Loyola Taps ‘Just Walk Out’ Tech to Expand Student Convenience Store Hours

Amazon just walk out entrance

Loyola University Maryland is leveraging Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology to dramatically increase its ability to meet student demand for food and essentials at almost all hours of the day.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Mike Mansfield, the university’s associate vice president of auxiliary operations, noted that the convenience store is available in an area on campus without many other dining options, and adding this technology has dramatically increased the hours this location can serve.

“One of the things that we were trying to overcome was the ability to offer students snack and sundry type items for longer hours in the day,” Mansfield said. “So, we had a store in that facility that was open five days a week for about six hours a day, and now we’re able to have it open seven days a week, 20 hours a day.”

Earlier this month, the school announced that it was implementing the technology, which students, faculty and staff can use through their university-linked Grubhub accounts, at a location dubbed “Bowman Express.”

In the same conversation, Phil Revel, resident district manager at Parkhurst Dining, the university’s food service provider, added that the goal is to keep students within the campus for occasions when otherwise they may have had to go seek options elsewhere.

“We’re looking at where it makes sense for us in locations that are accessible to students during those late hours, trying to keep those students on campus from going out late at night,” Revel said, adding that, before the school adds more locations, the team wants to “wait and see how this one does.”

Certainly, there is demand for self-service options. Findings featured in the February edition of PYMNTS’ Retail Tracker® series, “Innovating the Retail Checkout Experience,” created in collaboration with LS Retail, revealed that 85% of retail customers say self-checkout is faster than waiting for a cashier, and 60% prefer self-checkout to interacting with a cashier.

Additionally, PYMNTS Intelligence from the study “Big Retail’s Innovation Mandate: Convenience And Personalization,” created in collaboration with ACI Worldwide, which drew from a survey of 300 major retailers in the U.S. and the U.K., found that 54% of convenience stores and pharmacies believe that shoppers would be very or extremely likely to switch merchants if self-checkout kiosks were not provided. Plus, 47% said the same of the ability to scan products and pay without standing in line.

Looking ahead, Parkhurst and Loyola are looking for more ways to automate in an effort to boost sales without exceeding their existing labor capacity. For instance, they have looked into delivery robots but so far been deterred by some of the challenges associated with implementation. (Consumers, for their part, have their doubts about the technology.)

“There are all kinds of equipment out there,” Revel noted, “like automated pizza-making kiosks, salad-bar-making kiosks. … A lot of students don’t want to take the time to stand in a line, wait for customer service. The other piece is, with the labor market being as it is, [automation may provide] consistency in being able to serve others products.”