Efficiency Meets Innovation: How Smart Lockers Optimize Students’ Schedules

by | Apr 24, 2024 | Blogs, Campus Dining

by Sarah McMullen, Student, University of South Carolina

College students on campus

Campus dining has long been a key aspect of the true college experience, providing students with an assortment of food options as they navigate their academic endeavors. As college students juggle academic responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and social engagements, time becomes a precious commodity. In the midst of busy schedules, finding convenient and efficient ways to access meals on campus can significantly enhance the student experience.

Being a student myself, I used to constantly find myself needing to refuel for the day with a meal but not having the time to cook or even wait in line for food. Fortunately, the introduction of food pickup lockers on many campuses revolutionized the traditional dining landscape, offering students a seamless solution that saves time and enhances convenience. I’ve seen many benefits of food pickup lockers, and would like to share a few reasons why they’ve become an indispensable part of my campus experience.

From traditional to technical

I entered my freshman year on a campus that was recognized as one that had the “Best College Food in America” by the Daily Mail, so I knew my experience was going to be top-tier. Throughout my first year, it was clear that the university had invested a lot of time and resources to ensure the best experience possible for students on the meal plan. Even though the food options were outstanding, it worried me that the lines and waiting sometimes took a lot of time out of my day.

It wasn’t until the fall semester of my sophomore year that I started to see major changes in the student dining services. Over the summer, the university added multiple smart lockers at different dining locations across campus in efforts to improve the student dining experience. I had decided to sign up for a meal plan my sophomore year for convenience and time-saving. There was a noticeable difference between my ease of dining from freshman year to sophomore year. With the lockers, I could order as I left class and walked towards the restaurant to minimize my wait times. Saving time between classes is crucial for me to maintain a healthy habits schedule, a few minutes here and there saved up can make the biggest difference in the end.

My friends that didn’t sign up for the meal plan their sophomore year were fascinated by the lockers and wished they’d been installed earlier for them to experience. They noticed the ease of traffic flow when it comes to picking up orders at dining locations in comparison to how it was the year before with what we experienced without the lockers — the difference is shocking!

Accessibility at your fingertips

My campus dining program is partnered with Grubhub to order from certain dining locations on campus. After browsing the restaurant options on the app and choosing where to order from, you receive a pop-up message if a locker pickup is an option. I always choose to eat from a locker location if I am in a hurry or have a busy day, because I can get in and out quickly.

Whether they’re running between a tight class schedule, attending student organization meetings, making it to work on time, or meeting up with study groups, students on campus almost always opt for the locker dining locations. I talked with both underclassmen and upperclassmen to get a gauge of their preferences, and both groups expressed that the lockers allow them to stick to a tight schedule and eliminate any kind of mishaps that may come with ordering from a traditional dining location. Many students enjoy the grab-and-go aspect of it, as I do myself.

Goodbye, wait times

My schedule got significantly busier sophomore year, which is why I opted in for a meal plan instead of cooking. I was very involved on campus, and had an on-campus job at the time, so I didn’t have time to walk back to my apartment for lunch and dinner. With that being said, I scheduled myself very tightly so I could get everything I needed to get done on campus in one big swoop for the day.

I remember that during finals, I was studying for my biggest two exams in the library and realized I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. I went on the Grubhub app and placed my order for the food location across the street, and I was able to monitor when it was ready and placed in the locker. This was really helpful during such a busy and stressful time because my food was waiting for me in the locker when I arrived, and I didn’t need to worry about it not being ready, or someone accidentally grabbing it. I was able to get a full meal to recharge up for the rest of my night within minutes, and the process was so simple and straightforward — it was great!

No more lost orders or mix-ups

As I mentioned previously, a huge perk of having the food lockers is minimizing the risk of stolen orders. This both makes the process at ease for students and the employees. When you order on GrubHub it prints out an order ticket at the restaurant with your name. Traditional dining locations will get the orders to students by calling out the name on the ticket or simply laying it on the counter. Having a common name, such as Sarah, can be frustrating at these places.

I remember one time when I ordered from a traditional dining location and they called out my name. There were eight people waiting who all had the same first name. Every time another order was called with the same name we all ended up going each time. Since the staff at these locations are so busy with orders, they don’t always take the time to check to make sure the right person is picking up their food. There was another time that I had ordered in advance on the app but was running late since I stayed behind to talk to a professor. When I went to pick up my food at the dining location, someone else had already picked up the my order. This was frustrating for both me and the staff as it took more of my time and the staff’s time to remake my order. Using smart food lockers eliminates any possibility of these scenarios occurring. I’m able to walk up to the locker, and even if I’m running a few minutes late, I know that no one has taken my order on purpose or by mistake.

As a busy student, food lockers have made a big improvement in my life. They’ve given me the ability to juggle all my campus activities and responsibilities by making better use of my time. I look forward to seeing them at more restaurants on and off campus.


Find out more about using OrderHQ™ Smart Food Lockers to give students the convenient order pickup experiences they’re looking for.