The first thing I noticed was the pile of food. At least eight boxes filled with wraps and burritos, each one perched nicely on top of a large pile of chips, rotting away on the SAC countertops.
I showed up at the Wrap It Up station right at closing time, and got to watch all the workers throw out meals that students had ordered and abandoned. The apparent food waste is one of the reasons faculty and students are questioning the effectiveness of the new kiosk system installed in SAC dining.
The new kiosk system is much different from anything students have seen before on campus. There are four ordering stations, two in the lobby of the SAC and two in the sitting and dining area.
Students go up to the machines and follow the touch-screen instructions that present the option of a wrap or a burrito, then what kinds of toppings and what types of dressings they want. There is even a page that will filter out your options if you have any food allergies.
The machine processes your order, sends it to the wrap station and prints out a ticket with your order number on it. The rest is comparable to Bob’s BBQ at Kelly Dining: you hold your ticket, and wait for your order number to be called. There is even a screen where you can watch your order number and the status of your order.
This gives students a lot more freedom compared to last year. Now students can leave, go talk to friends, sit in the SAC and do work while waiting for their food to be prepared.
The problem is that many kids forget to come back.
“There are pros and cons to it,” said Susanna Polanco, a junior mathematics major who has been working at Wrap It Up for over a year.
“I don’t like that people don’t pick up their food and it’s such a waste.”
And while the kiosks make it a lot faster for students to place their orders, the amount of time it takes to get to ones order and than make it is still just as long. Naveed Ahmed, a sophomore studying engineering science, commented that, “It was faster to order but not necessarily faster to get my order.
The fact that you can order it more easily cancels out the fact that you get it a lot later.”
At the end of the day, the kiosks still are not working to address the main problem: the high volume of orders. The new system helps students place orders faster and more efficiently, but they have no control over the volume of orders that are placed.
This high volume has always been the biggest problem that students have had to deal with.
The new ticket system does try to accommodate this by not forcing students to stand around for their order to be called, but there is still a large crowd around the Wrap It Up and Picantes stations every day.
But some students appreciate the new system. Max Carmack, a junior mechanical engineering major, had a pretty positive response.
He pointed out that, “You don’t need to be in line, that’s what I think the best part is. I come in, I order my food, go to the bathroom, talk to some people, work on my homework, check the screen every once in a while, and if my orders ready all go get it.”
While the time that you wait to get your order is still just as long, at least students do not have to stand forever in a line: you have the freedom to leave and come back.
This, of course, is not perfect because of the number of students that either forget to come back or, what is probably most cases, you run out of time and have to go to class, leaving your already-ordered burrito alone on the counter tops.
The ordering system is by no means perfect, but come one people, how can it be? It has not even been around for three full weeks.
Problems are bound to arise while breaking in an entire new way of ordering food. So sure, the kiosks could use some tweaking, but it is a new system with new technology that is working to make things more efficient.
We can only hope that next semester, or at the latest next year, the problems we are still facing are addressed.
Correction: September 9, 2014
A previous version of this article referred to both SAC dining as “SAC dinning.” Additionally, Kelly Dining was mistakenly identified as “Kelly Dinning.”