Addressing Today’s Campus Needs with Mobile Ordering

Serving the campus community while maintaining social distancing

During these unprecedented times, many higher education institutions are finding unique ways to serve those who may need to remain on campus, while adhering to social distancing requirements. Many campus dining venues are transforming into grab-and-go operations to help limit person-to-person interactions.

In this web seminar, a panel of campus leaders discussed how they are using mobile ordering to serve students and faculty while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.


John Diaz
V.P., Retail Solutions Product Management
Transact Campus

Jennifer Paiotti
Marketing Director, Auxiliary Services
Xavier University (Ohio)

Nirmal Palliyaguru
Director, ACCESS Card Office and Property Management
Santa Clara University (Calif.)

Tess Martinez
System Administrator
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

John Diaz: Initially, we thought we would do a nice presentation on how mobile ordering has been deployed on campuses. Then all of a sudden, COVID-19 came along, and the use of these technologies changed quite a bit. What has been the impact of COVID-19 on campus?

Nirmal Palliyaguru: We moved to kiosk-focused dining services. Students order the food through the kiosk, and we make sure everybody uses hand sanitizer after each transaction. We blocked off all seating on campus. It’s become almost like a drive-up or a pickup option.

Jennifer Paiotti: For us, it’s created an unbroken circle of change. We were on spring break when this came about, and then we transitioned to remote learning for the remainder of the semester. Within about two weeks, we had everyone moving out of their residence halls and on-campus apartments and moving home. Classes are now entirely remote, and 99% of staff are working remotely.

Tess Martinez: About 300 students remain on campus because they can’t get home. One dining hall is open, and we have a convenience store in the same building using mobile ordering. It wasn’t there before, but we were able to quickly repurpose a sandwich shop into a store for essential items so students can get medicine, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and microwave meals.

John Diaz: We’ve heard from a number of our clients that mobile ordering is working well for them as part of their response to COVID-19 since it helps them meet many requirements. One of the big things is that it helps them facilitate social distancing. For clients who already had mobile ordering deployed on campus, it gave them the ability to pivot relatively quickly and help keep their students and campus constituents healthy and safe.

The technologies can be used for more than food. Push notifications allow for accessible communication during a very fluid and very dynamic event.

We’ve also had some clients who didn’t already have this deployed and needed to get mobile ordering going very quickly. Fortunately, this technology lends itself to remote use, so we don’t have to send technical staff to campus.

How has this technology played a part on your campus?

Jennifer Paiotti: We’ve used it for targeted emails and push notifications. We’ve been able to message our students on how they can download digital books for classes. Our on-campus wellness center will be using mobile ordering for the delivery of box lunches to their offices. And in the fall, we’ll be using it to distribute textbooks to 3,800 registered students.

Tess Martinez: We set up the Market on Craver’s Essentials Program. Students drive up to a little loading dock, staff hand over items and off they go. There’s also food that’s going to expire, so we’ve been using a mobile-ordering market to sell off bundles of things, such as Starbucks coffee beans at a reasonable price.

John Diaz: How might things change when we start back up, and how will mobile ordering play a part?
Nirmal Palliyaguru: We will continue to expand offerings on mobile. Right now, we have our cafés and the primary buildings, but as we get ready for fall, we will be bringing in more venues.

Jennifer Paiotti: We will expand our mobile ordering, too. I look at things from a nondining perspective—possibly working with our recreation center, scheduling classes for our Health United building or integrating with our student emergency fund.

Tess Martinez: We have plans to put our ID card office on mobile so students can order replacements, submit photos, the whole nine yards. We’re talking about putting our concessions for football games on mobile so people can order from their seats.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit