Bama Dining’s mobile ordering still experiencing excessive wait times 

Sarah Clifton, Staff Reporter

Students are meeting long lines curling around the different food vendors in the UA Student Center’s food court this semester, and some say mobile ordering still features a wait, too.  

At Panda Express, bags with taped receipts leave the mobile order counter almost as soon as they are placed there. At Chick-fil-A, a worker tries to determine who in the herd of students at the mobile order counter ordered the chicken minis and medium Coke in the bag she’s holding. 

A system of sorts is in place here at the UA Student Center food court — at the mobile order counter, students crowd around pick up counters as they wait long periods of time just to get ahold of food that isn’t from a dining hall. 

Some students have adjusted to the wait for mobile orders, expecting it on campus.  

“It’s been backed up forever,” said Cameron Heiser, a junior majoring in creative media. “But it’s been especially bad the past month. I had to wait 90 minutes for Cane’s the other day.” 

Freshman Leah Kummer said waits have gotten so long that she has begun ordering her food while she’s still in class to try and shorten the wait. 

“I usually just place my order in the last few minutes of my class, and it’s usually ready when I get here,” Kummer said. “Sometimes, it will say it takes 17 minutes and it’s actually way shorter, other times, it’s way longer.” 

Kristina Patridge, the director of University Dining Services, said that Bama Dining is “aware of the challenges with mobile ordering” that have arisen over the past year. 

“We have been making changes throughout the semester to improve the guest experience by changing where students wait, how and where meals are distributed, and adjusting throttle times,” Patridge said. “All refinements are made in the hopes of meeting guest demand while being realistic about what the kitchen can produce.” 

This fall, the University accepted its largest class of freshman students. The record-breaking fall 2022 enrollment reached 38,645 students, with 15,557 being in-state students and 23,088 out-of-state students.  

The increasing enrollment has forced the University to take steps to address other related issues such as parking and housing 

Patridge said that additional plans “to improve the guest experience” were in the process of being finalized but did not provide what specifically these additional measures were. 

The Chick-fil-A in the Student Center, one of the Bama Dining locations with particularly unpredictable wait times, is a point of contention in the mobile order problem, Patridge said, because it does not operate like a traditional Chick-fil-A location and is often barraged with heavy volumes of customers. 

“The Student Center location has tremendous volumes [of customers] coming through in very short windows, such as at class changes,” Patridge said. “While very efficient, the kitchen can only produce a certain amount of food per hour. The mobile wait times are set to provide the most accurate time estimates. However, those estimates can be affected by the number of people ordering through the app and in person at the same time.” 

Despite the uncertainty of the wait times, students still default to using the mobile order app. 

“I don’t particularly blame the app [for the inconvenient wait times], but it’s more convenient than standing in line,” Heiser said. “It’s a very efficient way to spend my dining dollars, which is essentially like Monopoly money anyway.”