Entering the fall 2020 semester, the University made many changes to ensure the safety of individuals coming to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those changes was the addition of the Bite app. According to the Bite by Sodexo website, this app is a way to avoid lines, see what is available to eat, make a reservation for a time/table and allow for on-the-go ordering. This board would like to critique the app and its use as well as state where changes can be made. 

Specifically at the University, this app has had some problems throughout its introduction. In an email to the Justice, Michael Reilly, Resident District Manager of Brandeis University Dining Services, stated that the Bite app at Brandeis is controlled by “Brandeis and Dining Services. The app ‘lives’ in the Dining world, but there is much integration with the University’s One Card system.” When asked about troubleshooting, Reilly elaborated that, “Brandeis and Dining generally work together to remedy any problems that may come up. In the event that a refund is required, Dining would work with Brandeis to provide any transactional data needed to be able to process a refund.” Issues pertaining to refunds as a result of glitches in the Bite system should be directed to the Campus Card Office. There is no mention, however, of the expected turnaround of refunds. Some students have been waiting multiple weeks to be issued refunds. 

Another problem associated with the app is the difficulty with customizing orders in the Upper Usdan Food Court. For example, in previous semesters, a student had the ability to walk up to the counter at Currito which has been replaced by Tres Habaneros and select the exact items that they wanted in their taco, burrito or bowl. Now, using the app, there is no way to select the ingredients that go in the meal item beyond the protein option. This poses an issue for all students, especially those with dietary restrictions and allergies. Students should be able to have the same breadth of options they had before using this app. Another place where more options, or an opt-out option, would be beneficial is at Einstein Bros. Bagels, where the app does not allow people to opt out of putting dairy or dairy-substitutes in coffee. 

Finally, the wait times for mobile and non-mobile ordering has presented an issue. With the addition of this system, some students have noticed longer-than-normal wait times listed in the app for their orders at locations which allow mobile and in-person ordering, such as Dunkin’ and Einstein’s. In regards to how wait times are generated on the app, Reilly explained that “once an order is placed, whether in person or on the app, that order goes into the production queue (unless it is a mobile order requested for a later time, then it will go into the queue at the requested time). This requires more attention when we look at the capacity for mobile ordering, so we do not accept too many mobile orders that our in-person guests have excessive wait times.” One possible fix is to require everyone to use the app. However, in order for this to be possible, the app would need to display the entire menu at each location. Currently, certain items are only available when ordered in person, which may discourage individuals from using the app. 

Additionally, actual wait times often do not reflect those stated on the app; orders are occasionally fulfilled much more quickly than advertised, or, more often, much more slowly, even when there does not appear to be other orders being prepared. Complaints about the app, which has a 3.2 stars out of a 5-star rating system on the app store, come from students of many universities, not just from Brandeis. Through the comments left on the App Store, it seems that for many of the complaints, the program developer was quick to respond, offering assistance to the students in need. It is important that aid provided by the developer continues to be fast, effective and reliable. 

This board urges Brandeis and Dining Services to look into and make necessary adjustments, such as increased options, more flexibility and more efficient and accurate timing. We appreciate the efforts of the dining staff to adapt to these rapid changes, and we call on the University to fix the issues with Bite to incentivize more people to use contactless ordering, which is better for everyone’s safety during the pandemic. 

Editor's note: Justice Editor Jocelyn Gould did not contribute to or edit this article.