiding and supporting customers in preparation for the reopening of dining facilities.
“We’re working with more than 250 clients right now to implement or upgrade their GET platform to support mobile ordering, dine-in reservations, and other functionality that facilitates a healthy return to campus,” says Read Winkelman, VP, Sales for CBORD.
Dine-in reservations are ideal for all-you-care-to-eat locations, explains Winkelman. “They help track and limit the number of customers in a dining hall at one time, and they ensure spaces are cleared for proper cleaning and sanitation.”
But launching reservations and other service changes was anything but a slam dunk. The pandemic compressed timelines, shrinking the window that normally occurs for planning, budgeting, and implementing new services. If a campus was to meet the needs of a fall semester reopening, processes had to change rapidly.
“We developed a targeted implementation for adding reservations for campus dining,” says Rob Wakelee, Product Owner, Commerce Platforms at CBORD. “It’s a streamlined setup that configures the use of GET as a reservation platform with a shorter implementation timeline.”
The reservation system plugs into the existing GET ecosystem as an additional option for campus dining. Students can make a reservation in the same app they use to make deposits, track spending history, mark ID cards lost or found, and place online food orders.
“If an institution already has the GET platform licensed and is using mobile ordering, it’s one straightforward addition to the system to add reservations,” says Wakelee. “No hardware is required other than a BYOD tablet for staff to have a digital display of upcoming reservations.”
In a recent webinar, “Follow Social Distancing in Dining for a Healthy Return,” Wakelee explained that there are two models commonly used by CBORD campuses rolling out reservations:
Think of it like a movie theatre where the film starts and ends at a given point. Every diner comes in and everyone goes out at the same time, for example the dining time would run from 11:00-11:45 a.m. with a 15-minute cleaning window until the noon dining slot.
The student launches their GET app and uses the mobile ordering solution to reserve their time slot in the same way they would normally order food. They receive an email order confirmation that they present with their student ID or the 2D barcode on the mobile device to enter the dining facility. At the end of the meal block period, an announcement is made, and everyone must depart. The cleaning period commences prior to the next meal block’s start.
This has proven to be the more popular approach among clients. With this method, physical zones within the dining hall are used only during specific times. For example, the northwest quadrant of the dining room might be used for 11:15 check-ins, while the northeast quadrant is used for 11:30 check-ins.
From there, campuses assign colors or shapes to the zones, and diners are instructed to sit only in their approved zone. At the end of the 45-minute period, all diners from that zone are instructed to depart. With new zone periods starting every 15 minutes, diners can be served at all times as the rotation allows the majority of zones to serve patrons while one or two zones undergo cleaning.
“This is just one use case for a zoned approach, and GET can be tweaked as necessary based on the needs of the university,” says Wakelee. “Even each dining hall on campus configured separately with its own associated rules.”
Some campuses choose to go 100% reservations, so if you don’t have a GET Food order number, you can’t get in. Other have opted to allow some walk-in traffic, allowing for 80% reservations and 20% walk-ins.
Innovations beyond campus dining reservation systems
In addition to helping clients launch reservation services, CBORD has worked actively with partners to make dining safer.
Through GET, CBORD is enabling students to peruse on-campus dining menus and make their selections for quick pick-up at designated spots around campus. This can alleviate crowding during peak dining times and at busy venues to assist campuses with social distancing.
In the spring, CBORD expanded its off-campus partnership with Grubhub to include Grubhub’s national network of participating restaurants. Students at participating universities can connect their campus card as a form of payment in the Grubhub app.
“Regardless of where students are physically located, they can order food for pick-up or delivery from any participating off-campus merchant nationwide,” says Wakelee. “And with a free Grubhub+ membership, they can enjoy free no-contact delivery to boot.”
CBORD has launched another initiative with TwentyTables – an organization that brings app users to local restaurants for affordable meals – at George Washington University in Washington D.C. For every meal purchased via TwentyTables, one meal is donated to a person in need. GW students were able to purchase e-tickets for meals using funds from their CBORD-driven dining accounts.
TwentyTables provides a rotating schedule of food trucks with dedicated space for them to park. The company also added outdoor seating to accommodate physical distancing in dining.
“Students benefit from the ability to purchase affordable $6 lunches and $12 dinners using a completely contactless solution,” says Wakelee. “They place in-app purchases of five, $6 electronic ticket ‘books’ that are redeemed at the participating food trucks and brick-and-mortar locations via QR code.”
Creativity seems to be the name of the game when it comes to serving students during a pandemic and perhaps beyond. CBORD is helping its campus clients with solutions that foster safer processes in dining halls and other food service environments. Though the effort is now six months’ ongoing, the company is just getting started.