Since returning to campus this fall, I have ordered through the new online ordering app, Starship, multiple times. I am a little disappointed with the set-up of the app, and I’d like to make some suggestions for how the app can be improved upon in the future.
First, the Starship app is not compatible with international phone numbers. I have a U.S. number and so was not aware of this when I downloaded the app. But I have a friend with a Canadian phone number who, as of now, has been unable to order anything through the app and has spoken with customer service about the issue. I understand that this is a system-wide app configuration, and so not specific to Brandeis. However, as many Brandeis students are not from the United States, it would make sense to use an app accessible to everyone on campus.
After successfully downloading the app, another bug becomes noticeable. Many orderable items feature a “customize” button to add new toppings on top of the base item. I have so far found that, aside from the offerings at Louis’ Deli, clicking the button within items from La Sabrosa and Greens and Grains does not reveal any additional information or a panel to add toppings. All orders have a notes section at the bottom where you can ask to customize your order—though it is not possible to know what all the topping options are. I would suggest ensuring that pressing the customize button opens a drop-down menu of additional add-ons to include.
When ordering with meal exchange on Starship, the app limits you to three items. This could mean a sandwich, drink and chips. However, Starship considers dips (such as sour cream, ranch or salsa) to be one of these three items. As the customize option is not available currently, the only way for a student to add sour cream to their burrito is to sacrifice either a drink or chips, which are part of a standard meal exchange. I would suggest allowing students to add a dip to their order the meal exchange option while also allowing for the sandwich, drink and chips.
After you have made your meal selection and head to checkout, the only option is to immediately place your order and wait for the stated amount of time to receive your order. Under the previous dining hall service, Sodexo, the online ordering app allowed us to pre-order items and to specify a general pick-up time. This allowed students with a short break between two classes to know that their food would be waiting for them and that they would not have to wait to pick up the food or have to leave class briefly to order their food. I, along with my friends, have noticed that the lines to enter Lower Usdan (now called Usdan Kitchen) and Sherman (now called The Table at Sherman) at peak hours (specifically, between 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.) appear to be much longer than in previous semesters I have been on campus. It would be incredibly helpful to know that, even if I may not have time to sit down at a dining hall to eat between classes, I can still have food available to me. I would suggest instating the preorder system within the Starship app.
Another complication is the tendency for La Sabrosa and Greens and Grains (and, indeed, any offering at The Hive—previously Upper Usdan—has the potential to do this) to temporarily close to new orders under times of high demand. With no pre-order option available, the only method to ensure you can pick up your food is to refresh the app continuously, unsure of when the app will allow you to place an order, or to order far in advance and eat cold food. Creating a preorder system could lessen the sudden increase in demand for food at lunch time, as employees will know ahead of time how many orders they will need to prepare.
What if I wanted to order from multiple places? Say that I wanted to order a sushi tray from Wild Blue Sushi and nachos from La Sabrosa. Once I have placed my sushi order, I go back to the app to order the nachos. However, the order pending screen prevents me from ordering anything else until my first order is ready. This could turn a 20-minute wait for both items into a 30-plus minute wait. I would suggest adding a minimize button to the order pending screen to resolve this issue.
Finally, I receive a notification telling me that my order is ready for pick up. I am given a string of seven numbers (the first four of which are typically the same for all orders processed around the same time) as my way of identifying my order. The order numbers are difficult to differentiate between, especially when students are in a rush between classes to pick up food, and I am worried that this could result in accidently picking up someone else’s order. I would suggest adding an extra input box before check-out asking for a name, so that orders can be personalized and more easily recognizable.
Overall, I am excited to see how the Starship app evolves as the academic year progresses. I have high hopes that, once these changes have been implemented, the user experience will be much smoother for students and for workers.