A group of support staff from the culinary services department worked together to create a new mobile ordering service for Spartans. Reporter Morgan Womack talked to senior executive chef Kurt Kwiatkowski about his involvement with the project.
Q: Tell me about your new mobile ordering app.
A: It’s a pretty cool app, and we started pretty small, so we could understand it and start to get guest feedback too. It’s going to continue to grow, especially for the fall. The mobile app is pretty slick. You get breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you have a different menu for breakfast as you do for lunch and dinner. It’s pretty user friendly and easy to set up.
Q: What kind of impact do you think this will have on students?
A: It’s actually live right now, and you can download it. If you have an on-campus meal plan, you’re able to use it right now at Brody Square, South Pointe, and at The Edge at Akers. Right now we already have 1,400 people that have downloaded the app. We’ve had 70 people download it in the last 30 days. I think a lot of people are unsure, but the people that have downloaded it are definitely using it. Of the people using the app, 44% of them have used it 10 or more times. So, obviously the people that are using the app like it for the convenience of it and for the fact that if some people don’t want to be in a crowd and don’t want to go into the dining room, they just want to grab their food and go back to their room or go back outside and eat, they have that ability to do that.
Q: What do you most want people to know about this service?
A: The menus are going to be different across campus, so that’s the fun part of it. Brody will be featuring one thing where Case might be featuring something else. And Holden might be featuring something else where Shaw’s featuring something. It’s about choices. One thing that we’ve heard on a regular basis, it’s always about choices. Right now, it’s the same menu across campus. In the fall, now that we’ve got the system and we understand how it works, we’re customizing it and changing it and expanding on what the system can do for us.
Q: How does the mobile app work?
A: It’s like a meal replacement, so it would be a swipe with your dining plan. You have a certain amount of things you’re allowed to get within it. So, it’s not like “I want 10 orders of this, five orders of this, three beverages and 10 cookies because MSU Baker cookies are delicious.” There are certain limits. And it’ll allow you to order that many, but only a certain amount are taken out and then you would have to pay with a credit card or Spartan Cash to cover the rest.
Q: Why did you make this app a priority?
A: I think it goes to thinking about our guests. It was something we were considering, it was on our projects list, but obviously, it moved way up because given the situations with COVID, with not knowing what we would be allowed to sit in our dining room, we had to think about “how are we going to be able to take care of our guests from a food aspect?” So, if it was a grab-and-go or a mobile order, they could order it at their convenience and set a pickup time for when it works for them. It’s also about a convenience thing. With today’s day and how busy things can be, planning that out and just grabbing it and being on the move, it works well.
Q: Will this new service have any effect on the current dining staff?
A: It’s a process. We don’t believe we’re going to need to add an excess amount of staff, but I think it’s maybe shifting what some people may do to do (something else). In the halls we’ve had to adjust our services away from made-to-order items because we’ve had to be cognizant of social distancing. We not only need to keep our guests social distanced, but we need to keep our staff safe and make sure that they’re distanced as well. So, it’s thinking through all of the situations from every angle and trying to create something that can be consistent and executable. Again, it’s for what the guest is looking for.
Q: What kind of feedback are you receiving so far?
A: We had excitement more than anything before we launched it. Talking with some students, they’re like “wow, this is going to be great.” As we’ve gotten into it, we’ve made some adjustments. (Students would say) “oh, it would be great if I could order this with my type of cheese instead of just cheddar cheese. It would be great if I could choose besides just lettuce, tomato and pickle, could you look to expand that?” So, we’re taking those into consideration. If we were to do a stir fry, let’s say, allow the guests to pick the vegetables that they would want. And same for a sandwich, let’s say, instead of it just being a turkey and swiss sandwich you’d be able to pick the meat. You’d be able to pick if you wanted cheese or not. Did you want it heated or cold? What toppings did you want on there? Is there a dressing that you wanted on it? What kind of bun? Did you want it in a bun or did you want it in a wrap? Looking to explore the customizable aspect of it is kind of where we’re moving toward for the fall.
Q: What is your overall goal for this mobile ordering service?
A: Our hope is that we’re able to deliver to our guests something that they’re really looking for and to maybe be able to offer some items in an area that aren’t being offered in an all-you-care-to-eat standpoint. In an area, let’s say, that might not have a pasta station, let’s work to figure out how we can do that and give them the flexibility to choose when they want to come pick it up. Obviously, this is going to help with social distancing, moving people through the dining room quicker, long lines, just allowing people to get food when they want to get it.
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