Émilie Chang | How to make campus dining a better experience


Credit: Ana Glassman

Anyone who walks the Locust Walk immediately understands what the campus buzz means. Whether students are rushing to class, grabbing a bite to eat, lounging in the grass, or studying with friends, back-to-school chaos is sure to set in. And while the post-pandemic crowds are certainly a pleasant experience for our society. disadvantaged community, one cannot deny the difficulty and the inconvenience of navigating in such a hectic environment.

Especially in mess halls where thousands of students are required to eat, it is often difficult to eat meals between lessons and extracurricular activities. In the past, mess rooms mostly consisted of early grades that had to be part of the meal plan, with the addition of some upper class students choosing meals on campus. Now, with the required sophomore meal plan for all sophomores, more than two full classes of students are suffering from long lines and scrambling for seats and reservations. In seated dining rooms, there have been numerous instances of food shortages an hour before closing, and often paper plates and plastic utensils have to be used as dishes cannot be washed quickly enough. One has to guess if this is largely due to the fact that Penn runs mess halls the same way as before, ignoring the fact that there are literally double the number of students eating on campus compared to years ago. previous ones.

More pressing issues arise in market-style dining rooms, such as the Houston Market and the 1920 Commons Starbucks, where long lines and wait times are inevitable. While this is in part due to the popularity of these locations, the confusion of PennEats in-person and mobile orders is also to blame. For example, Starbucks customers may witness the printing of an endless chain of mobile order receipts, while a physical line simultaneously wraps around the coffee shop. Instead of waiting 15-20 minutes as the app predicts, wait times can be twice as long during peak meal times. It’s not uncommon to see students repeatedly asking for the status of their order as they anxiously check the time before giving up and running back to class. There have been many instances where students have no choice but to forgo meals and attend classes hungry in an attempt to arrive on time. Additionally, students are no longer allowed to eat in class due to mask restrictions, so for students with consecutive classes, there is only 15 minutes to walk to a dining hall, get hold of the food, finish eating and return to class. .

The system is even more unfair to dining hall workers who work tirelessly to meet student demands as they not only face frustrated and demanding teenagers, but also the stressful responsibility of ending an influx of students. orders online and in person in a timely fashion. When Starbucks’ mobile order intake chain hits the ground, staff cannot complete orders within the promised wait time.

Besides the crowds and the occasional shortage of food and meals, the seated dining halls were more successful in accommodating students. This proves that the combination of in-person and mobile orders is the most common cause of disaster. Therefore, Penn should only provide one option for ordering meals to minimize confusion and avoid staff stress. Some might argue that implementing a single ordering option would result in longer queues or longer wait times, but in this system orders would in fact be processed more efficiently since the entire attention of staff would be devoted to a single flow of orders. Prioritization would also allow students to better understand when their orders would be ready and how long they would wait for food.

Using ordering in person or on mobile only would increase student and staff satisfaction and productivity. In addition, if the latter became the only policy, the potential for the spread of COVID-19 would be reduced. Similar to last semester, ordering food in advance is an effective way for students to eat on their own schedules. Familiarizing students with ordering through the app at the start of the semester is important in preparing for any potential changes due to the pandemic, especially for early years who may not necessarily know how to use the PennEats app.

It is therefore important to combat the hectic and stressful nature of mess halls not only for the comfort of students and the well-being of staff, but also for preparation for COVID-19. As everyone seeks to preserve the vibrant nature of campus, it’s important to be aware of how such chaos affects the community.

EMILY CHANGE is a second year student at the College studying Sociology in Holmdel, NJ Her email address is [email protected].

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