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Mobile food ordering extends reach of campus dining services

College students love their mobile devices. A recent Intel survey of 1,000 incoming college students found that 45% expect to rely on their mobile device more than their friends or family while on campus.

But whether it’s a wide-eyed freshman or a grizzled upperclassman, the rigors of a student schedule work up an appetite. Feeding students on campus has long consisted of cafeteria-style dining and on-campus restaurants, but just as technology has evolved, so too have the options available to students in need of a meal.

The latest trend to enter the dining services fold is mobile food ordering. Students place an order remotely via smartphone or tablet and choose a delivery option or skip to the head of the line for pickup. The service has gained significant momentum on campuses nationwide, and it is helping on-campus food services extend their reach to off-campus students.

For mobile food service provider, Tapingo, the idea of calling up food orders from a mobile device is as much a cultural shift as it is a technology shift.

“We expect to be able to communicate, get informed, and transact anytime, anywhere,” says Daniel Almog, CEO of Tapingo. “This cultural shift is reflected every day on college campuses, as students are demanding convenience in all aspects of university life.”

College students aren’t likely to plan and prepare three well-balanced meals. “It usually goes ‘Need food now,’ and whatever meets the intersection of ‘close by, convenient and fast’ is what gets consumed,” says Almog.

Building a platform

Mobile ordering offers a convenient alternative to students, but the service can also benefit the university food services.

CBORD has offered mobile ordering solutions, to varying degrees, for the past 10 years. The company’s first foray came in the form of Webfood back as 2004. At that time, orders were more likely to come in via PC or laptop, but the solution still featured many of the hallmarks of contemporary mobile ordering.

“Mobile ordering is great for the university that has an operational problem in food services that it wants to solve, or that wants to increase the level of service they provide to students,” says Susan Chaffee, director of product development at CBORD.

From our earlier mobile ordering solution, we learned that dining services face tough operational challenges when trying to roll out this type of service themselves, says Chaffee. They used the experience in the design of their new GET mobile ordering solution.

“With GET it’s kept simple,” says Chaffee. “It is easy to use for the student, and on the backend it’s easy to swap out menu items and prices.”

GET is integrated the Micros point-of-sale platform so that orders placed through GET automatically post to the campus’ POS system, she explains.

“This enables them to easily receive orders and report on those orders that come through online,” says Chaffee. “It’s an important operational consideration because without POS integration, dining services would have two different reporting mechanisms.”

With GET orders, the preferred payment method is the campus card account. “We have several universities that only accept campus card payments and don’t accept credit or debit,” says Chaffee. “They realize that the more students use it, the stronger the overall card program becomes.”

Mobile ordering is one component of CBORD’s overall GET platform that includes a range of additional account management and other services.

Campuses often start out with GET for the account management features, but they have had others show interest in GET simply for mobile ordering. “We really believe in the platform concept, and it has been proven in both directions,” says Chaffee.

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