Phil Capozzi, VP of non-traditional development for sandwich brand Jersey Mike’s, is in charge of scouting locations outside the usual standalone building or strip mall. Colleges have been a prime target, and he’s developed outposts of the sandwich chain at seven campuses, including Purdue, Seton Hall and Montclair State.
But when Capozzi approached Rider University to set up a Jersey Mike’s on the New Jersey campus, there was a bit of a challenge.
“The food court, which is a logical place to open, had already been built, and there were space limitations at the student center,” he says. But Rider and its foodservice provider, Gourmet Dining, very much wanted to add a Jersey Mike’s. Together with Capozzi, they worked out a solution: the chain’s first ghost kitchen.
“When you walk into the student center, there’s a long wall of lockers branded with the Jersey Mike’s logo,” says Capozzi. “A typical Jersey Mike’s make line is behind the lockers, out of sight, preparing the orders.”
Students can order and pay ahead on Gourmet Dining’s app or come into the center and order at a kiosk. Once their order is placed, customers receive a text from the sandwich maker notifying them that it was received.
When it’s completed, a Jersey Mike’s team member punches a code into one of the lockers, inserts the bag and sends the customer a text alert with the designated locker and code. The lockers are also equipped with QR codes, and they flash when an order is ready so a customer can scan the code and open the door.
A digital board at the entrance to the student center tracks the progress of each order as it’s being prepped.
“The ghost kitchen works really well with Gourmet Dining’s emphasis on contactless service,” says Capozzi. Students can pay with a credit card or the declining balance on their meal cards.
The Jersey Mike’s menu was streamlined to fit with Rider University’s dining plan, with more combo meals and deals on offer. “We can modify our menu according to the operations at each school,” says Capozzi.
With the enthusiastic response from the Rider University community, Capozzi sees more of these concepts coming to other campuses.
“We prefer to build out a full Jersey Mike’s at college locations, where students can interact with our teams, but the ghost kitchen is a great solution for a smaller campus,” he says. “It’s also viable for a bigger university, where the ghost kitchen can be set up on the other side of campus from the student center. If there’s delivery, that’s even better. We want students to have access to Jersey Mike’s and this is a way to get it to them.”