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Vidya Kotamraju
Written by Vidya Kotamraju
August 28, 2018

Vivonet Product Development: Higher Education Food Services

It’s been a busy third quarter of a busy year for the product development team at Vivonet. An important segment we've concentrated on has been higher education food services. What has the team been working on to serve our partners serving universities and college campuses? What have been some of the challenges our customers have experienced that have defined our recent development activities?

University students at college cafeteria table Adobe Images-640x426

Here’s a summary of our approach with some examples of our development work over the last few months that demonstrate where we’ve been and where we’re going to evolve our services to help our higher education food services partners scale their operations and business strategies in the future.

Higher education food services tech solutions: our approach

In our business, the personal touch is always preferable. That means going to partner sites, meeting with leaders directly and trying to get a first-hand sense of what the priorities should be for product development. This stage in our process helps us get out of our own closed circles which can be very absorbing, and helps us instead to focus on what really matters; solving problems and creating paths to achieving goals as defined by our customers.

That means pinpointing specific scenarios, that often come out of our discussions with food services leaders in the higher education space. From there, we get a clearer sense of the kinds of challenges they face, how our solutions can help  overcome them, and make us better able to establish a more rounded and accurate idea of project scope and timelines. This makes our customers' calendars and priorities the focus of our efforts and gives us a realistic picture of how to plan our sprint.

Food court scene Adobe Images-640x426

After our site visits, we set to work on proposals to address our findings. Then we take those proposals back to our customers' leadership team. From there, we're able to approach our development according to measurable goals as led by the customer. It also gives us some insight as a team on how to scale our solutions for the future as well as for the immediate present.

What are some recent examples of this? Here are some of the challenges our customers face that we were able to address in development for the past quarter.

New POS meal plan integrations for higher education food services

We’re continuing our partnerships and integrations with a selection of meal plan providers in the higher education space including CBord Odyssey, Atrium, Blackboard Transact, and Blackboard SAAS to better serve higher education use cases. We’ve developed enhanced meal plan integrations for our cloud-based point-of-sale to make sure that students and operators alike have greater visibility on the status of declining balances, meal counts, and cash equivalencies.

These enhancements are in direct response to our partners’ requirements. They need transparency around the status of meal plans, and recognize that the students and faculty they serve do, too. That said, elements like balances, counts, and equivalencies are to be displayed on the receipt for the benefit of the student or faculty member using the card. They’re also clearly displayed on the terminal to be viewed by the operator. Everyone has maximum visibility.

Vivonet Cloud POS 600x350

This feature is valuable on a transaction by transaction basis. But it’s also an indication to users as to how to scale and add to an existing meal plan when necessary. This means a more accurate idea for the student or faculty member as to how much they’re spending on meals, and how much to increase the allowance on their card if necessary. That also means the potential for a greater increase in revenue for the operators, too.

Food services student card photo display enhancement for Vivonet Cloud POS

As mentioned earlier, our product development team have been thinking about very specific scenarios and use cases to drill down and solve the kinds of problems our partners have outlined. Student photo display is one of the features for the point-of-sale that’s a recent addition to the newest version of the software. How does this feature help operators and students and faculty, too?

Users that make transactions on student meal cards that are not their own is an ongoing issue in food services in the higher education sector. The student photo display feature helps to reduce fraudulent use of the cards. That helps protect the card owners from fraudulent transactions. And when a student uses the card, this new point-of-sale integration compatible with some of our meal plan partners helps cashiers to validate that use, too. That’s the kind of visibility our higher education food services partners are looking for.

Student with meal card or loyalty card - 640x373

For larger campuses in particular, being able to match a card with the right user is a priority. This aspect of meal plan integrations is an integral way we at Vivonet are able to better serve those larger campuses. It helps to ensure students and faculty have exclusive use of their cards, and that operators have an additional layer of validation around their use.

Vivonet and higher education food services

Product development is in large part a process of constant communications with our customers; to continue to learn about what their goals and roadblocks are as they emerge, and how they might be met using technology that scales with their needs as things (inevitably!) change. Working with our partners in the food services sector with higher education concepts in mind, we’re excited to be able to present our customers with enhancements and improvements that speak directly to their challenges.

Our approach to product development is about listening, proposing, testing (testing, testing, etc!), and launching new features that will continue to meet current needs and anticipate future ones, too.

Tell us your story

Food services leaders; we’d love to hear about what you’re facing as technology trends and consumer expectations shift and change. This is an extension of how we work with our existing customers; hearing their perspectives and responding to their challenges in our development process to create the products and features they really need.

Vivonet works with leading food services providers in North America. We also have strong relationships with leading campus meal card providers, loyalty partners, and other higher education technology solutions vendors  to help food services organizations serve students and faculty more comfortably and efficiently. 

We can help you overcome challenges and meet your goals for growth, too. Reach out to us here.

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