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Credit: Gillian Diebold

Instead of waiting in the long lines at Houston Market during lunch time, Penn students can now order ahead through a new mobile-ordering app from Penn Dining.

At the beginning of this semester, Penn Dining released “Penn Eats” to allow students to skip the lines at various on-campus dining locations, including stations at Houston Market, Starbucks at 1920 Commons, Joe’s Cafe at Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, and Accenture at Towne Building.

Penn Dining previously partnered with Tapingo to offer similar services. Pam Lampitt, director of Business Services and Hospitality Services, said the switch to Penn Eats was made to improve usability.

“Penn Eats comes out of the Blackboard," Lampitt said, referencing the operating system Penn uses for the registers and kiosks at its dining locations. "It is compatible to the system we are already using so it makes it more seamless for the operator and we can control better what we want to offer to the campus and the community."

“It gives us the ability to change the price easily if we need to change the price, or take something off the menu if something is not available,” Bill Hess, Bon Appétit Management Company resident district manager, said. 

Penn Business Services Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger said stability was one of the factors that Penn Dining considered when deciding the switch.

“[Penn Eats] will probably be more stable because it is the system that we have been using for a long time,” Lea-Kruger said.

Credit: Sam Holland

Penn students can now order ahead at Houston Market through the Penn Eats app.

Students will also be able to earn points from ordering on the app and completing “challenges" that include rating the application on the App Store and adding a profile picture. Students can then use the points to enter into different contests with prizes such as free Dining Dollars.

Despite only operating at Penn for less than a month, Penn Eats has already built a sizable user base. Hess said Penn Dining ended the Tapingo partnership with roughly 850 users, but Penn Eats already has over 900 users and 700 unique uses, meaning more people have currently downloaded the app than have used it.

“Our numbers in the first two weeks of the semester are very strong,” Hess said. “By far the most popular station is Bento. Almost 40% of the total orders are coming from Bento,” referring to the busy Japanese station at Houston. 

Lampitt also said it can be very congested in places like Houston Market during peak time and that the new Penn Eats app has helped to reduce the congestion. Hess said he has seen a reduction in the crowd waiting for orders at Houston Market. 

“It is just more convenient," Lea-Kruger said. "Students can just order ahead and don't have to worry about how crowded it is today. You know you will get it in this amount of time and then you can go on about your business."

In the Penn Eats app, users will also be able to rate the service and food quality. 

“Currently, the average for both categories are at 4.7 out of 5,” Hess said. “We want to look at, as we get some more data, our shares at each platform, in walk-up traffic, kiosk, and the Penn Eats app.”

Tapingo had also offered a delivery service for a small fee along with the ability to use the app to order in off-campus restaurants. However, Lampitt said Penn Eats will not available at off-campus restaurants because it is currently tied with Penn's dining system.

Penn Eats is available on both the Apple and Android app stores.