Lucas Holter

Yale Hospitality created a new dining app designed to better serve their new menu this year and address the bugs of the previous interface.

In mid-August, the University revamped its dining website, which offers allergen information and dining hall occupancy. In addition to the new website, Yale Hospitality launched the new Transact Mobile Ordering app which can accommodate new features — including pre-ordered meals — and display meals a week in advance. The app had a soft launch in August, allowing students to download it, but officially launched for orders last Friday. The old app did not display sufficient information for students with dining restrictions, according to Christelle Ramos, Yale Hospitality marketing and communications manager.

“Our previous site was passé, out of date and did not respond to emerging needs,” Ramos wrote in an email to the News. “In recent years, many prospective Yale students take the time to thoroughly research the dining offerings, how we customize meals for students with dietary restrictions, food allergies, religious guidelines and more.”

Yale Dining will update the weekly menu each Thursday by 10 a.m. for the following Sunday through Saturday, according to Ramos. The app includes information on how Yale Hospitality has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also allows students to order grab-and-go meals and sends them a notification when the meal is ready for pick-up — storing data on what they have enjoyed in the past to allow for quick reordering..

For nearly 10 years, Yale Hospitality has had an app displaying menu data. But since its creation, the app had remained largely the same.

University students have long had an interest in developing their own apps, restricting the University from being the only source of food information. One such entrepreneur, Erik Boesen ’24, said he is one of many undergraduate students  looking to develop the go-to competitor of Transact Mobile Ordering.

Boesen said his app will try to emphasize aesthetics by featuring a calendar on the home screen. He hopes to allow students to click a day on the calendar and view its dining options. Yale’s app has users click “next” to view the menu of each following day.

“I kind of have a natural inclination to want to make data be free in a way,” Boesen told the News. “I really wanted to take the information that is kind of now locked away a little bit in that website and make it a little more publicly available.”

Boesen’s new app will work on both Apple and Samsung devices, and he estimates it will drop in about a month. Ideally, he said, the app will update meals in accordance with Yale Dining’s official site.

Students who worked on alternative apps said the old Yale Dining app often glitched. Some students created their own apps in the past as alternatives, including Yale Menus and Yale Dining Plus for iOS and Android products, respectively. 

Eric Foster ’20, Yale Menus developer and the News’ former publisher, said Yale Dining’s old app was difficult to use and slow to update. Boesen said the Android version often crashed when users looked for information on Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin, two colleges that did not exist when it was first developed.

“It was revolutionary for its time, as I understand. Yale was pretty much the first university to have a system like this where they had an app that could show you which dining options were available,” Boesen said. “Since then, it’s kind of degraded.”

Yale Menus included a Tinder-like feature in which students could like or dislike to indicate whether they enjoyed a meal.

Foster, who developed the app, said that he hopes the University will soon take advantage of this data on which meals students prefer.

“If you have food allergies or other restrictions, Yale Menus can warn you that a particular dining hall might not have much you can eat at a particular meal — and crucially, it warns you before you use your swipe to enter the dining hall and are forced to eat there,” Foster wrote to the News.

Hospitality worked with colleagues at Yale Internal Communications to design the new website.

Rose Horowitch | rose.horowitch@yale.edu

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect that Yale Internal Communications helped design the new website, not the app.