The new Urban Bytes residential dining hall at the University of Utah (UofU) boasts seven different restaurant-style stations designed by campus dining services provider Chartwells Higher Ed, each with a distinctive culinary theme. However, of the seven, one is truly unique: an authentic Utah branded sports grill called The Game featuring six television screens, QR code ordering and a fully customizable menu to accommodate any dietary preferences designed to bring a new experience to residential dining.
Bringing The Game brand to life challenged the UofU Dining team to create a retail style restaurant located in a residential dining hall, so it needed a system that could handle high volume, offer fast paced services and present food in an appetizing way while keeping to the student customer’s schedule and fitting a sports grill theme.
The solution they ultimately found is an innovative QR Code-based ordering system developed by Utah alumnus Jim Ngo and currently only be found at UofU. Replacing the venue’s original grab-and-go approach and a subsequent tablet order platform, the QR Code ordering system allows The Game to offer menu items that traditionally could not be featured in an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall setting, while also solving the problem of long wait times as students could visit the other six stations while waiting. When an order is finished, the student receives a text that their meal is ready for pick up.
The Game has three pick-up areas on the line, with each representing an alphabetical order. When a student receives their text, they find the section labeled by the first letter of their first name, locate their receipt and take their food to their table. Even at the peak of service, this system allows quick service and organization.
Meanwhile, the facility design of The Game premises is meant to capture the Utah spirit and provide an environment where students can gather, eat great food and cheer for their favorite Utah team. The red used is customized University Crimson red while the collages on the wall feature past professional and Hall of Fame UofU Utes, and the cement post has the Utah fight song.
The menu has evolved as the pandemic’s repercussions on student population and restrictions have changed. During the pandemic, The Game focused on perfecting traditional items like burgers, grilled cheese, Philly cheesesteaks and chicken nuggets. As the full student population returned, new items have consistently been added to the menu, including appetizers, nugget dipping sauces, a patty melt, a ginger turkey burger, fried or marinated chicken sandwiches, a fried cod sandwich and a chicken Caesar wrap.
However, burgers remain a favorite, but as students also want fresh and exciting items in their dining program, the menu features all the classic favorites but also expands outside the all-you-care-to-eat norm to menu items that can’t be sustained in a traditional residential dining hall. Items that would typically be too difficult or create large amounts of waste are now easily accessible to students through QR code ordering, while burgers are made in house with local ingredients and fresh pressed on the grill. The result is a classic retail burger concept available to students in an all-you-care-to-eat meal plan format.
The Game also focuses on delivering a restaurant style experience with menu items that are composed of fresh, local and high quality ingredients. Since opening, Urban Bytes made the commitment to only source Halal chicken, purchase farm raised beef and never purchase proteins with additives.
Student wellness is also addressed through the use of technology upgrades. For this, The Game partnered with WAND Digital to have TV screens and Lenovo tablets displaying nutritional information. The WAND Digital technology is also connected to the UofU Webtrition menu system and displays the menu for each meal period showing dietary icons next to items that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten avoiding and balanced.
In addition, the QR code online ordering app also lets a student enter in dietary restrictions and attach it to their profile. After they’ve identified the allergens they want to avoid, all items on the menu with those allergens highlight, letting the student know in which dishes they are present. Also, if a student is looking for a healthier or gluten-free option, they can designate their preference in their order cart.