New Barcode Scanners in Lowenstein Cafeteria


New scanners in the cafeteria were installed to speed up the check-out process. (Sara Azoulay/The Observer)

Published: April 13, 2011

New barcode scanners were installed in the Lowenstein Cafe on Mar. 21. Brian Poteat, general manager of Fordham University Hospitality Services, said, “Sodexo installed the scanners to help speed up the check out process and to help ensure there was consistency in pricing in all of our locations.”

Cashiers in the cafeteria used to ring every item up through a touch screen selection process. Since the beginning of the spring semester, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC)’s United Student Government (USG) met with Poteat to discuss ways to improve long lines during peak hours in the cafeteria. The barcode scanners were on the top of the list.

Chris Chromey, FCLC ’12 and president pro tempore, said that although the original system did not overcharge students, the touch screen process was “irritating.” He said, “Some cashiers were taking advantage of [the touch screen selections] and just punching in things that were close and maybe not exact.”

Sodexo and USG decided to standardize their checkout system with scanners that can read a Universal Product Code (UPC) already scanned into the system. Chromey said, “Just scan the barcode and it comes up with the price. It’s fast, it’s quick, it’s easy and it’s infallible.”

Chromey said that implementing the barcode is a two-staged process; the first was to enter every saleable product Sodexo has that comes with the UPC already attached. The next step is the prepared food from the hot food bar and salad bar.

Poteat explained that the process of barcoding all items began over a year ago. “At this point we have barcoded almost all of our products, and by fall  we will have completed the process completely.”

In addition, Poteat said that until they have completed the barcoding input into their systems, cashiers will continue to use the touch screen selection process to ring up those items. “When the project is complete, the only item that will not be able to be scanned will be salads from the salad bar, as the price is determined by weight.”

Chromey explained how cashiers will handle salads and hot foods that do not have a UPC.

“When something is put together at the hot food or salad bar, there will be a color coded sticker put on the container,” he said. “When that goes to the register, the cashier will match the colored sticker with a color coded set of UPCs that each register will have at the station. That will help cashiers scan the appropriate UPC with the right price into the cashier system, “Chromey said.

While Poteat and Chromey saw positivity in the scanning system, some students reacted contrary to their beliefs.

Kiara Shepard, FCLC  ’12, said, “I don’t think they make a really big difference in how fast or efficiently the staff works to get us through the lines faster… because you scan or you press the screen so it’s still the same amount of time.”

Sean Patrick, FCLC ’14, said he has not noticed any improvements on traffic flow in the cafeteria, and said, “It’s taken me just as long, if not longer to get my food. I usually get beverages that they’ll scan, and I’ve seen the cashiers get frustrated when they can’t get them to work.”

Hannah Reily, FCLC ’14, also felt like the line has been the same as it was before. She said, “I think that it’s kind of a nuisance because sometimes I put my chips with my food in the plastic container and they make you take it out so they can scan it.”

Shepard also said, “Maybe in a couple of years when we keep using [the scanners], the line will move faster because there will be more use of the system, but right now it’s not making a difference.”

In addition to the new scanners, Chromey said that Sodexo’s other initiative in moving forward with shorter lines will include improving credit card transactions.

Chromey said, “Sometime in May, all credit card transactions will be going through the Ethernet.” He said that right now the credit card transactions for FCLC and Rose Hill “all run through one modem to a credit card distribution company and so the Ethernet process will now expedite that process better so that it will be instantaneous.”

Reily said, “I hope they update their [credit card] systems because it shouldn’t take that long to take credits. I mean, it takes like three minutes before it registers so it’s a hold up [on lines].”

Furthermore, Poteat said, “Each day as the cashiers have become more familiar with the use of the scanners, the lines have been moving quicker.”

USG will be holding a Sodexo Town Hall, tentatively scheduled for April 19. Reactions to the scanners will be brought up and Chromey said, “We will be seeing if people like it or don’t like it and if they see if more improvements should be made.”