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Sodexo introduces mobile ordering to 25pc of college campuses

Food service company Sodexo is leveraging a partnership with the Tapingo application to deploy mobile ordering options to more than 850 colleges nationwide, a move that could transform the format of campus dining programs in the near future.

The partnership will enable students and faculty to order food through on-campus dining programs with their smartphones, and set up a time for it to be retrieved or delivered. As mobile ordering continues to gain steam – particularly among millennials and younger consumers – college campus dining programs may be forced to incorporate this technology into their business models to keep up with customers’ demands.

“The college space is particularly appealing for mobile ordering platforms because this is the generation that is driving the shift to mobile capabilities,” said Jeff Hardy, chief business officer at Tapingo. “It’s a fundamental part of their lifestyle – it’s how they have interacted with the world almost their whole lives.

“The university commercial ecosystem has allowed Tapingo to serve students’ everyday needs,” he said. “When everything you buy is clustered, one app can provide everything you want.

“That’s part of why engagement with our app is so high. By engaging the college generation now, Tapingo is well-positioned to turn our loyal customers into life customers.”

Enhancing student experiences
Sodexo currently serves as the campus dining provider for more than 850 colleges across the United States and Canada. The new collaboration will allow Sodexo to roll out Tapingo’s ordering abilities – in the form of a mobile app – to its client institutions.

Tapingo will include Sodexo’s top universities in its fall 2016 deployment schedule, which will see 100 new campuses join its customer list.

Therefore, the collaboration will expand Tapingo’s reach to 25 percent of major four-year U.S. colleges.

With consumers being more time-strapped than ever these days, the partnership will likely result in higher usage of the Tapingo app as well as more sales for Sodexo’s dining programs.

College students are among the most prolific users of mobile ordering platforms, making them an ideal demographic to target.

Tapingo offers its users quick access to local eateries by displaying live wait times for orders. For example, if an individual is craving buffalo wings, he or she can view the estimated delivery time from a slew of nearby locations, enabling him or her to choose the speediest option.

Users can also customize their orders and save their favorites for faster reordering in the future. Tapingo lets customers know when their order should be ready, and gives them the ability to pick up the food or have it delivered.

A comprehensive order history is also readily available in the app.

The future of dining halls
If the Tapingo and Sodexo collaboration sees positive customer feedback this fall, it could prompt a slew of other college campuses to usher in mobile ordering platform partnerships.

This trend could also affect the format of dining halls in the future. Younger consumers’ proclivity toward mobile ordering may force campus dining services to alter their business models accordingly.

For example, if a greater amount of food is being delivered or retrieved by students, dining halls may be able to cut down on square footage and the number of tables or booths they contain.

“At several of our national brand partner stores, as well as cafeterias and dining halls, we’re seeing new, innovative designs that have been built to optimize Tapingo – with dedicated counters for express Tapingo pick-up services,” Mr. Hardy said.

“Our campuses have had such a positive experience with Tapingo increasing throughput that we’ve actually seen entire cafeterias remodeled around Tapingo’s services.”

Additionally, the number of on-site cafeteria workers may need to be reassessed.

“The implementation of Tapingo means that stores/restaurants can repurpose labor to more production-based roles,” Mr. Hardy said. “At one of our busiest locations, they were able to install a new espresso machine and serve more customers faster.

“In this particular instance, Tapingo enabled the restaurant to increased throughput and sales by 30 percent without having to increase overhead costs.”

Ultimately, the Sodexo/Tapingo partnership is likely to entice plenty of new users to flock toward the latter’s app, and could even prompt more students to sign up for on-campus meal plans instead of ordering in food from off-campus restaurants.

Tapingo has also teamed up with several major chains in the past to bring mobile ordering options to college students.

Last fall, Chipotle Mexican Grill took the mobile ordering blitz one step further by identifying a potentially lucrative target audience of college students, prompting the brand to team up with Tapingo for quick mobile delivery to campuses nationwide (see story).

Seven-Eleven also stayed current with the mobile-driven evolution of what constitutes “convenience” through a partnership with Tapingo that brought products directly to college students (see story).

“Tapingo effectively makes college meal plans more powerful, valuable and accessible,” Mr. Hardy said. “College dining services face the challenge of reaching students who live off-campus, and Tapingo Delivery solves this problem.

“Using Tapingo, students, faculty and staff living both on and off-campus can access the meal plan through Tapingo Delivery.”