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Grubhub and digital kiosks: Empowering the bums

| Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Claire Kopischke

North Dining Hall. Spring 2018. A line curls out from the stir fry station. Eager students await their meals while thoughts of teriyaki and soy sauce dance in their heads. Some wait alone, idly perusing their smartphones. Others wait in pairs of two or three, passing time with casual conversation. Another may leaf through an open newspaper or textbook.

The freshman, junior, sophomore and senior waiting together in this line do not have a great deal in common. Yes, they attend the same institution of higher learning, but their respective friend groups, fields of study and weekend activities likely differ.

Yet, here they all are, simultaneously engaged in the same arduous endeavor: waiting 20, perhaps 30 minutes for a bowl of slightly warm rice, protein and vegetables.

Such a situation in North Dining Hall once existed, but no longer. Solidarity, conversation and patience have been replaced by fingerprint stained screens, crumpled receipt paper and a lack of human interaction.

With Notre Dame Campus Dining’s implementation of the food delivery service Grubhub over the past year, restaurants and dining halls have become places of detached exchange. Particularly at the campus’ busiest locations (i.e. stir fry, Modern Market), cashiers have become completely irrelevant. Students are encouraged to either queue in line at digital kiosks or order food ahead of time on their phones. Waiting either takes place in a disorderly mob as each customer waits for his or her food to be prepared or does not take place at all.

Where physical lines once persisted in Duncan Student Center now sit monitors displaying how long wait time for one’s food will be.

Getting to a restaurant before the rush is disincentivized.

The most tangible example of such takes place every day at Notre Dame’s newest and arguably most popular dining option: Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh.

If one goes to the restaurant located on the eastern side of the Hesburgh Center near lunchtime on any given day, he or she will encounter a quite sizable line. Yet, despite a large amount of activity taking place behind the counter and in the kitchen, the queue remains relatively stagnant — moving incongruently with the number of orders seeming to be fulfilled.

In the midst of this confusion, errant students or faculty members solve the dilemma — often waltzing into the establishment, walking directly towards the register and retrieving an order adorned with a distinguishable yellow receipt in a very timely manner. Through the use of the Grubhub app, these individuals have been permitted to skip those physically lined up and ensure their order is moved to a position of higher priority than those in the restaurant. Since those at the back of line have no interaction with the staff, they are in a worse off position despite their arguably more steadfast commitment to getting their food.

These students who linger in line are, thus, encouraged to download the Grubhub application and empower the system their previous behavior had discouraged.

Post Grubhub, students make the majority of their orders on walks to a restaurant or while sitting in classes prior to a lunch break. They do not consult cashiers and cooks about the specificities of certain meals or dietary restrictions. Instead, they click buttons from several buildings away and type out cursory side notes in little boxes to add a “personal” flair to their orders.

Certainly, this online ordering system benefits some. A considerable amount of students do not have ample time between classes to wait 15 minutes for pizza or a gyro, and some more introverted customers may prefer to barter with a screen rather than a personality.

But, at the end of the day, if we as a student body cave to this culture of impatience and instant gratification, we allow what Mr. Jeffrey Lebowski swore would never occur. We let the bums win.

The bums would rather look around for other options in the dining hall while their stir fry is made than stand almost still for nearly 30 minutes. The bums prefer to enter Garbanzo and leave with their food within two minutes. The bums think they are awful clever when they skip to the front of a line which would normally take 10 or more minutes to wait in. The bums, just as the rest of us do, want food in their mouths as soon as possible, but they are not willing to wait for it.

When one is confronted with the choice — “Would I rather have my food in five minutes or 15 minutes?” — the answer often seems a simple one.

As human interaction, timeless values and a sense of merited satisfaction are threatened, however, time should not be the paramount issue. Our phones and television sets have already been monopolized by a culture of urgency and instancy. We cannot let the same happen to our food.

Wait in line when you have the time to. Go talk to the cashier despite their best efforts to guide you towards a piece of technology. Our campus will be better for it.

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About Charlie Kenney

Charlie writes about things with words.

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