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University of Southern California mobilizes meal payments via app

The University of Southern California is letting students order and pay for meals through a mobile application that is linked to a meal plan.

The university is working with the mobile app Tapingo to power the initiative. USC students will be able to use the Tapingo app to sync up their meal plans at restaurants around the campus, including California Pizza Kitchen, Panda Express, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Carl’s Jr.’s.

“Tapingo offers USC a number of benefits beyond mobile payments,” said Daniel Almog, CEO of Tapingo, San Francisco.

“On the consumer side, and in the grand scheme, Tapingo is a lifestyle app that streamlines the everyday, on-the-go shopping experience,” he said. “Students save time on every order, and they can even grab a coffee during those short breaks between classes where there was just no time before Tapingo.”

Mobile ordering
USC students can place mobile orders by downloading the Tapingo app, which is available for free in Apple’s App Store and Google Play. A Tapingo account is tied to either an email address or Facebook account.

Once a consumer creates an account, they can then select their university and type in the campus ID and email address.

Consumers can either order food for delivery or pick-up, and the app leverages GPS to find locations nearby to a consumer.

From there, consumers can browse through menus and customize menu items. The app also lets users save their favorite items so that they can reorder them quickly in the future.

To checkout, consumers add the number off of their meal plan card. The app taps funds directly from a student’s meal plans.

In addition to the Tapingo app, consumers can also pay for their meals via PayPal around campus.

According to Tapingo, USC is the 25th university to partner with the app in bringing online and mobile ordering to campuses.

Another screenshot of the app

Mobile education
USC’s mobile ordering app is the latest example of how universities are mobilizing meal plan programs to reach a tech-savvy group of millennials that are inherently plugged into their mobile devices.

For example, Philadelphia restaurants recently integrated with a mobile app called Treat to provide special offers and deals for college students (see story).

Additionally, Shippensburg University tested near-field communications within cafeterias in 2012 (see story).

Since college students are younger, there is also a belief that they are more comfortable than other groups of consumers when it comes to making payments via their mobile devices.

“Campuses have centrally managed and dense retail environments and a population ideally suitable for disruption,” Mr. Almog said.

“Tapingo is using the campus market to disrupt more than just payment,” he said. “It is optimizing the entire shopping experience from discovery, to ordering, to payment to fulfillment.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York