It was 15 minutes to break time but Republic Polytechnic (RP) student Ryu Sasaki had already placed his order for black pepper beef rice through a mobile app while in class.
When the class was dismissed, his peers raced to the foodcourt. But Mr Sasaki, 19, walked over to the stall to collect his food only after he got a notification on his phone. "It is so much faster and less stressful now because I can choose and order the food using my phone and skip the queues," he said.
A foodcourt at RP called Lawn started a trial last December to see if a cashless and pre-order food system would be more convenient.
Students and staff can download an app called BevEat and browse food options from seven participating stalls. They make advance orders and specify the time slots at which they wish to collect the food.
Instead of queueing for up to 15 minutes, customers can get their food almost immediately at the collection points.
Customers and stall vendors also do not need to fish for notes or coins as payment is processed through the app automatically when orders are placed. To top up the value in their app, students can head to a kiosk at the foodcourt to convert cash to electronic credits.
Student Vanessa Tham, 19, uses the app thrice a week to order Malay and Japanese dishes.
"I like using it because sometimes class ends late and by then, the foodcourt gets so crowded. By the time we queue up and wait for the food to be prepared, half of the break time is gone," she said.
Stallholder Sharipah Zahara, 64, who sells Malay dishes, said the cashless system means she is able to serve more orders, more quickly.
"I don't need to look for small change and it's faster because each time I handle money, I need to take out the glove that I use when serving food," she said.
BevEat, a social enterprise that hires people with disabilities and donates part of its proceeds to charity, hires a physically disabled person to help with its digital operations from home. A few final-year students are helping it to develop its backend Internet portal system.
The 50 active users of the app currently were recruited through word of mouth.
The other four polytechnics do not offer cashless payment in their cafeterias. Ngee Ann Polytechnic said it is looking to implement it with new food vendors in future.
Foodcourts outside, such as Koufu, Kopitiam and Food Junction, go cashless by using stored value cards or Nets payments but these are only for orders done in person.
The trial at RP is funded by a grant from Spring Singapore.
BevEat founder Aaron Soon, 36, an associate lecturer at RP, said, "When the pilot ends in June, we are hoping to scale this up to the rest of the stalls and include other functions."