Dining services considers online food ordering

Students might have the option of avoiding lines at certain campus eateries next year by preordering meals on a Web site.

Webfood, the online ordering system that would make this possible, could be available at the university as early as fall 2010, a Dining Services official said.

The system, which is used at universities across the country, is currently being researched by Cedric Rogers, operations manager for Dining Services.

Webfood is an online and kiosk-based ordering service available from CBORD, the identification card system provider for the university.

The ordering system would enable students to place orders online or at a kiosk, choose a pickup time and pick up their meal at the location of their choice. The system would most likely be used at 1873 and Sub Connection, Rogers said.

The Web site would have pictures and nutritional information of the items offered, Rogers said.

The process of getting Webfood at the university would be student-driven, Rogers said. The student-run Dining Services Committee, which is led by sophomore Abbey Brokos, Student Government Association executive member, would play a part in this process.

Brokos said the committee would likely support Webfood because the system would be beneficial for active students who were short on time.

The committee might create a student survey about Webfood if there were substantial interest, and legislation would be written to see if SGA would support the system, Brokos said.

The service is currently in use at a handful of other universities across the country, including Trinity University in San Antonio and Boston College.

Students at Trinity University have the option of pickup or delivery meals from two eateries and a convenience store. The Trinity Webfood Web site allows students to order pizzas with up to three toppings or to build their own sandwiches, choosing the bread, meat and other ingredients.

Students have the option to sign up for a text message notification when an order is placed, edited or canceled.

Eleanora Leeper, a junior at Trinity, said the program is convenient for students who want food but don’t want to leave their residence halls. The program could also come in handy for organizations, such as Greeks, that need to order large quantities of meals for on-campus events, she said.

Many Trinity students choose to go to the dining hall instead of use the delivery option because the walk from a residence hall to the dining hall is fairly short, Leeper said. Leeper, who attended TCU during her freshman year, said she thought the delivery option might be more popular at a larger university, such as TCU.

Boston College, which has used Webfood since 2006, uses the program for a slightly different purpose.

John Connelly, menu systems administrator at Boston College, said the system is used for catering, gifts and meals in the luxury boxes at football games instead of individual meal orders..

Webfood orders at the university are commonly placed for food at office meetings or resident assistant hall meetings, Connelly said. The latest addition to the Web site is a gift selection section that ranges from cakes to coffee arrangements, which are sent from parents to students.

Boston College uses a specifically customized version of Webfood, but despite a few glitches that were worked out over the years, the system has worked well overall, Connelly said.