Students at Niagara University in Buffalo now have the option of preordering groceries and other items from the campus c-store for pickup and will eventually also have the option of getting it delivered as well. The platform for the service is a pilot program called REStock from management company Metz Culinary Management, which oversees campus dining at Niagara.
REStock was launched last August at several Metz higher education accounts, including Niagara.
“Basically, you can order ahead and we’ll bag it up for you and have it ready, so you can walk out of the store and save yourself some time,” explains Andrew Shaner, Metz general manager at Niagara.
The delivery option and an app through which orders can be placed is scheduled to launch in August in time for the opening of the 2018-2019 school year. There is no additional fee either for using the preorder or for delivery when it is implemented, Shaner says.
The preorder option extends to the entire stock of the campus c-store The Grove, including school supplies, toiletries, frozen dinners, deli meats/cheeses, dairy items, fresh local produce, and packaged snacks and beverages.
While the service is currently drawing only a handful of students per day, “it has definitely added to our sales and also student convenience,” Shaner says. He notes that the average order size is larger than typical because a student isn’t rushed to pick up a few essentials between classes but can consider the full range of what he or she needs to purchase and note it on the order.
“We’re also really trying to market it to the faculty as a place to stop on the way home for grocery needs and household essentials,” Shaner adds.
The published lead time between order placement and pickup is two hours “but we’ve done anything up to about 30 minutes,” he says.
The orders currently are placed through an emailed online form that can also be printed and dropped off physically at the Grove. The store also has printed order sheets available that can be taken and filled out.
Niagara was chosen as a pilot site for REStock because of its concentration of campus dorms and apartments that are just far enough from the Grove to make a preorder service appealing, “so to have this kind of already-ready-for-you, Wegmans-style packaging makes [shopping] easier for our students,” Shaner offers.
REStock has been advertised through store signage, social media and emails announcements and “dorm storms” that slip flyers under room doors.
While participation hasn’t been great, Shaner is confident that the service will eventually grab attention.
“Sometimes the problem is that students get so bombarded with information that they [get overwhelmed], but as word of mouth spreads and delivery is implemented, I anticipate more interest and I think it will be a win-win,” he says.