You may have heard the name “Tapingo” around campus recently. But what exactly is it?
Tapingo is an app recently brought onto campus in partnership with Dining Services that allows customers to order food and drinks, pre-pay using Declining, URos or a credit card and pick up their order at the counter of participating dining locations: Connections, Pura Vida, Starbucks and The Commons.
“We wanted to take the next step in technology,” Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxillary Operations Cam Shauf said. “It’s clear there are students we weren’t going to reach unless it was through their phones.”
Schauf said he believes the app will increase sales by improving service to clients and attracting new clientele who previously did not have the time to wait in long campus lines.
So far this year, there has been an increase in the number of credit card sales, which likely indicates purchases from graduate students, staff and faculty. “And that’s a market that we haven’t been doing a very good job of reaching out and doing things for,” Schauf commented.
Perhaps the most desirable feature of the app is its speed for those in a hurry. As Schauf explains, “it’s not going to be a social experience. They need to run in and run out.”
Sophomore Deedee Krupkin falls into this demographic. In addition to the bonus of not having to wait in line, Krupkin likes that “you can see the whole menu so there’s less pressure [when it comes time to order], and it cuts out all of the customer service awkwardness.”
Senior Nikki Sroka sees a similar customer attitude at her job as student supervisor in Connections. “People want their food quickly. Not necessarily the customer service experience,” Sroka said.
However, while some see the ‘grab-and-go’ quality of Tapingo as a bonus, others view it as further alienation between students and workers. Starbucks barista and senior Shenice Morris commented, “With an app like Tapingo, we are losing out on human interaction, which is really an invaluable good…even when there are people involved, we still treat them like a machine.”
Graduate student Abby Glogower added, “I am beyond skeptical–critical actually–of technology that increases a system of on-demand labor…all these apps just seem to strive to make consuming stuff as easy as possible while limiting human interaction and, frankly, encouraging selfishness.”
On the other hand, Schauf believes the app has the potential to improve service relationships. “Because the people that are in a hurry aren’t interested in that conversation, and when you mix them in the line, it can increase the workload on the people standing there and decrease the time they have with each individual member. ”
In terms of workload for employees, Schauf noted that “it’s not adding to anyone’s workload on campus–it’s changing people’s workload[s].” Though no additional staff were hired to deal with Tapingo-related increases in sales, Marketing Manager for Dining Services Kevin Aubrey noted that there are more full-time union staff members and more student labor than in the recent past. If the need arises, additional staff, and perhaps even a Tapingo-designated counter, may be added during peak times.
Connections student supervisor and sophomore Julianna Kober agrees that “working at Connections during busy hours can be stressful for students and employees when the lines get long. Now, Tapingo saves time for students and hasn’t changed the workload for us.”
In terms of services, Aubrey indicated the possibility of a push-notification system that would promote special events or deals on campus and the ability to order meals with specific dietary restrictions at certain locations. Customers may soon be able to place several orders at once, but designate just one pick up person which eliminates the need for students to use each other’s IDs to buy food, a practice that is currently not allowed.
Delivery is another option that may be on the horizon. Tapingo’s marketing associate Emily Rosenbloom confirmed that market testing via an on-demand delivery team is in place on some campuses, a program which has received “a ton of love on social media.”
It’s still too early to tell if Tapingo will catch on at UR. Dining is closely monitoring its rollout this fall for any “rough edges.” Some concerns from students include the app not updating menus with daily offerings or when products are out of stock and longer delays than the estimated wait time. Students also have concerns about what will happen when the app gains popularity.
“It’s silly,” commented senior Katharine Boyce. “Lines will be just as long and the orders will get mixed up.”
“If they have a great experience, [people] should let us know. If they have a negative experience, they certainly should let us know,” Shauf commented. “There is no such thing as a perfect rollout of anything, and so we want to know what we’re missing so we can fix it.”
Alani is a Take Five Scholar.