Davis Café Introduces Automated Ordering

Joe Skoff ‘20

Staff Writer

Illustration by Richard Farrell ‘22 

The new kiosk ordering system at Davis Café has sent a minor quake through the student body, creating a fission between pencil and pad zealots and welcomers of the modern age. 

In late June, Director of Cash Operations Mark Lewis and Davis Café Manager Michael Wilson codified the Café’s menu, and its comprehensive, customizable nature means the transition has not been without technical difficulties. “There are three separate systems all trying to communicate with each other,” said Lewis. “There are bound to be some issues.”

The kiosks use Infor, a global software company for businesses that utilizes cloud computing. Many of the system’s perceived problems are inherent to Infor’s hardware (the “add” button for removing ingredients, for instance) but some lay in menu layout decisions. Lewis and Wilson sat and pondered the big questions: what are the essential ingredients in a Wildcat Burger? How can we make language more user-friendly? And, above all, what is the simplest way to communicate an order to the user? 

How effective are the kiosks right now? Students have expressed a range of reactions thus far. “I’m less inclined to eat at Union because the kiosk lines are so long,” said Marina Shallcross ‘20.

“I can’t customize the order like I used to. There should be a comment box at the bottom of the page: a place to add special sauces or simple additions,” said Conor Huh ‘20. 

Jake Myers ‘22 noted an additional concern. “While this addition in technology to the Union adds promise for the future, right now I think it’s slower and more inconvenient. Why does it time out after fifteen seconds? You’re talking to your friend, and then boom, the order’s gone.”

Some Union workers expressed their own reservations. “The new system is much slower and harder to use,” explained one cashier, who preferred to remain anonymous. “We have to go through seven pages to ring up a single order. In the old computer, everything was right there.”

The kiosks send orders instantaneously to the kitchen; the kitchen then provides another paper receipt for students to present to the cashier. The separately automated systems mean entrees and sides may appear on different screens, frustrating students and employees. Kiosks are sometimes out of order, another source of inefficiency.

Still, Wilson thinks with time, complaints students have will be addressed. “This is just a test run,” said Wilson. “When all the kinks are sorted out, ordering at the Café will be more efficient than before. The endgame is a mobile ordering app with user identification within the year.”

Emmit Sklar ‘21, Student Government Association President, has the same vision. “SGA has worked closely with the directors of Commons and Union Café for a while now. This is a long-term plan.” 

The introduction of mobile ordering may alleviate issues students currently have: “If this is a transition to [mobile ordering,] then I support that,” said Sophie Sauer ‘22.

The kiosks also provide a different ordering experience, which can have its own benefits over paper and pencil.

“I like seeing everything that you can get on one screen. Instead of having separate sheets for everything, you can order from any station on one ticket,” continued Sauer. 

SGA, Union Café employees, and the system’s creators — the people most acquainted with the system and its immediate effects — all predict a gradual increase in dining efficiency with the advent of mobile ordering. Dining services automation has not been limited to Union: Summit Outpost already adopted mobile ordering at the beginning of this year.

Union dining managers predict a decrease in total kiosks, perhaps all the way down to only two, once students are able to order directly from their phones. “When we can order from our phones, I think the system will get a lot better. For now, though, there need to be some changes,” said James Reilly ‘21. 

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