Clemson University's Recipe for Success: Creating an Efficient and Enjoyable Meal Plan Process with StarRez

Learn how Clemson University achieved a 5% annual increase in student meal plans after implementing a streamlined meal plan process to serve their community.
Find My Solution

Key Highlights


In annual student meal plans after implementing new meal plan processes in StarRez.


In employee meal plans with a more straightforward meal plan purchasing portal.


In swipe access to on-campus dining hall facilities from students, employees, and graduates.


Of meal plan change forms from the overall 11,500 student, employee, and graduate meal plan holders.

Clemson University
Southeast, USA
Higher Education
Active Since
Product Highlights
No items found.

Clemson University is a public land-grant research university in Clemson, South Carolina. With over 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Clemson is the second-largest university by enrollment in South Carolina. With a residential population of around 7,500, over 12,000 undergraduate students, graduate students, and employees utilize dining plans on campus. Over recent years, Clemson has identified the need to reimagine and reinforce their meal plan operation for departmental and cross-functional efficiency due to a lack of communication in meal plan operations, incorrect data entries, and unsatisfied students and employees participating in the process.

During their webinar, Meal Plans & Paw Points – The Journey to Implementation, Tracy Foss, Director of Administration for Clemson Home, and Hannah Hollingsworth, Business Systems Analyst, revealed how Clemson University created a cohesive meal plan experience that made a big impact for students and employees on campus.

From Vision to Reality

To create a better student and employee meal plan experience at Clemson University, the Housing and Dining Department set off to revolutionize how members of the University process their meal plans. Their vision was clear: to enhance the process for all with a streamlined, cohesive system. Having been members of the StarRez community since 2014, the team knew that they could find a way to leverage the platform to achieve their goals with this project. With that in mind, they decided to implement the Meal Plans Solution in StarRez before the Fall semester of 2022 and take advantage of the integral capabilities that would aid in assigning meal plans, billing students and employees, and more.  

“Our vision with the meal plan process coming into StarRez was to create a better student and employee experience through a more streamlined process. We aimed to have one portal, with one department coordinating all communication, financials, and activation and deactivation needs.”

- Tracy Foss, Director of Administration for Clemson Home at Clemson University

The transition from Clemson’s previous process was like stepping out of the dark ages. Before transitioning, they were inundated with requests that required manual processing, including calculating charges and bills manually. The process lacked cohesive visibility across departments that dealt with the community and their meal plans. Additionally, they were using three different websites for meal plan purchases, which only exacerbated the confusion. The consequences were immediate and glaring. Students and administrators alike were left in a state of frustration as inquiries about meal plans went unanswered.

“Prior to moving to StarRez, we used a very antiquated system. With student confusion, lack of communication, and providing a disservice to our community, we needed to pivot our operations to succeed.”

- Tracy Foss, Director of Administration for Clemson Home at Clemson University

After the initial implementation, the staggering numbers spoke volumes about the success of the new program. With over 10,200 student meal plans and 1,300 employee and graduate student meal plans in Fall 2022, Clemson saw a 5% increase in student plans and a remarkable 17% surge in employee plans compared to the previous year. Not to mention the impressive 20% rise in dining dollars purchases and a 110,000 increase in dining hall visits. The transition from an antiquated and disjointed meal plan process to a smooth, automated one with StarRez was a proven success.

The Reinvention of an Outdated Process

During the transition to StarRez for centralized meal plan selection, the Housing and Dining Department at Clemson University created a comprehensive communication strategy for their new meal plan process. This involved collaborating across departments to ensure success and satisfaction for all stakeholders. The team also determined what parts of their previous process made sense to keep, change, or remove. For example, they decided to discontinue guest purchases for student meal plans, because they created confusion for the purchaser and the process did not add value to their meal plan process. Their goal was simplification, and this checked that box. They also turned paper processes into digital ones, reduced questions and concerns from students, and simplified complicated calculations for admins, students, and parents.

Driving Success with Intentional Areas of Focus

To ensure success, Clemson compartmentalized main areas of focus and homed in on the main goals of their initial launch – which were to identify their meal plan purchasing structure by buyer type, build smart administrative workflows with their internal housing team and Financial Services, and to design interactive and intuitive portals for increased user experiences.  

Specifically, they started with a holistic review of how residents, employees, and guests buy meal plans. To increase satisfaction with each buyer group, they created meal plan purchasing plans for each buyer type; student meal plan purchases, employee and graduate meal plan purchases, and individual dining dollar purchases. This ensured that their new business process accounted for any previous shortcomings while incorporating improvements made available by the StarRez platform.

“Transforming your business process with StarRez is not only possible, but it's also the key to success. We were able to integrate our existing operations into StarRez, and discovered where StarRez can bridge the gaps. It was the best recipe for success.”

- Hannah Hollingsworth, Business Systems Analyst at Clemson University

Building Smart Administrative Workflows

Next, the team reviewed how to enhance administrative workflows for efficiency. The Housing team and Financial Services team worked in tandem to maintain their current student billing process and identify smart updates. For example, they created an automated export process for payroll deductions from employees and graduate students purchasing meal plans, they cleaned up credit card transactions through their payment integration partner, TouchNet, and they documented key web-related items, including term types, meal plan settings, and import and export file directions. In addition, Housing worked on reducing time spent by the administrative team on tasks related to maintaining meal plan purchases and billing.  

“We were able to create a beautifully waterfalled process that changed the way we handle administrative tasks. It allowed us to take every group of students that we would need to provide meal plans for and have a simplified exchange of information that saved time.”

- Hannah Hollingsworth, Business Systems Analyst at Clemson University

Clemson integrates with external dining software, CBORD, and needed to specifically confirm that import and export functionality ran smoothly. Having a successful relationship with CBORD ensured that the Housing team could properly record all meal plan purchases. In order of operations, Clemson first exports purchases, cancellations, or changes that are made within StarRez to CBORD. Then, CBORD imports into StarRez any dining usages of dining dollar balances or block plans. StarRez runs a pro-rate tool for any billing adjustments and then finally is sent to their student billing system, Banner.  

To dive into more detail on how Clemson designed their technical specifications around meal plans, watch their detailed webinar.

Designing an Interactive and Intuitive Portal

To accommodate the expanded scope of their new meal plan services, the Housing team made significant updates to their PortalX configuration, underscoring its flexibility and adaptability. Previously, only on-campus residents were engaged with the portal. Now, they cater to on-campus residents, off-campus residents, and employees alike.

To deliver a customized and efficient portal experience for all users, they have introduced a main home page that serves as a centralized hub. Additionally, a dedicated dining landing page has been configured, featuring crucial information such as dining dollar balances, active meal plans for the current term, and upcoming meal plans for future terms. These updates ensure that every user can seamlessly access the resources they need.

For the actual selection process, StarRez allows the flexibility for Clemson to include the variety of meal plans offered to groups of students. For example, new students have the option of 3 different plans, where continuing students have the option of 7 different plans – providing a tailored and scalable student experience.

Additionally, Clemson leverages specific business rules within meal plan widgets to optimize workflows, enhancing both student and staff experiences. For instance, if a student wishes to cancel a meal plan and add another, the StarRez meal plan widget automatically tracks the new plans and any associated charges. This automation allows students to manage their meal plans easily and independently, providing a seamless self-service experience. At the same time, staff efficiency is significantly improved as the automated process reduces manual intervention and errors, allowing the team to focus on more strategic tasks. This integration of business rules and automation within PortalX ensures a streamlined and efficient operation for everyone involved.

“We traditionally interacted with on-campus students, and we had to create an experience for all these other groups now that needed meal plans. We wanted to make sure we were thoughtful about our portal setup so that it considered how these groups would want to be greeted and what information they would want to see and use.”

- Hannah Hollingsworth, Business Systems Analyst at Clemson University

Lessons Learned After One Year

Following the first year of managing meal plans through StarRez, Clemson saw staggering success metrics, especially compared to the previous year. They recorded a 5% increase in student meal plan purchases and a 17% surge in employee meal plan purchases compared to the previous year. They also saw an impressive 20% rise in dining dollars purchases and a 110,000 increase in dining hall visits. All of which they attest to their streamlined and more efficient meal plan process in StarRez. They expect those numbers will continue to rise for meal plan buyer personas. To guarantee continued success year after year, Clemson spotted 3 areas for continued improvement. These include:

  1. Understanding the nuances of students who withdrawal at certain points of the term to help forecast revenue and potential melt due to meal plan refunds.  
  1. Providing plan recommendations to students to cut down on meal plan changes and communication with administrative staff, giving them more time to focus on other tasks.
  1. Planning more robust timelines for meal plan changes to give students concrete options and expectations around purchasing meal plans. With their new process, only 1% of students submitted a meal plan change form for the Fall 2023 term.

These improvements and understandings will make Clemson’s meal plan process even stronger as they continue with upward mobility in offering their community the best experience possible.  

Learn how you can transform your meal plan purchasing process with the help of StarRez.