Tapingo fails to cut wait times

The mobile ordering app must improve its services to offer convenience.

Taking 18 credits this semester doesn’t allow me much spare time to sit down for a meal, so I enjoy being able to pick up food quickly at establishments on Main Campus using Tapingo, a food-ordering app partnered with Sodexo. With the app, students can order food and pay directly from their phones.

Just last week, I ordered a margherita pizza from Cosi using Tapingo. I had a lot of homework that night and didn’t want to waste time standing in line. But while I was waiting for my order confirmation, the app’s server crashed, forcing me to waste valuable time walking to Cosi to order in person.

Besides server crashes, Tapingo has other problems, too, like inaccurate wait times, erroneous orders and printer problems, which occur when the order printer is not turned on at the food service location. These problems can cause delays and make the app frustrating to use.

By bringing Tapingo to Main Campus in the first place, Sodexo recognized two important things: students are using their devices for more daily activities, and most students’ schedules are increasingly busy. But as of now, the app isn’t effective because of its various problems. In order to sustain student usage, both Tapingo and Sodexo must make marked improvements.

First, Sodexo must work to provide more realistic estimates of wait times. Tapingo orders are often running behind, especially in high-traffic locations like Cosi, Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Yet the service has been operating at Temple since September 2016, so one would think these locations would be accustomed to the influx of orders.

Aramark, which will replace Sodexo at Temple in June, will continue to take Tapingo orders. But Aramark will need to improve on the handling of this influx.

Richard Green, one of Sodexo’s general managers at Temple, said that on-campus locations try their best to balance Tapingo and walk-in customers.

“If you’re extremely busy, and you get a bunch of Tapingo orders, it’ll take a little bit longer than normal, than what the app tells you,” Green said.

For students who plan to pick up their food at a certain time, it can be inconvenient and disruptive to wait longer than expected, especially if they only have a short gap between classes.

Leanne Herzberger, a freshman therapeutic recreation major, said when she has used Tapingo to order from Benny’s Steak Shop in the Student Center this semester, it has been extremely slow.

“It takes even longer for them to collect all the sandwiches from the stations and bring them up front,” Herzberger said. “It’s very difficult now to get something in between classes, where this wasn’t a problem before.”

During the fall semester, there were almost 1,300 Tapingo orders each day, Green said. Sodexo expects the app’s usage to grow by 15 to 30 percent over the course of the spring semester. With such heavy usage, it’s not hard to see why many locations have a hard time keeping up with orders.

Still, Sodexo should work with Tapingo representatives to revise their estimated waits, or hire more staff in order to deal with the obvious increase in orders.

Marvin Manalo Jr., a freshman biology major, enjoys the convenience of being able to skip the line by ordering from an app, but agrees there are a few bugs that need to be fixed.

“Sometimes there are days in which I’m attempting to order food through the app, and the restaurant I’m trying to order from is ‘closed’ on the app, when it’s actually open,” Manalo said. “That happens more times than I’d prefer.”

Green attributes that problem to issues between the app and the university’s network. If Tapingo updates the system on its end, Green said, the food service workers on Main Campus must make sure each location’s Tapingo system is up and running on their end.

“It’s just a learning process for our staff to make sure, every Monday morning, things should be turned off and turned on again, all the printers need to be rebooted and up to date with their software,” Green said.

These issues aren’t limited to Temple. Sodexo offers Tapingo at 850 colleges across North America, including Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Customer reviews of Tapingo posted on the App Store found that other college users echoed many of the complaints I’ve heard from Temple students: long wait times, incorrect orders and restaurants being closed on the app when they’re actually open.

None of these issues are catastrophic, but fixing them would make a noticeable difference for Tapingo users.

Tapingo and Sodexo should work together to fix these problems so Temple students can have a more enjoyable Tapingo experience. Until then, they aren’t living up to their slogan: “Wait less. Live more.”

Zach Kocis can be reached at zach.kocis@temple.edu.

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