As Brandeis prepares to choose a new dining vendor, I feel myself drawn to reflect on our current vendor, Sodexo. They do many things wrong, but there is perhaps nothing more egregious than their mobile ordering solution: BiteU. This app, which is intended to be a universal remote for ordering on-campus food, is an unwieldy, convoluted and time-wasting mess.
When you first open the app, you’ll be greeted by a few things on the home tab. First, there’s a rewards program. When you reach 300 “bites,” which I can only assume is Sodexo’s corporate term for orders made on the BiteU app, you’ll apparently receive some kind of reward. This reward is not specified, but it is locked behind an inordinately high number of mobile orders. Next, there’s a log of recent orders that you’ve made on the app, which sit just above two advertisements. The first of these advertisements, which is for the “student board of directors” returns a page not found error when tapped. The second advertisement leads to a Brandeis webpage introducing KiwiBots. Below the advertisements, there’s a slew of events listed. All of these events lasted the entire month of February and are nonsensical. Apparently, there was a “Crispy Goat-Cheese Burger” event for the entire month of February. Good to know!
The next page of the app is the news tab, which gives advertisements for dishes that aren’t served on our campus. There are ads for “Simply to Go” and “Love of Food” on this page. The only problem is we don’t have a “Simply to Go” or a “Love of Food” on Brandeis’ campus. There are also corporate advertisements here for Oreos, Bang energy drinks and Little Secrets chocolate. I’m glad that Sodexo can make ad revenue from BiteU because it gives me hope that they’ll put at least some of that money towards improving this godforsaken app.
The third page of the app is the menu tab. After loading for 17 years, this tab displays menus for Sherman Dining Hall, Sherman Kosher and Lower Usdan Dining Hall every day. This is a great feature in theory, as it lets you know ahead of time what food you’ll be eating and later regretting, but the menus are unintuitive (and at times inaccurate) in practice. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all displayed on the same page, so you have to scroll very far down to see what’s available for dinner. I admit that I’m nitpicking, but it’s incredibly tedious to have to scroll through hundreds of items just to see that nothing good is being served every single day.
The second to last page on the BiteU app is the order tab. Let’s say I for some reason decided that I want to eat Tres Habaneros. There are multiple options here, including ASAP Pickup – Meal Exchange, Faculty Club Tickets, KiwiBot Delivery, Pickup – Retail, Upper Usdan ASAP Pickup and Upper Usdan ASAP Pickup – Meal Exchange. After deducing that the Upper Usdan ASAP Pickup – Meal Exchange option holds Tres Habaneros, the actual ordering process is hellish. I choose the options for my meal and then go to checkout. I’m greeted with a prompt to “choose pickup destination”. There’s only one option under that menu, and it’s “choose pickup destination.” After choosing “choose pickup destination” as your pickup destination, you’re prompted to say whether you’re positive with Covid or self isolating. Presuming you’re not, you’re then prompted once again to “choose pickup destination.” Again, there’s only one option, but this time it’s “Pickup Inside Upper Usdan.” After all of that, I can finally pick up my burrito from Sodexo’s Chipotle knockoff. The BiteU ordering process is so tedious, it’s almost like Sodexo doesn’t want us to eat their food.
The last tab on the BiteU app is the pay tab, and it’s actually pretty useful. It allows you to use your phone like your ID card to buy food and also lets you check your balance of weekly meal swipes, dining points and WhoCash. This is actually a very nice feature, and for the first time, I have no real complaints.
Sodexo can do better on many fronts, but improving the user experience on BiteU, which was one of the key points of their contract extension, would be a good place to start. If Sodexo is Brandeis’s choice for our next dining vendor, I sincerely hope that the quality of their app (and their food) improves.