Connecting to Drive Increased Revenue

Higher education faces rising costs, and that is causing institutions to focus not only on increasing efficiency in their operations, but also on bolstering the bottom line by increasing revenue. “The cost of labor has gone up. The cost of food has gone up. The cost of supplies has gone up. Everything has gone up,” says Scott Jerabek, director of product management at CBORD. “So, institutions definitely have an eye on that revenue side.” 

Recent CBORD Insights research found that administrators expect automation to help them increase revenue and that they are finding their efforts on that front to be effective.¹ Technology — and the connected campus, which integrates systems across an institution — can help them achieve those goals in several ways. 

One approach focuses on convenience. Technology can make it easier to pay for things and thus make it more likely for students to purchase food, books, school merchandise, and so forth. Automated point-of-sale systems using electronic student credentials can reduce the need to stand in line and conduct transactions with cashiers. Mobile and online ordering make it possible to order ahead and then pick up your meal or have it delivered. 

Technology can also help increase sales by making the institution’s offerings more appealing. For example, it can give administrators a holistic view of foodservice activities across multiple facilities to better understand student preferences, anticipate their needs, coordinate ordering, and make sure that the right menu items are available in the right place at the right time — which is fundamental to driving revenue. When one midwestern university worked with CBORD to apply analytics to its foodservice operation, it saw a 40% increase in revenue.  

A Flexible Framework

Technology also opens the door to new revenue streams. As in commercial dining, automated food kiosks are becoming increasingly common in higher education food service. These kiosks create a new sales channel that reaches students looking for quick and easy access to food. They can also be highly effective at upselling because they can easily offer dozens of add-ons and choices, which is not practical with a human order-taker. “You can’t have someone standing there reading a list of dozens of options for toppings and extras to have with your hamburger — it just doesn’t happen that way,” says Brett Africk, director of sales for CBORD’s platform systems group. “A kiosk can simply display images and words of all the options, letting the student quickly pick what they want.”   

Another automated option creates a new sales channel for higher education retail stores. Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, which is now integrated with CBORD’s technology, lets students use their campus IDs for a checkout-free experience. The system checks account balances as students enter the store, detects what they take from shelves, allows them to leave with the item without having to wait in line, and charges their accounts.  

The interconnection of operations and salespoints creates a range of potential options that go beyond such student-facing technologies. For example, institutions can connect with off-campus restaurants to enable students to use their campus funds to make purchases in those places — and then possibly charge those dining partners transaction fees for that service.  

The connected campus is still evolving, and it can be expected to open additional options for increased revenue over time. With linked technologies and operations, institutions can have a flexible framework that allows them to quickly adopt new solutions and embrace new ideas as they emerge — and build revenue by continuing to give their customers what they want. 

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¹ CBORD Insights Student Experience Survey, April 2023. N=179 C-suite/VP-level administrators in public and private universities with undergraduate and graduate programs. 

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