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University at Buffalo deploys self-service dining kiosks

Creating an ordering experience to meet student expectations

Andrew Hudson   ||   Jun 25, 2019  ||   ,

Universities are constantly finding new ways to update their student-facing services and are finding success by mirroring some of the transaction experiences students see beyond campus. As it pertains to campus dining specifically, more universities are looking to self-service kiosk solutions underpinned by the campus card system as a means to offer greater flexibility and convenience when placing an order.

Discussing this topic in greater detail, CBORD’s “Dynamic Dining with Self-Serve Ordering” webinar delves into how a university can can leverage self-service solutions to streamline the dining and meal ordering processes for both a campus and its students.

Webinar attendees will hear from Scott Jerabek, senior product manager for CBORD, as he provides an overview of the self-service hardware options available to universities, and how kiosks can be configured into an established dining program.

Also presenting on the webinar will be Keith Curtachio, director of information technology for the Faculty Student Association at the University at Buffalo. The University at Buffalo has experienced significant success with its implementation of self-service kiosks and online ordering through GET CBORD Student and Oracle.

CR80News recently caught up with both Scott and Keith to discuss the topic of self-service dining solutions ahead of the webinar event.

“Interest in self-service ordering, self-checkout and multi-channel ordering in general has grown tremendously in the past few years,” says CBORD’s Jerabek. “Universities are turning to these solutions to address challenges like labor shortages and costs, speed of service and throughput, and to meet student expectations.”

Universities are turning to self-service dining solutions to address challenges like labor shortages and costs, speed of service and throughput, and to meet student expectations.

“We see opportunity for self-service in quick-service restaurants, quick casual, multi-concept dining, C-stores with prepared food, as well as attended and unattended grab-n-go locations,” says Jerabek. “It really depends on the needs of the particular operation, having a compatible menu, and a university's goals for the business.”

Self-service dining at Buffalo

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but students love a mobile device. Moreover, campus services that can be packed into a mobile format, like a kiosk interface, simply resonate with modern students.

The story is no different for the University at Buffalo. “For the most part we've observed that many students don’t want to talk with someone to order,” says Curtachio. “They're also growing more used to this type of service at their favorite franchise operations away from campus. Our students want the same experience on- and off-campus so we needed to meet that demand."

“Separately, we’re also facing a labor shortage in the food industry," adds Curtachio. "So by using various customer self-service technologies, we can reduce the need for employment positions for order taking and payment, and instead train personnel for production and fulfillment.”

Curtachio and the team at Buffalo decided to deploy the Micros WS6 kiosks in a new dining operation at the university’s medical school. “We wanted a way to streamline the dining process and allow a multi-point ordering format,” he says. “The kiosk orders all go through our Micros system and printers, along with GET online and mobile app orders.”

“In this dining location we have extensive grab-and-go options, so we opted for kiosk orders to just include item selection and suspend the payment transaction until checkout,” Curtachio explains. “The kiosk order is then recalled at the cashier who can add additional items and take payments. GET orders, meanwhile, are pre-paid and sealed in specially marked bags for quick pick-up.”

Why self-service dining?

The challenge for a campus considering self-service dining solutions is to properly evaluate existing operations to determine what can be added seamlessly to legacy services.

The goal with self-service kiosks is really to balance ordering, production and wait times for the best customer experience.

“We have a number of areas that have long lines, but kiosks would only increase stresses on production beyond capacity, so in that case the line is the throttle,” explains Curtachio. “The goal is really to balance ordering, production and wait times for the best customer experience.”

CBORD’s Jerabek offers some starting questions for campuses considering self-service dining solutions:

  • Will kiosks be the only method of ordering?
  • Are there other channels such as mobile ordering?
  • Will an operation still allow in-person ordering across the counter?
  • Orders may come in through multiple channels and order volume could go up. Can my kitchen labor and infrastructure handle the changes to their current workflow?
  • Where will customers pick up their orders?
  • Does the process make ordering easier for their customer?

It’s important to think about the value proposition for a customer to use a kiosk, as well. “If kiosk orders are prepared after orders taken in person across the counter, the benefit to using the kiosk in the first place is diminished,” explains Jerabek. “Self-service orders must be prepared in the same queue as if it were taken over the counter. Ultimately, self-service has to be convenient for your customer to use it.”

As Jerabek explains, it’s also important to determine which kind of kiosk deployment makes the most sense based on the environment. “Every deployment consists of three basic pillars: ordering, payment, and pick-up,” he says. “A campus must determine whether a particular operation is best suited to an ordering kiosk either with or without payment processing capabilities.”

For more on self-service dining solutions, deployment strategies for universities, and the full story on how the University at Buffalo is leveraging self-service kiosks and mobile ordering on campus, tune in for CBORD’s “Dynamic Dining with Self-Serve Ordering” webinar.

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