Published August 6, 2019
Campus Dining and Shops is using new technology to streamline the ordering process at some of its dining facilities on campus, making it more efficient and convenient for faculty, staff and student diners.
Special self-service kiosks have been installed in the Corner Café in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, as well as in Putnam’s in the Student Union, Bert’s in Talbert Hall, Perks in the Ellicott Food Court, and Harriman Café and The Greenery in Harriman Hall. There are also units at CDS’ dining centers that students can use to order breakfast items.
The kiosks on the North and South campuses — the first to be installed at UB — use an in-house product, TAPAS, to allow customers to select menu items, says Keith Curtachio, director of information technology for CDS. The order is sent via a web interface to a printer in the food production area — essentially creating a ticket for the cook. Customers then bring their food items and the order slip to the cashier, who enters the transaction into the register.
These kiosks were initially “just for letting the cooks know which item you wanted and what toppings you wanted on it,” Curtachio explains, noting it was the “first test to see how kiosks would work in our operations.”
“Once our management team saw how well it worked, the use began to expand.”
The kiosks at the Jacobs School café also allow customers to select food items and other options, but use an upgraded technology — an Oracle Micros self-serve point-of-sale system — to send orders to the food production area, he says. After customers pick up their order and any other grab-and-go items and beverages they may want, they proceed to the cashier, who can recall the kiosk order, add any additional items to the order and take payment.
Curtachio says the difference between the two systems is that “TAPAS creates a flow to replace paper slips, while the Oracle Micros system starts the checkout process.”
Why install these kiosks in the first place?
The kiosks “speed up the ordering process, provide a uniform experience and help customers through the ordering process,” Curtachio says, noting they also serve as “visual ordering devices as well.”
“Using photos, we can bridge language and cultural gaps for ordering food. It’s the same concept as in a cultural restaurant, where you can order visually if you are not sure of all the proper names of the dishes,” he explains.
And with UB being a major public university, customers also have certain expectations, he says.
“Each year we have a new class that has been born even more immersed in technology. They expect us to be at a level of the private-sector fast food restaurants,” he says. “Our core customer also does not necessarily like to ask for items or talk to place an order. They are immersed in their personal devices.”
UB customers can also use the CBORD GET app to place orders and pay online using a UB Card account at Incredibull Pizza, UB’s food delivery service, as well as at The Greenery, the Corner Café and Edgy Veggie Express, the pre-order-only option in Bert’s.
CDS’ new technology options have been well received by customers, Curtachio says.
And more improvements are coming.
The GET app is going through an upgrade that may include images to provide a more visual experience, he says.
And the next-generation of kiosks is being developed for One World Café, the new dining option under construction on the North Campus that will offer authentic, internationally themed food choices in a multicultural environment.
Curtachio says these new kiosks will be tested in the Ellicott Food Court during the fall semester. Testing will provide developers feedback on the kiosks, as well as on new features that may be needed for One World Café, he says. One new feature CDS already is planning to introduce in One World Café is self-pay checkouts, he adds.
Does anyone else see an issue with: “Our core customer does not necessarily like to ask for items or talk to place an order. They are immersed in their personal devices.”
Are we furthering the disconnect of our fellow humans?