Blue Wall introduces then removes self-serve kiosks

Students and staff voice mixed responses over Blue Wall self-serve kiosks


Anish G. Roy

Anish Roy/Daily Collegian (2019)

By Graham Noble, Collegian Correspondent

On Nov. 28, UMass dining rolled out the use of self-serve kiosks in Blue Wall for students to place their own orders. The rollout, however, was met with mixed responses from both students and staff, and by the end of the week, the kiosks were removed.

Director of Dining Services, Garrett Distefano, said they beta-tested the kiosks over the summer, but since then, there have been multiple system failures. In the last couple of weeks of the semester, Dining Services decided to try the kiosks out and get “real student feedback” on the new system.

“Some people are confused, and the lines are still the same,” said Chetan Yadav, a physics Ph.D. student. “When people can see what’s in front of them, it’s a lot easier to order.”

Distefano and other staff members met with student ambassadors to receive further feedback on the changes.

“I don’t think it’s very effective,” said Lexi Bettencourt, a senior engineering major. “[The line] is typically long but it does feel longer.”

Distefano alluded to the need for better communication with the students about the transition, especially during the end of the semester when students were in the full swing of final exams.

“During finals, do we really want to have students who are stressed out about how to get a salad?” Distefano questioned. “Quite honestly, we have some work to do.”

The kiosks were designed to help open additional registers as UMass Dining remains understaffed. Many students reportedly felt overwhelmed by the kiosk ordering system and expressed that they would rather order from a real person.

“I’m not a fan, said Benjamin Meharenna, a senior operations and information management major. “It takes way too long on the kiosk, and it holds up the line.”

The kiosks were intended to help free up cashiers and subsidize the lack of employees at the dining hall. While the shortage of workers had improved in the months leading up to the kiosks, Distefano said they were “still not a hundred percent.”

According to Distefano, more changes needed to be made to increase the usefulness and efficiency of the self-ordering system.

“We heard a lot of concerns about that, and we need to respond to that. We are going to reevaluate,” Distefano said.

“One of the things that makes UMass dining unique is the customizable, individualized experience where you can get your food exactly the way you want it,” he continued. The value of these unique interactions and customization is something that is echoed by both the students and workers.

“Interactions with the students is one of the things that we appreciate about working here,” said Jonathan Aponte, a culinary worker at Blue Wall.

“The biggest factor was engagement when it comes to food,” Distefano added. “This has nothing to do with avoiding the students.” Some suggestions included only utilizing the kiosks for the deli and coffee stations, or just increasing the number of kiosks in general.

“Food is so important, that it’s more important than the technology aspect. If it doesn’t work here at UMass, then it doesn’t work.”

Graham Noble can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @GrahamNoble_.