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The Evolution of University and Workplace Dining in the Face of COVID

Let’s eat 

Restaurants have traditionally been one of the toughest businesses to operate, but the failure rate is much lower than many perceive. The stiff competition, razor-thin margins and rising costs were insignificant compared to the sudden tidal wave of the pandemic. Restaurants were forced to shut down overnight and restrictions changed weekly. No surprise that Yelp estimates the permanent closure rate of eateries who shut down during the pandemic hovers at 60%.

As vaccines have rolled out and life ekes towards normalcy, universities and workplaces—like restaurants—have irreversibly shifted the way they serve food. Cafeterias on campus and in the office used to be a gathering place to socialize, but we’ve gotten a wake up call that these areas also present heightened risk. Moving forward, it appears institutions will enact sweeping changes to ensure health and safety:

  • Meals will be unitized and to-go. They’ll be chilled to extend shelf life and packaged to-go for pickup.
  • Family-style dining and community coffee pots may not be allowed.
  • All self-service salad bars, breakfast bars, coffee bars, etc could be closed.
  • Limiting traffic within dining halls and is looking for safe, non-contact point-of-sale solutions to deploy in more places around campus and the office.

Food culture

Food has been a crucial part of human culture since the beginning of time. This won’t change anytime soon, but it may look different in a post-covid world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering how well food service has adapted to the rapidly changing covid restrictions and shutdowns. Even when we’re not at home, food remains central to office and work culture. Team lunches are common bonding experiences that foster brand culture and togetherness. Even on university campuses, the cafeteria is the hub for faculty and students to cross paths.

With so many institutions looking for innovative, safe ways to continue feeding their employees and students, the popularity of unattended fridges has surged. There’s no contact with support staff, food is fresh, and available round the clock.

The future of food

When it comes to Coolgreens, the Byte team feels like proud parents. A client who’s been leaning into using kiosks as distributed points of sale, like everyone else, Coolgreens was required to close their restaurant dining rooms in April 2020. They quickly pivoted to deploy smart fridges throughout the Dallas Ft. Worth area to drive convenience and push their products to the customer. VP of Business Development, Mary Beth McGehee, said “now that we’ve seen success with our newest locations, we have expanded our selection criteria as we go forward throughout the Metroplex. With businesses and lifestyles changing so rapidly, we believe that people need a healthy, better-for-you option readily available now more than ever. With Coolgreens Markets located in high-rise residential and office buildings, people can be more health-conscious without having to leave their office or residence.”

It may feel like forever, but it wasn’t that long ago that dining out required no more forethought than a reservation and a glance at the menu. While times may have certainly changed, the innovation surrounding food delivery will remain. No contact, distributed points of sale like Byte’s kiosks are going to continue playing an increasing role on university campuses and throughout office buildings. This method of fresh food delivery works for both the institution and the individuals because it’s safe, cost-effective and convenient—especially now that Byte supports the top five campus card payment providers.

Interested in learning more? We’d love to talk to you – email me directly at megan@bytetechnology.co to schedule a call.

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