Digital orders may zap waiting in line

By Paul Szaniawski

This past year, students’ food options increased with the introduction of Cranberry’s and an expansion of the healthier meal choices at Daly’s. University officials are looking to go one step further with next year’s plans, including alternatives that go far beyond the food menu.

Three different meal plans will be available to upperclassmen in the fall. Also, the introduction of a Starbucks location has been put into the works.

In addition to these moves already in place, Aramark food services and Student Affairs are exploring the possibilities of having electronic kiosks and Internet ordering for both Cranberry’s and the Bronc Diner.

“We’ve been hearing from students that they want choices,” said Jan Friedman-Krupnick, assistant vice president of Student Affairs. “I think it really does respond to what students want.”

The ideas behind the possible additions to the University’s eating establishments were inspired by student input.

If Rider decides to accept the digital ordering proposal, students would simply punch in their order instead of talking to a chef.

The electronic kiosks would have a touch screen interface like other technology that today’s college students are familiar with, including using ATMs, buying train tickets or ordering a sandwich at Wawa.

“From an operating standpoint, I’m extremely excited about it,” said Matt Smith, director of food services.

A few representatives of Aramark accompanied Friedman-Krupnick to the University of Pennsylvania to gauge how well the kiosk ordering system worked there. During the peak of lunch hour, the wait time for a dish took seven minutes from ordering to payment.
“I got scared at first because I saw the lines,” she said.

Friedman-Krupnick added that though lines will never go away, versatile technology would speed things up. Students could simply walk up to the kiosk in Cranberry’s with the shortest line and order, because each machine would be capable of sending an order to every food station. For instance, someone could order a panini sandwich at the grill kiosk, explained Smith.

The system also combats the problem of inconsistent pricing or receiving the wrong order. Once the touchscreen transaction is completed, a receipt with a price and description prints out and is used as a label.

The other aspect of the proposal is online ordering. Similar to, students could just log on to a Web site from any computer to see a menu for either Cranberry’s or the Bronc Diner. The site would have pictures of each entrée, along with their prices. Every dish could also be fully customized with extras like toppings or sauce.

Ordering online would benefit commuters especially because it would be possible to set a predetermined pickup time, said Friedman-Krupnick. The digital ordering alternatives would also cut waiting time for food, especially in the Bronc Diner.

“If you order from your room or the computer center, it takes virtually no time at all,” said Smith. “It’s a quicker process because the people cooking don’t have to step away from what they’re doing.”
Currently, digital ordering is still only a proposed possibility because of costs.

“Aramark is going to get a price quote for me because when we originally conceived it we were thinking of two kiosks,” said Friedman-Krupnick.

Initially, the installation of two kiosks cost approximately $7,500. The current proposal plan would include a kiosk in front of every food station in Cranberry’s and one in the Bronc Diner.

If the decision is made to fund the alternative ordering, the kiosks and Web site will most likely be ready to go before the fall semester.

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