The lines are blurring at Binghamton University, in New York. What used to require standing in line with other students at the campus’s MarketPlace dining center will now simply require the click of a button online. “The MarketPlace, which opened in January 2014, added several much needed retail platforms to the campus dining portfolio,” explains Casey Slocum, dining services marketing coordinator. “The popularity of this new venue coupled with its central location on campus has made it a destination for the entire Binghamton University community. Unfortunately, not everyone has time to enjoy a leisurely meal, so we leveraged available technology to enable those with less time to still be able to dine with us.”
Fully integrated with the department’s existing POS system, the online ordering feature allows students to place orders from three of the MarketPlace venues—NY Deli, The Diner and Pandini’s—up to 36 hours ahead of time and choose when they’d like to pick up their food.
The menus for these locations consist of made-to-order items may take longer to produce. ““We will be using the data compiled from this semester to help us road map the future of this technology at Binghamton University,” Slocum says. “The true impact on efficiency, sales and traffic will be best calculated at the end of the semester, but our hope is that the online ordering system will help on all three fronts.
Launched at the start of the fall semester, the system is sophisticated enough to “limit the number of online orders at any given time period so that we can take care of our in-person customers as well, without disrupting service to them,” Slocum explains. The dining services and campus technology teams continue to work out any kinks and maintain a smooth ordering process, both in line and online. “As with any new technology, opportunities for improvement often present themselves. Our on-site and support teams have worked diligently to correct any issues, and we continue to encourage any user who encounters an issue with the system to notify us immediately,” he adds.
The system’s new function was tested by the Binghamton Student Culinary Council prior to going live, and staff training was required to get the team on board. “Our staff is always looking for ways to improve service and the guest experience,” Slocum says. “Although some [staff] may have initially been hesitant, any questions or concerns have been addressed.”