Recently, Aramark acquired the on-demand food service Starship to deliver food to students on campuses across the country. The service works by students ordering food on an app, then on-campus restaurants prepare the food and deliver it to the student. But instead of human delivery, a robot equipped with a cooler is sent to the location and a unique pin number allows the student to unlock the robot and get his or her food. This is the on-demand food service that Ole Miss students need.
With a limited number of food options on this campus, Starship’s food delivery service could make lines shorter and food easier to get. Imagine waking up late for a class and having to choose between a shower and coffee to wake you up. Now, students do not have to choose. You can order that Starbucks latte, hop in the shower and find the food robot waiting for you in front of your class with your hot coffee.
Not to mention, lines at the Student Union during lunch are atrocious. Instead of spending all forty-five minutes between your Tuesday-Thursday classes for a Chick-fil-A sandwich, you can order it through the app and get it delivered to the Grove for lunch outside.
This “food on-demand” is not a new concept. Colleges like George Mason University have already adopted the food robots. Over 200 colleges offer some on-demand food service to their students. Ole Miss is well behind when it comes to dining options, but these robots could give the university an edge on food service. Students may opt to eat on campus or order their morning coffee on the go instead of finding similar options off campus.
While this new dining service offers students on-demand food anywhere on campus, some argue that the robots will only hurt the wages and benefits of already underpaid employees working for Aramark. Dining service employees work directly for Aramark, which does not offer the same benefits to employees as the university. This is a real problem for low-wage earners who have to pay for parking on campus and medical insurance out of pocket.
Having robots deliver food to students is not going to worsen the issue. It may be time that Ole Miss reevaluates its contract with Aramark and looks for dining services that offer higher pay or better benefits for employees.
What has caused a lack of good employment options through the Ole Miss and Aramark deal is not innovation but no competition. Opposing the robots will not increase wages for workers or give them added benefits. It will only take away from the Ole Miss dining experience and leave students frustrated with few options.
By offering students innovative solutions to dining frustrations, Ole Miss is taking a step in the right direction. Now more than ever, this university needs to show that it can compete with other schools in the SEC. On-demand food services is just another way that this university is stepping into the world of technology and showing students that it can improve student life on campus.
Lauren Moses is a junior economics and political science major from Coppell, Texas.