J Street to offer rewards through smartphone app

Students will be able to rack up points for free meals at J Street starting this month.

GW is one of a dozen schools with Sodexo dining that will offer student customers rewards through a smartphone app called QBOT, designed to list coupons and alerts about sales.

Director of Campus Support Services Nancy Haaga said the deals program will encourage students to go to J Street and Pelham Commons on the Mount Vernon Campus. Students can download the iPhone and Android app to see daily sales and sign up for the loyalty program that offers students with coupons the more they shop.

“Hopefully, everyone wins. It will keep people coming back and it rewards customers with discounts and freebies,” Haaga said, adding that specifics like the types of sales and coupons have yet to be finalized.

The dining office has tried to reinvent J Street’s image through a major marketing campaign that launched last May, plastering advertisements in residence halls and trying to increase its social media presence. GW’s dining services welcomed its first marketing director in August.

J Street, which brought in Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and the Vietnamese option Bon Mi this year, has repeatedly swapped venues over the last two years to attract more business. After the removal of popular fast food options, like Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s, for Sodexo-run venues in 2011, sales dropped 25 percent. University spokespeople have since declined to release sales information.

Freshmen are required to spend $1,400 a year at J Street. Until last fall, sophomores were also given mandatory Dining Dollars.

Fordham University, Loyola University Maryland and the University of Denver were also picked to pilot Sodexo’s coupon and rewards program.

“We feel like it will be particularly important to have it at a school like GW, especially because it is so retail focused,” Haaga said. “For that reason, we thought we’d be an excellent fit, and they thought the same.”

Smartphone app QBOT’s Chief Technology Officer Kyle Phillips said Sodexo invited GW to participate because of its unique meal plan, which charges per item rather than per swipe.

Chair of the Student Dining Board Michael Morgan said his group is working on creating a GW-specific deals program and website, similar to Groupon and LivingSocial, for Sodexo-run venues and GWorld partners around Foggy Bottom.

Across the District, 417 shops and restaurants accept GWorld. Morgan said he hopes to get students out of “the Foggy Bottom bubble.”

On the QBOT plan, Morgan said it would benefit freshmen the most, because many eat multiple meals each day at J Street on their required $700-a-semester Dining Dollars plan.

“It will reward them for their loyalty and make them appreciate coming here,” Morgan said.

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