Whispers Cafe introduces trial run for new kiosk ordering systems

Noah Slaughter | Contributing Reporter

Dining Services introduced two touch-screen kiosks in Whispers Cafe over winter break for students to order food and drinks and skip the traditional, in-person registers.

The kiosks are currently in a pilot stage and student feedback will inform Dining Service’s decision if they decide to keep the machines long-term.

Students use the new ordering kiosk in Whispers Cafe. Dining Services introduced the system this semester to allow students to skip traditional, in-person registers. The University hopes to expand the program in future.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Students use the new ordering kiosk in Whispers Cafe. Dining Services introduced the system this semester to allow students to skip traditional, in-person registers. The University hopes to expand the program in future.

According to Dining Services Manager Paul Schimmele, the kiosks in Whispers are a trial run for a similar kiosk system which will be unveiled at the Parkside Cafe in the East End expansion. Once Parkside opens in July, all food orders will be done on kiosks.

“If it all goes well, they will stay here, but what we’re really interested in seeing is how well this works, how well students welcome this and how the technology works for us,” Schimmele said.

According to Schimmele, Dining Services chose the company Tapingo for the kiosks because of its dependability and for its other interesting capabilities, such as the potential to send messages to users’ phones for feedback. Additionally, Tapingo gives students the option to download its app and order from their phones.

Dining Services previously looked into Tapingo for a mobile food ordering system at campus dining facilities, before deciding on the current service, GET Food. In the last year, Tapingo and CBORD, the company that runs the transaction system on campus, entered a formal arrangement, which reignited Dining Services’ interest in Tapingo. Tapingo may eventually replace GET Food for mobile ordering.

Dining Services Director of Operations April Powell said the kiosks are part of a trend towards using more technology in the food service industry at large.

“You experience it everywhere, whether it’s mobile ordering or delivery-based apps or all these types of things,” Powell said. “So, I think we’re really just considering what that looks like within Dining Services in order to make sure the experiences are on par with what you experience in normal life, so to speak.”

Freshman Hud Bolender used one of the kiosks and said the process was relatively quick. He said he would use the kiosks again, but doesn’t have much of a preference between using the machines and ordering in person.

“I thought it was pretty good,” Bolender said. “It was pretty easy.”

Head of the Dining Services Student Advisory Team junior Sema Dibooglu said the computerized system could lead to glitches, but predicts that they will be infrequent and easily fixed. Additionally, she pointed out that this type of ordering is normal for most college students.

“I think we’re really used to convenience as students,” Dibooglu said. “When we order something, we want it now. It’s kind of like that Amazon two-day ordering, Prime—we want it in two days. Or if we’re ordering our food, we want it within…like 30-40 minutes. We want that now. I think this kind of taps into that need for things to be immediate.”

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