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Few Options, Dietary Accommodations Holding Penn State’s Mobile Ordering Back

Earlier this year, Penn State launched Penn State Eats, a new mobile ordering app that makes getting food a lot safer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, Penn State Eats covers every convenience store on campus, as well as HUB restaurants such as Starbucks, Sbarro, and McAlister’s Deli.

As a whole, the system works surprisingly well. It’s great for avoiding large lines while social distancing is all the rage and lets you order food from the comfort of your own home or dorm.

Additionally, students are able to choose when you’d like to pick up your food. If you’d like your grub right away, the app will calculate an appointment for the “earliest available time,” which is usually within 10 minutes. If not, you can schedule for whenever your heart desires or easily slot a time using 15-minute increments.

Although scheduling is extremely helpful, it’s got a few kinks to work out. Sometimes, if you choose a time, the food is ready in five minutes. Other times, you’ll wind up waiting for a while at the restaurant of your choosing, potentially subjecting yourself to a crowd full of students you probably don’t want to unnecessarily spend time with.

A big-picture issue with the app is its options. Currently, Penn State Eats doesn’t offer much for the folks with dietary restrictions or needs. On the west side of campus, for example, West Wing has just two potential vegetarian and vegan options, including subs and wraps. The only mobile ordering location in the south part of campus is pizza, which makes things tough for vegans and our lactose-intolerant friends. Even the dining commons’ convenience stores don’t have much for those with dietary needs.

Convenience store selection is generally limited through mobile ordering. If you walked over to Market Pollock, for example, you’d find sprawling shelves full of snacks, treats, and goodies. However, the Penn State Eats app currently offers just three potato chip varieties and six drinks at Market Pollock. Few refrigerated items are available, including the store’s expansive ice cream section that takes up nearly an entire wall of shelving. Candy, bulk drinks, school supplies, cleaning items, breakfast bars, and plenty more are off the table, too.

On top of all of that, just three HUB restaurants are available for mobile ordering. Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, and Burger King — three of the HUB’s best options — are not included. If the point of the app is to eliminate large lines on campus, why aren’t those restaurants included in mobile ordering?

It is entirely possible they could expand to these locations later on, but the key to being vigilant about controlling the virus is working earlier rather than later. These are the three biggest lines in the HUB! They need to have a mobile ordering option.

The concept of mobile ordering is a good one, and, for the most part, it works well. However, options are key, especially for those who need to work within dietary restrictions or simply can’t go to a convenience store to shop for what they need. This is especially important with the rise of coronavirus cases at Penn State.

Taking advantage of mobile ordering will help limit people’s interactions and contact between students. If Penn State wants to keep its students as safe as possible, mobile ordering needs to improve.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a senior from Annapolis, Maryland, majoring in secondary education and minoring in social justice in education. When he is not writing for the blog, he enjoys rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor", and yes mom, actually doing school work. If you would like to talk about sports or "Survivor", the best way to reach out is on Twitter @theowenabbey. All other compliments may be sent to [email protected]

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