According to foodservicedirector.com, 85 percent of returning college students are wary of ordering food on campus amid COVID-19. With 29 percent of those students reporting they would avoid eateries without contactless ordering and payments and just under 50 percent reporting they’d be more likely to patronize eating establishments that do, offering some form of contactless dining is essential to keeping campus eating establishments competitive.
Mobile dining apps were already popular among college students before the pandemic. As schools look for ways to keep students safe, they’re taking a cue from commercial restaurants and adopting “order ahead” and contactless dining options of their own. Schools can acquire their own dining app or use a solution like OrderAhead, the new mobile ordering app from TouchNet, to tap into a variety of dining options:
- Even if dining halls were previously first come, first served, apps can introduce reservations to control capacity.
- For those who order ahead, dining apps can send texts when orders are ready for pick up to help maintain social distancing.
- Delivery options put school-based food service on equal footing with commercial restaurants while also helping to maintain social distancing.
- Apps can employ geotargeting to manage crowd control by redirecting nearby students to other eating options, or boost attendance with text inviting students to stop by for daily specials or to take advantage of fast service due to current low head counts.
- For schools that plan to stagger dining hall attendance, apps can help schools divide lists into manageable sections and alert each section with timed text reminders.
Looking beyond safety factors and customer preference advantages, some apps that enable contactless dining have additional benefits built in. TouchNet OrderAhead fully integrates with OneCard to give students a variety of payment options, including declining balance, meal plan deductions, or their mobile wallet.
OrderAhead is completely customizable, and schools can use the app’s optional loyalty component to award points and incentives to drive greater engagement and influence student behavior on campus.
Dining apps such as OrderAhead that integrate with student information systems offer another distinct advantage. By analyzing app data, schools can make real-time, informed decisions based on actual campus activity. The precision and timeliness of such data will be invaluable to schools as they work toward reopening campuses.