Two UR students have developed an iPhone app called URdining that offers daily, up-to-date information about dining halls and a ratings feature for giving feedback to UR Dining Services. The app, is owned and operated by URDining, LLC, a company freshman Jacob Niebloom and sophomore Xuefeng Peng founded for the purpose of marketing the app.
The URdining app includes push notifications, dining hall hours, daily nutritional information for each item, and a comments section. The app also allows users to rate menu items at Danforth and Douglass dining halls on a scale of one to five.
“The key is the algorithm that goes behind reading the reviews,” Niebloom said. This refers to the “URDining, LLC patent-pending algorithm” Niebloom and Peng will use to analyze consumer feedback.
Niebloom stressed that the goal of the new URdining app is to improve UR Dining Services by using consumer feedback and to “build off the menu to make [it] what students want.”
“This application is a module to go to any university,” Niebloom said. According to Peng and Niebloom, they are using UR as a launching point to expand into universities across the country. Once they build the app’s presence at UR, the name “URdining” will be subject to change, and Peng and Niebloom will market the software license to other universities’ dining programs.
They plan to charge based on monthly fees and separate analytic costs. Niebloom and Peng said they currently have no statement about prices for other universities’ use of the software, except that it will be split between the monthly fee for use of the app and the building costs.
After URdining was featured in the WeeklyBuzz, Peng and Niebloom officially began advertising for the app on Monday, April 20. After its official launch, the app had close to 300 new users in one day.
Starting in the fall, URdining will have a query filter system for students to specify their interests. For example, said Niebloom, users could search for “gluten-free” or “vegetarian” food to sort through the options for the day to fit their needs.
Niebloom just rebuilt the system so that information is sent to the app automatically. Previously, he needed to run a script every Sunday that would update the in-app menus from the menus on Campus Dish. In the fall, data will come directly from Dining Service’s database instead of coming from a different source, as it does now.
Niebloom and Peng will begin posting URdining flyers, and there will be a weekly distribution of one free dining voucher starting next semester.
“I think the application is exactly what students are looking for,” Marketing Manager for Dining Services Kevin Aubrey said. “Slick design, great user functionality, social media ties, important news notifications and an easy outlet for feedback and information.”
Niebloom said that Aubrey acts simultaneously as a mentor and a client. He has been representing UR during the transaction and advising Peng and Niebloom in matters of advertising and marketing for URDining, LLC.
Contracts between UR Dining Services and URDining, LLC are still underway. There is currently a temporary contract in place, but the long term agreement for use of the URdining app has not been completed.
“This solution really couldn’t have come at a better time,” Aubrey said. On May 1, UR Dining Services will launch a new online dining website on the rochester.edu site to will replace CampusDish. The CampusDish app will be eliminated.
Peng is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of URDining, LLC. He deals primarily with marketing and organization. Niebloom is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and handles the back-end building and security management, as well as statistical analysis of the data.
The idea for the app began with Peng, who transferred to UR from SUNY Brockport. Peng said that Brockport has eight different dining halls, and deciding where to eat and finding satisfactory options was a real problem for the student body. He read through the iOS developer manual and created a prototype.
Once he transferred to UR, Peng looked for a partner with iPhone experience to help make his prototype a reality. Niebloom, who already had other iOS apps and a software development company of his own, met with Peng and they became partners.
“I think what Xuefeng and Jacob created is fantastic and we are delighted to be working with them on this project,” Aubrey said, referring to UR Dining Services’ involvement in the marketing of URdining. “It is a textbook entrepreneurial example of smart people seeing a void in their world, and, rather than complain about it, taking the initiative to fill that void themselves.”
Peng and Niebloom were thanked personally by the UR branch of the College Diabetes Network after the app was mentioned in the WeeklyBuzz last week.
“That’s why we’re doing this––to be able to make a change in people’s diets and to help,” Niebloom said. He and Peng both expressed their pleasure in receiving feedback from students directly affected by UR Dining Services.
“I’m really satisfied and happy that we can ameliorate [the situation],” Peng said.
McAdams is a member of
the class of 2017.