Saturday, June 15

Students share mixed views on UCLA Dining, mobile app, meal swipe value reduction

(Shimi Goldberger/Daily Bruin)

With the school year coming to a close, students look back on their dining experiences at UCLA – some with fondness and others without.

Graphics on UCLA-run Instagrams and YouTubers looking to vlog their dining experiences all tout the same thing – UCLA has been ranked as having the best dining halls in the country. Although students appreciate the diverse choices and the generally positive experience of eating on campus, some have doubts about the ranking.

For those who agree that UCLA deserves the ranking, the main basis of their reasoning lies with the range of options offered along with the quality of the food.

“I really like UCLA Dining. There’s a good variety of foods we can try, and the quality of the food is pretty good,” said Emily Nguyen, a first-year computer science student. “I’ve never gotten bored of the food, and I feel like the food has good portions and it’s really filling.”

Matthew Wei, a second-year business economics student, said he also finds the ranking appropriate – especially when comparing UCLA dining options to those at other schools.

However, others are not too sure.

“No. 1 dining hall food in the nation is a bit of a stretch, but it’s up there, I’d say,” said Kenji Swun, a first-year business economics student. “I have tried some food at other schools’ dining halls before. … I wouldn’t say it’s up to par as our food, but it’s not super far off.”

Regardless of students’ perspectives on UCLA’s overall ranking, a common consensus seems to be that UCLA’s mobile dining app, Transact Mobile Ordering, made it difficult to gauge when orders would be ready – if at all. Trisha Sreedhar, a first-year business economics student, said although the app is a good idea, technological difficulties make wait times longer.

“It’s a good idea in concept, but the problem is there’s too much backlog,” she said. “I feel overwhelmed when waiting over two hours for my food.”

Although Swun said he liked the ease of not having to line up in person to place an order, he believes the app’s unpredictable wait times hindered its effectiveness.

“It is convenient when you’re in class, you want to order food and pick it up to go,” he said. “But if you’re looking to get food at a specific time, it’s not that great to use.”

Despite various technical issues, Wei said the app improved throughout the year. Wei said the biggest improvement could be seen at The Study at Hedrick, where wait times that reportedly extended up to 90 minutes earlier this year have since significantly reduced.

[Related: Students air frustrations with UCLA Dining’s switch to mobile ordering]

Swun and Nguyen also said UCLA’s series of themed dinners was one of their highlights. Swun said the Argentinian-themed night – hosted at De Neve on May 2 – was a particular favorite of his.

“We had Argentinian-themed food at De Neve one time, and it was just a lot of great steak, good meat, other great food,” Swun said. “It was really out of nowhere. Really spontaneously, UCLA decided to go all out on one dinner, and I think that was pretty cool.”

Nguyen said the Pinoy Night at Feast at Rieber, a dining hall that primarily focuses on Asian-themed dinners, was her favorite pick. The dessert – halo-halo, a popular treat from the Philippines featuring crushed ice, evaporated milk, jellies and red beans – was the best part, she added.

Wei said his favorite food events were the Avocado Fest and Honey Night at Bruin Plate because of their themed decorations and the creative sauces the dining staff served.

Although the dining halls on the Hill can be swiped into with a single meal swipe, many students said they feel upset about an announcement that the value of a meal swipe at ASUCLA restaurants on campus will decrease from $9 to $4.33 as soon as UCLA Dining reverts to pre-pandemic staffing levels.

“I’ve heard from a lot of my friends that they’re really not happy with it, especially because $9 is already not enough to get anything from Panda Express, for example, or Veggie Grill,” Wei said. “Now you’re halving the value basically, monetarily, but we’re paying the same amount of money for like half the value in swipes.”

[Related: UCLA Dining plans to reduce meal swipe monetary value by more than half].

Nguyen also said it would change the way she eats on campus, particularly because the swipe value would barely cover the price of a coffee.

According to an emailed statement from UCLA Dining, the $9 meal swipe value was a temporary measure because of staffing shortages after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the switch back to $4.33 accounts for restaurants returning to pre-pandemic accommodations.

When asked about what could be improved for the upcoming school year, Sreedhar said the university should improve the mobile ordering app, while Swun said the university should host more themed dinners. Wei, however, wanted to bring back a classic staple.

“Bring back late-night tenders from De Neve,” he said.

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