While the official Yale Dining app has been the long-standing resource for students in search of daily menus, dining hall traffic flow and nutritional information, a new student-created app attempts to give Yale Dining a run for its money.
The brainchild of Hopper suitemates Eric Foster ’20 and Jacob Malinowski ’20, the new Yale Menus app displays minute-by-minute information on which dining halls are most full, which foods each residential college has on offer and any potential allergens. While many of the features of the two apps overlap, Foster and Malinowski built Yale Menus to be compatible with future iOS versions — something the Yale Dining app was previously unable to do. But just a day before the release of Yale Menus on Aug. 29, Yale Dining announced that the Yale Dining app had been updated to fix the compatibility problem.
“Yale students want to know where they can find a table, what the dining halls are serving and what’s in their food. Yale Menus gives you that information quickly and clearly, with an interface designed to be easy for people to use,” Malinowski said.
According to Foster, the app building process initially began last spring as a “fun side project” between him and Malinowski.
But over the summer, when the Yale Dining app began to send flash warnings that “Yale Dining needs to be updated. This app will not work with future versions of iOS,” Foster and Malinowski kicked their designs into a higher gear, eager to release the app in time for the fall semester.
The app creators both agreed that the original Yale Dining app was often perceived as “clunky and hard to use.”
Branford student George Sabatakakis ’21 said he found the user interface of the Yale Dining App “a bit archaic,” and noted that Yale Menus was more visually appealing. Other students observed that not only is the Yale Dining app awkwardly designed, but it can occasionally crash, as Anthony Orr ’21 pointed out.
Yale Menus is meant to counteract these issues, Foster and Malinowski said.
With sleek user interface elements, such as a home page featuring each residential college’s crest, the sophomore duo tried to ensure a more streamlined and enjoyable user experience.
“For a task as simple and ubiquitous as dining, the apps we use should showcase the best of who we are as a university,” Foster said.
The creators acknowledged that Yale Menus and the Yale Dining app offer almost identical services. However, one distinguishing feature is Yale Menus’ ability to indicate food restrictions with a simple and convenient “I Cannot Eat …” checklist within the app. For instance, if a student selected the “Animal Products (I’m Vegan)” button, the app automatically greys out any items on the menu containing those products. This feature — absent from the Yale Dining app — makes it easier for students to see which items they can and cannot eat. And by removing lesser-used features on the Yale Dining App, such as the ‘Meals 2 Go’ feature, Yale Meals is able to function and respond more quickly, the app’s designers said.
“It’s important to us to do whatever we can to continue and bolster the excellence of Yale Dining,” Malinowski said. “The facilities are great, the staff is so friendly, and the food is delicious.”
Students reacted with overwhelming enthusiasm to the release of Yale Menus last month, with over 600 people downloading the app in its first week.
“We’d also love to work with Yale Dining to bring Yale Menus to as many Yale students as possible,” Malinowski added.
The Yale Menus app is available to download for free on the iTunes App Store.
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