Technology & Equipment

How Tech Options Give Students A New Kind Of “Comfort Food”

Apex Order Pickup Solutions

In an era where time matters more than ever, college and university (C&U) dining program directors are rethinking how they use technology to meet their guests’ different needs and expectations. Dining directors have started to see beyond the paradigm that technology can only be efficient and cold. Instead, technology is now being used to help dining programs provide a balance of familiar, sit-down dining occasions as well as more efficient, on-the-go options, depending on what students need from one meal to the next.

Think of this as the 21st century version of “comfort food,” empowering students to enjoy socializing with friends in relaxed, familiar lays, while also giving them a sense of control over their hectic schedules. In essence, the right technology supports students’ work-life balance. It ensures they can experience the joy and camaraderie of a sit-down meal with friends when they have time, and when they're in a hurry, technology can help them make the most of every minute and tick off more on their to-do list.

The right technology at the right time

A student's needs can change from one day or hour to the next. While dinner might be a chance to hang out with friends, lunch might be squeezed into a 20-minute break between class and a study session. Dining services must be flexible, intuitive and responsive to the dynamic needs of their guests. This includes providing the options students want, when they want them—supported by the technologies they prefer.

For example, Gen Z students often like to use digital order-ahead options for pickup. A recent PYMNTS study found that 45% of Gen Z consumers bought their last restaurant meal for pickup. Many students expect their campus dining services to offer the same digital ordering options they use at home, to accommodate their busy schedules.

In recent years, many C&U dining programs implemented mobile ordering, and students quickly adopted it. However, with increased mobile ordering, there were longer lines and waits when students arrived to pick up their orders. At many campuses, the pickup counter can be crowded and confusing, with dining employees calling out student names when orders are ready and many bags and cups to sort through on the counter.

To reduce this friction point, many leading dining programs have added smart food locker solutions to solve these pickup challenges. Food lockers can be a game-changer for students, creating the frictionless, end-to-end digital experience they want. Students enjoy fast, reliable pickup, knowing they can skip any lines and won't need to interact with dining staff. Food lockers make it easier for students to grab their food quickly and get back to whatever they need to do next. This reliable, frictionless experience can lead to higher overall satisfaction with a school’s dining program.

Furthermore, these tech-driven services make guests feel “seen” and show that their time is valued. This approach not only benefits students but also faculty and staff, offering them efficient pickup options based on their preferences and schedules that day.

Striking the balance students need

Incorporating dining technologies such as mobile ordering and smart food lockers helps students feel a sense of control, knowing that they won’t have to choose between comfort and efficiency at mealtimes. With multiple dining options that cater to their changing needs, they can plan better, stay on top of their responsibilities and derive greater satisfaction and enjoyment from their dining experiences.

By offering a mix of traditional, comforting food service and innovative, time-saving dining technologies, C&U dining facilities can truly become the heart of a college campus, bringing people together in delightful ways while helping them navigate through their busy lives with ease and joy. With careful planning and execution, the dining experience can be transformed into a source of both comfort and empowerment for all members of the academic community

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