Webfood: Online orders for DUC food available this fall

| Staff Reporter

Starting this fall, students will have the option to pre-order certain menu items online and pick up their items at the Danforth University Center at no additional cost.

The new service, called Webfood, is intended to reduce waiting times and congestion in the Danforth University Center (DUC) for students’ convenience. The program, developed by Bon Appétit administration, Student Union (SU) members and students at large, is the product of efforts from over the last two years.

“If you’re someone that’s frustrated about going to get food and it’s a long line, and you spend most of the time you want to spend with friends waiting in line, you no longer have to do that,” said senior Jeff Nelson, SU president. “Even if you don’t want to use Webfood, you can benefit anyway, because the lines will be shorter.”

Bon Appétit selected the independent service Webfood from several similar options in large part because other U.S. colleges, such as Cornell University, have used the system to positive reviews.

“It integrates very nicely with [the campus card system] we currently have, which lowers the cost that it would take to implement it,” Nelson added.

Another benefit that became apparent as SU was researching Webfood, Nelson noted, is that fewer wrong orders will be thrown away.

“You’d be surprised at how often it happens,” Nelson said. “They’re trying to get through 50 people in the lunch hour, so sometimes they mess up orders, sometimes they forget things, and food is wasted.”

Menu items will be limited at first, though more options will be added over time as students and food service employees become more comfortable with the new system.

The Webfood system limits the number of orders that can be placed at one time. That means an order’s cooking time alone determines how far in advance students have to order their food.

“The item won’t be prepared 15 minutes ahead of time; it’s literally just a few minutes ahead of time,” said Paul Schimmele, assistant to the director of operations in Dining Services.

While Webfood may be advantageous for students, Schimmele said Bon Appétit staff likely won’t benefit from it in any particular way.

“I don’t know if it is any easier for the staff; it’s just a different way to take an order,” Schimmele said. “I don’t think it complicates the job once everybody understands how the system works. There’s going to be changes to the routine a little bit, but I don’t think it affects what they do really.”

Nelson has heard concerns from some that Webfood may eliminate opportunities for students to interact personally with Dining Services staff, but he disagrees.

“If you value standing in line and talking with the workers, developing that relationship, you still can,” he said.

Schimmele and Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager for Bon Appétit, downplayed potential problems with Webfood’s implementation, saying the administration is taking the process slowly to avoid complications.

In addition, incoming freshmen and students taking summer classes on campus will be testing Webfood in a pilot program before August move-in to avoid snags.

“I’m sure there will be timing issues, other sorts of things. We want to make sure all that is tidied up before August when we open it to the larger market,” Siddiqui said.

Basic items from Trattoria Verde and Delicioso’s tacqueria and grill stations, snacks and beverages will be available for pre-purchase on a Web site that has yet to be revealed. Orders can be placed at any time of day, but can be picked up only between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. at George’s Express in the DUC.

Most students have not heard about Webfood and none have had the opportunity to try it, but some are looking forward to trying it.

“If I’m going to have to wait 20 minutes either way, I’d rather have that 20 minutes in my room,” senior Amaka Onwuzurike said.

Despite Webfood’s intended benefits for students, the program may not be gladly received by all.

“I’ve heard some people sort of criticize Webfood and say it’s just a luxury. I think it’s really a necessity,” Nelson said.

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