No one likes waiting in line.
Heavy foot traffic and congestion continue to accompany the USC community’s return to campus, which has been evident through the seemingly permanent lines outside of popular restaurants and dining halls on campus. Students are still facing inconveniences with long lines and wait times at campus dining spots ever since the campus reopened in August.
While students have the option to order meals ahead of time on the USC Campus Dining App to beat the wait times, there are still some complications with the mobile ordering process.
Max Afrasiabi, a sophomore majoring in engineering, describes the frustration he and his peers have experienced with the app.
“I’ve heard of people waiting for an hour and a half, and even after that they would go and ask and it would turn out that their food has been sitting there the entire time,” said Afrasiabi. “I get that the idea of the dining hall app is great in concept, but it definitely needs to be revised a little bit for a smoother experience.”
Although the app provides an estimated pick-up time, students still find themselves waiting longer than anticipated due to inaccurate estimates. This makes the app less convenient than advertised for those on the go, or with a limited time to eat in between classes.
“The wait times are sometimes a little off. I can order and it says it’ll be done in 40 minutes, but then I get a message saying it’s done in 20,” said Mansher Singh Malik, a freshman majoring in economics. “It just messes up the schedule a little bit.”
As restaurants, cafes and dining halls are trying to operate at a pre-pandemic pace, the introduction of the app seems to be complicating the process, making it difficult for students to find convenient meals.
Along with a mobile app that has discrepant wait times, the hours at the dining halls and the lack of variety served are causing some students to feel frustration. Many students are not only experiencing longer wait times through the mobile app, but also at the dining halls. They are encountering a lack of variety and inconvenient hours.
“Sometimes they don’t have meat for dinner…which just seems ridiculously hypocritical to me. I want meat every single night. If you’re gonna offer vegetarian and vegan options every night, then you should also offer meat,” said Tommy Harrell, a sophomore majoring in international relations and the global economy.
Students looking for dining options on the weekends or later in the evening find themselves stuck with limited options since the dining hall hours are limited. Trista Chan, a freshman majoring in law, history, and culture, struggles to find options after her night classes.
“I do think hours could be longer on some nights because I do have some night classes, and I am sure lots of people do,” said Chan. “Sometimes when we are done, there aren’t any options.”
Not only are dining hall hours limited, but some students have even gotten messages through the mobile app that said their food would not be prepared before the time the restaurant closed.
Freshman Sophie Herant, who is majoring in engineering, was one of these students.
“I tried to order something and the app said that my food wouldn’t be prepared before the time the restaurant closed and it closed three hours from then,” she said.
Another contributing factor to student frustration over on-campus dining is that many of the hot spot dining options in the past have closed due to the pandemic. The closure of restaurants including California Pizza Kitchen, The Habit and Lemonade, among others, reduced the options available on or near campus, leading to more congestion at the open restaurants, cafes, and dining halls, like Cava, Verde and Fertitta Cafe.
Many students also express a need for more accessible dining options with a greater variety of foods that are healthy, convenient, and cheap. One possible solution to this issue is to order meals from the many restaurants surrounding campus, which can become a pricey habit.
Cook’d, an online food ordering and delivery app that caters specifically to students, could be a viable option for some. Cook’d recently launched at USC with the mission to get quality meals to students at a reasonable price.
Ordering through Cook’d is the cheapest way for the USC students to order delivery, said Vaidhi Nathan, one of the co-founders of Cook’d.
“We are typically 40 or 50% cheaper than UberEats and DoorDash,” he said. Cook’d aggregates student orders to restaurants and picks them up and delivers them to campus hotspots in bulk, which ultimately saves students money.
Nathan emphasized that Cook’d is “for students, by students” and that the company’s focus on low prices, convenience, and the “university-centric” model sets them apart from other delivery services. Students can access Cook’d services through their mobile app or at cookd.net.
The university has addressed the long lines at dining halls by adjusting the operating hours of the three residential dining halls. They have also created the option to pay at dining cafes and restaurants on campus by using dining dollars and meal swipes.
Earlier this month, Annenberg Media reported that the university was aware of the issues and was hoping to solve them soon to offer students a more efficient dining experience.
“Like many dining and retail operations around the country, staffing and supply chain issues have created unique challenges,” said Dirk de Jong, assistant vice president of USC Hospitality. “USC Hospitality is working to bring more team members on board as quickly as possible.”