Remote ordering and delivery is a fast-growing trend in various niches of the onsite dining world. At Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC) in Columbus, the experimentation has reached a surgical waiting area where families anxiously await the results of procedures going on in the nearby operating rooms and are often reluctant to leave to get something to eat.
Installed earlier this year, the remote ordering kiosk offers a limited selection of items from OSUWMC’s BistrOH! Café, located on another floor in the complex, which already gets customer orders from its own bank of self-ordering units. The food is delivered within a 45-minute window to the customers in the waiting area, which is equipped with tables where the meal can more conveniently be eaten. Payment is by credit card only, and the service is only available weekdays between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Choices available for the waiting room include pizza, chef’s salads, burgers and some kid-friendly items like Uncrustable PB&J sandwiches, “things we know will hold up during transportation,” says Mike Folino, associate director of nutrition services. The BistrOH! is five floors below the surgical waiting area, called the Atrium, and generally takes five to seven minutes for the delivery person to traverse, Folino estimates.
The food is held in thermal pizza bags to preserve temperatures. The customer validates the order by producing the receipt upon delivery.
So far, the waiting room kiosk only gets a handful of orders per day. Folino cites a lack of adequate marketing as one reason it isn’t used more and says that will be bolstered with better signage and handouts in the near future.
“I think it’s just a matter of people not being aware of what [the kiosk] is,” he suggests. “We’ve been working with the nursing unit there so that when somebody checks in they can get a pamphlet that explains how they can get a meal delivered to them there.”
In fact, OSUWMC is already planning a second remote ordering unit, this one in the Women and Infants unit of the hospital. It is scheduled to be rolled out sometime this summer.
“It’s for dads and other family members, since they are in a lockdown unit that is somewhat challenging to get in and out of,” Folino offers. “This way, they’ll be able to order and we’ll deliver right to the patient’s room.”
Further down the line is online ordering for staff, first for pickup but at some point perhaps evolving to desk delivery. It’s a matter both of convenience for customers and easing the crowds in the BistrOH!, which can see 2,500 transactions in two hours over midday, Folino says.
“We’re kind of using these smaller patient and visitor areas as our development opportunity to test [remote ordering and delivery] in low volumes because once we open it up to staff it will be robust!” he predicts.