Diving into dining dilemmas
Along with some of the improvements being made to the dining experience at Brandeis come some concerns that have been brought to the attention of this editorial board. One editorial board member recounts speaking to a dining hall worker on the issue of inconsistencies between what is offered via the app versus in-person ordering. A dining hall worker at Louis’ Deli complained that every morning she had to manually cross out many of the ingredients listed on the Starship App, simply because Louis’ Deli never received the ingredients to begin with. When asked if it would be better to order in-person or online, the dining worker still suggested that students order via the app, because the a-la-carte in-person ordering option, which was recently introduced this semester, could potentially be even more unreliable. Since the paper menus are printed out every day with a set list of ingredients, they are not updated to always match what is in stock or what has been delivered to each dining location.
This presents a particular conflict for students who appreciated the previous ease and speedier service provided by Upper Usdan’s Dining Hall services. Last semester, although there were fewer options available online, students could more efficiently order through the Starship App. The benefit of ordering from the app only was that students received estimates of the time that it would take to get their food, allowing them to better plan their schedules around mealtimes. Now, students are compelled to order in-person, as the options have become more plentiful this way — the tradeoff, however, is that students no longer have any way to estimate how long their orders will take. Furthermore, this editorial board has heard complaints from students about inaccuracies with the Starship App’s notification system. Students are being notified that their Dunkin’ orders are ready for pickup, when in fact they have not even started being made. This leads to a stressful situation for workers and students when they arrive at Dunkin’ expecting their items to be ready for pickup, end up having to wait as more and more people show up questioning where their orders are as workers scramble to fulfill them.
It is evident to this editorial board that the strain the current system has caused on both dining workers and students, especially during dining rush hours. This board also questions the motivations behind the switch from only ordering via the app last semester, to having fewer options available via the app and more options available in-person this semester. Does this mean that in-person orders are prioritized in terms of timeliness? How do the dining workers prioritize which order requests to fulfill first? It remains to be seen how these changes have resulted in a more efficient ordering system at Upper.
In the past semester or so, the Hoot Market has greatly diversified its food options, which provides students with more options in addition to the other offerings around campus. Students are also now able to order from the market on the Starship app, increasing its convenience. That being said, the majority of things sold in the Hoot Market can only be purchased with points, and there is not always a large selection of meal swipe options available to students. Students are able to purchase either a drink or a snack with their meal swipe, rather than both, as in previous semesters. This further limits options despite the fact that there are many more choices for both snacks and drinks in the store this year. If students cannot purchase the food with a meal swipe, they have to use their points. The prices at the Hoot Market are already fairly high, and with the limited amount of points students have depending on their meal plan, not all students can actually take advantage of the expansion of Hoot Market products. This board urges Brandeis Hospitality to allow students to use a meal swipe for a full meal and expand the options purchasable with a meal swipe, rather than limit their dining options further. Meal swipes are limited on campus as a whole, and this board questions why some food is not deemed worthy of being considered a meal. We would encourage the University to add meal exchange options to both Dunkin’ and Einstein’s so that students have swipe-equivalent breakfast options outside of the Lower Usdan and Sherman dining halls. This is something that has been offered at Einstein’s over the summer months, so we imagine it would be feasible to continue throughout the year.
An option not provided by the University that would give students far more options concerning campus dining would be customizable meal plans. If students were able to adjust the number of their meal swipes and points to a proportion that better suits their eating habits on campus, the system would work much more smoothly for many. Currently, students typically have to choose between a large number of meal swipes or points; for the available meal plans, the more points one has, the fewer meal swipes, and vice versa. Many students do not use all their meal swipes, and many run out of points. Allowing students to adjust their meal plans to suit their preferences would eliminate that waste and make meal plans more worth their high prices.
Lastly, this board is particularly grieving the random loss of the iconic Einstein’s Bagels hash browns. As Shapiro Campus Center regulars at least three times a week, these warm morsels of potato gave many board members a particularly unique form of joy :( #BringBacktheBrowns
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