The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of e-commerce in all industries, including foodservice. The ability to make convenient online purchases is now a basic expectation from consumers, especially Generation Z.

E-commerce is table stakes for university dining operations emerging into a post-pandemic world.

Digital platforms not only offer the convenience that consumers came to expect during the pandemic. E-Commerce also offers the contactless and physically distanced precautions that many consumers find reassuring as comfort levels slowly return to normal.

Sodexo campuses around North America are upping the game on a variety of strategies to support e-Commerce on campus. These three approaches are part of a campus lifestyle evolution that will be on college and university campuses for years to come.

Digital Wallet Integrations

Today’s students are more likely to have their phone in their pocket than their wallet. Now they can be one and the same.

The integration of mobile payment options like Apple Wallet and Samsung Pay place more purchasing power in the cell phone at in-person checkout. Pre-loaded payment in mobile applications also make online ordering fast and convenient.

Sodexo’s Bite for Universities app integrates with four of the leading campus card systems, allowing students to place orders using their declining balance dollars, meal swipes, and/or meal equivalencies. This flexibility adds value to student meal plans and drives participation.

And mobile wallet capabilities are just the baseline of what Bite for Universities plans to offer. Future plans focus on app engagement features to drive loyalty and keep mobile checkouts fast and convenient.

Graphic: Locations that have implemented Bite are seeing a 10% increase in growth vs. non-Bite locations


Ghost Kitchens

Use cases for “ghost kitchens” has accelerated during the pandemic. The operation supports contactless delivery models and extended hours needed during the pandemic, but also creates opportunities for collaboration. Ghost kitchens are also shaping how campus integrates operations with the local campus community more seamlessly than ever.

Ghost kitchens fulfill orders or make products used in delivery or pickup operations without any face to face consumer contact from dine-in. This format creates a quick and convenient distribution channel solely through online ordering. It’s been key to keeping variety in the diets of students during COVID-19 lockdowns.

The ghost kitchen format can also engage the local business community. These town and gown partnerships keep nearby restaurants engaged during local and regional shutdowns by offering the ghost kitchen platform to service from. Collaborative ghost kitchen operations support local business revenue while also relieving some operations for campus.

Graphic: A ghost kitchen operation at Bentley University allowed dining services to double the number of menu concepts available and keep variety fresh for students.


Subscription Models

Students had to learn to cook and dine more at home during the pandemic. These new habits influence expectations on campus, driving demand for meal preparation in the dorm room.

Subscription model services for meal kits and consumer packaged goods support these new habits. Sodexo offers this solution through partnerships with meal kit brands like HelloFresh and Every Plate.

Subscription meal kits available on the SodexoMyWay digital websites and Bite for Universities mobile app meet student’s post-pandemic desire to keep cooking at home, with the ease of ingredients being safely delivered to their door. Meeting consumers online offers meal kit subscriptions with just a few easy clicks.

Grocery subscription models also see strong e-commerce participation, giving students and parents the opportunity to stock dorm kitchens while staying in. Access to popular groceries like cereal, peanut butter, and bottled water make dorm snacking convenient and worry-free. Sodexo’s consumable product subscription, “Fill My Fridge,” launched in 20 sites in the winter of 2021 to meet this demand and anticipates continued growth nationwide.

Graphic: 23+ different weekly meal choices available with HelloFresh through Sodexo e-Commerce 

April 26, 2021

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