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Here to Stay: Innovations Borne of the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Kevin Rettle

For more than a year, the concept of “normal” life has been altered, with daily life fundamentally shifting as the threat of COVID-19 began looming over the world. We all look forward to life returning to normal once the outbreak is under control, but we also may have to rethink our ideas of normal. Although we are eager to leave behind many of the changes brought by COVID-19, some changes were valuable and are worth maintaining long term.

The latest chapter of the President to President thought leadership series explores this idea in depth. In “When the Dust Settles, Higher Education Won’t Be the Same,” Georgia Institute of Technology President Ángel Cabrera, Ph.D., describes some of the positive changes his institution made in response to the pandemic and explains how he and his team will adapt those developments to continue meeting the needs of students, faculty, and staff.

One area of campus operations that required significant, dramatic changes to meet COVID-19 safety guidelines was dining. Long lines winding around multiple self-serve dining stations, students crowded at tables, and large groups congregating indoors over a shared meal became impossible. The demand for grab-and-go and contactless options exploded virtually overnight.

Sodexo campus dining teams quickly pivoted, modifying menus and reconfiguring dining venues to accommodate a take-out only model. Technology played a major role in successfully making that transition, particularly significant enhancements to Sodexo’s BiteU mobile application. The expanded app offers mobile ordering, contactless payment, and integration with campus card systems. Students love the new features, which add convenience and make dining on campus easier than ever. The extensive adoption of BiteU at campuses all over the country illustrates the app’s popularity and staying power. Sodexo even has plans to further enhance BiteU by integrating the app with meal kit subscriptions for students.

Another example is the adoption of ghost kitchens, also referred to as cloud kitchens. With this unique approach, guests order from their favorite retail venues and pick their food up from one centralized location. This model extends availability and operating hours, which improves guest satisfaction. Locations have gone from offering delivery from five restaurant concepts on campus to 10 just by implementing a ghost kitchen model.

An evolution is upon us. Where there is evolution, there is hope; this allows us to continue appreciating the value of these and other recent developments that will change campus life for a generation. Many of the new ideas brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have broad applicability in improving quality of life on campus. Long after the pandemic has subsided and we’ve settled back into familiar routines, these innovations will be still part of the modern campus experience.



April 07, 2021

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