By Trips Reddy, VP of Marketing

Schools across the country are using technology in partnership with operational changes to reopen on-campus dining, stores and sports venues. As the world slowly regains some normalcy and vaccination rates go up, students, staff and guests are looking for more convenience and safety in all their transactions, both in-person and digital. Omnichannel point of sale (POS) solutions already powered on-campus dining halls, stores and stadiums at more than 30 U.S. universities, safely enabling them to reopen this year. With cloud-based mobile ordering and kiosk solutions, institutions are able to run their campuses more efficiently and offer a contactless way for students to eat, drink and shop.

During the last 15 months, we’ve seen consumer behaviors change dramatically. Experts predict a lot of those changes are here to stay, even in a post-COVID world. We’ve seen Mastercard announce an over 40 percent increase in contactless payments in 2020 — including tap-to-pay and mobile payments — and that has gone up signifi cantly over the last year. Many schools now are moving towards becoming increasingly or completely contactless when it comes to ordering and payments.

Campuses like Louisiana State University (LSU) are seeing the benefi ts of mobile ordering, self-service kiosks, QR codes, order-ahead functionality and other innovations that a modern POS can support, from the stadiums and dining halls to bookstores and other retail locations.

Contactless Technology is Reshaping Ordering and Payments

In a recent survey, 48 percent of respondents said they worry about using cash as a payment type, and 60 percent said they prefer grab-and-go concepts. And fi nally, no surprise here, 70 percent are worried about standing in lines.

In the U.S., most of us are paying digitally more frequently. We’re payingmore with contactless payments that use near-field communication (NFC) technology to exchange data between readers and payment devices (like Apple Pay and Google Pay e-wallets in smartphones and smartwatches, or tap-to-pay credit and debit cards). We’re ordering more meals and even groceries online or via our mobile apps. Ultimately, customers now expect contactless experiences on campus and in venues.

LSU Increases Convenience and Order Sizes with New POS

Louisiana State University has some of the best college sports teams in the nation, including three-time National Championship titleholders, Tiger Football. With their popular teams ranging from baseball to basketball, the stadiums across LSU’s campus are continuously populated throughout the year. Tiger Stadium is the sixth-largest stadium in the world and the magnitude of transactions tends to be very high. LSU needed a modernized, cloud-based point of sale solution with self-service functionality.

Since implementing self-service kiosks, LSU saw a 16 percent increase in average order size and 25 percent more items per checkout at kiosks compared to traditional point of sale terminals.

Many campuses are dealing with an outdated point of sale system which can lead to long lines, frustrated students and staff, and upset fans missing key moments in the game at athletics venues. Like LSU, schools can truly benefit from the flexibility and convenience that modern, cloud-based point of sale solutions offer.

Flexibility was at the top of LSU’s list when they were looking for a new point of sale system. Not just flexibility for staff to move about the campus and stadium taking orders, but also the flexibility to move devices from stadium to stadium or even other high-traffic areas on campus. There are also handheld devices for table-side and even in-seat or in-suite ordering, as well as self-service kiosks located in high-traffic areas. All of their information is continuously backed up by cloud technology to enable backend reporting and analytics.

And, finally, there are several different delivery models: in-seat delivery (in stadiums), counter pickup, locker pick up, and pickup for catered pre-ordered meals. With all of that in mind, operators should consider how they are going to reopen their menus and how they will incentivize guests to use contactless payments more often by making transactions smooth and efficient.

All orders — no matter the medium or channel — feed into kitchen display systems and back-of-house tools. You’ll also need to keep guests updated through text message order updates as well as order status boards that you can post throughout your venue to keep customers up to speed. For larger campuses, you may want to think about integrating third-party delivery apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats.

“We recently deployed kiosks to enhance our food service and offer a more convenient and frictionless experience for our students and guests. This made it extremely easy for us to deploy a self-service platform and shift toward the future of ordering at athletic events.” - Matthew LaBorde, Associate AD/Chief Financial Officer, LSU

Kiosks and Self-Service Ordering for the Win

As payments become more high-tech, it's imperative for campuses to stay ahead of the technological curve. Offering efficient, intuitive self-service ordering is now a "must-have" not a "nice-to-have."

Self-service kiosks and mobile ordering have become a pivotal component for a successful, efficiently run campus. We've gone from days of cash registers and long lines to today’s omnichannel cloud-based solutions. Aside from the additional revenue they generate, students can now make orders and process payments all on their own with an intuitive, menu-driven interface. You can also invest in antimicrobial screen protector technology and sanitation stations near kiosks, concession stands and checkouts.

A Modern POS for Ole Miss

Appetize and Centerplate partnered with The University of Mississippi to install modern point of sale solutions in the Pavilion, home of the Ole Miss basketball team. The Pavilion now has fi xed terminals, self-service kiosks and mobile payment options such as Apple Pay and Bluetooth-enabled payments, and innovative back-of-house inventory software. In addition, a partnership with Hopscotch allows students to pay through their university accounts via smartphones, making orders and transactions even easier.

Guests at Ole Miss can now pay with credit card and mobile payments in locations that previously only accepted cash. A modern POS’s convenience, mobility and reduced operational costs helped the university to expand service to its baseball and football fields. As a result, Ole Miss saw an increase in revenue and improved fan experience campus-wide.

Increase Efficiency While Boosting the Operations Bottom Line

Just like the education industry, point of sale technology is ever-changing. Students want fast transactions with a do-it-yourself approach. Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, and they already have high expectations in terms of the speediness of their purchases, whether it’s ordering a ride-share, or getting food delivered straight to their dorm room. With all the stressors of studying while juggling a social life, they want transactions to be fast and convenient.

Unfortunately, at many campuses today you can still see long lines, confusion at the registers, staff trying to figure things out, payments happening slowly, and the process breaking down when internet connectivity is lost. Legacy systems at many institutions have not been able to keep up with the innovation that’s already out there.

In a recent study that talked to fans and venues to understand what they actually care about today, the answer was “shorter lines.” That’s especially important in a post-COVID world. More than half of the people surveyed talked about using mobile to order their items. Mobile is now an integral part of the whole campus experience. Starbucks reported that 30 percent of its revenue since 2017 has come from mobile payments alone, and one out of 10 people use order-ahead in its stores.

Campuses Need Custom Solutions

The top two question for campus management teams are:

  • “How do I make my stadium, dining halls and stores contactless?”
  • “How do I shorten lines, increase convenience, and support ordering via mobile phones and QR codes?”

If there is anything we’ve learned over the last 15 months, it’s that one size does not fi t all. What works for a 100-foot-wide concourse outdoors at the Rose Bowl for UCLA may not work for Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke. Whether it’s geography, concourse space, weather or kitchen capacity, every campus has different needs.

The powerful combination of NFC, mobile and online ordering, along with thoughtful operational changes, will enable us all to get back to school and power safe, convenient contactless experiences that your students and staff deserve.