Sodexo releases Bite, a tool for meal-goers

Seniors Meagan Ruefle and Ryan Siatkowsky look over information stored on Sodexo’s new menu app.

Natasha Bazika

Seniors Meagan Ruefle and Ryan Siatkowsky look over information stored on Sodexo’s new menu app.

Victoria Grattan, Editor-in-Chief

Last May, Student Government Association Vendor Committee members began to work with Sodexo General Manager Kevin Dicey to synchronize an existing Sodexo mobile app with the Pitt-Johnstown campus.

The Bite app contains the daily and weekly breakfast, lunch and dinner menus for the Varsity Cafe and the Student Union Union Dining Hall, as well as recipe, nutritional and allergy details.

Fitbits, trackers of personal health information, can be synced with the app to track calorie and fat intake.

The app also provides students the opportunity to rate products on the menu so it can be altered based on student preferences.

According to Dining Services Unit Marketing Coordinator Emily Michaels, the app was created by Sodexo’s Culinary Solutions team and is being used in 1,000 Sodexo locations.

Currently, Pitt-Johnstown is a test market for the tablet version of Bite, called “In the Know.”

“We have a tablet location set up at the front of the Varsity Cafe, which is sending information to our corporate office,” Michaels said.

Michaels said that she did not play a role in developing the app last year, but her current role is to market the app to the Pitt-Johnstown community, monitor feedback and relay that information to student government Vendor Relations Committee members.

According to Dicey, a prototype of the app was released to student government members last spring, but the official launch took place at the beginning of the current semester.

Dicey said that Sodexo and student government members have a good working relationship. “We meet biweekly to discuss concerns and work on enhancements,” he said.

“Last year, we worked on the development of elite meals and customer-service programs.”

They are working on the menu and Mt. Cat Club changes, Dicey said.

The app also will be a vehicle for annual surveys, advertised specials and other possible components, according to Dicey.

Michaels said menus are loaded directly from the program Sodexo chefs use to create the menu every day and are updated every 10 minutes to ensure accuracy.

Michaels said that her favorite app feature is that users can save their favorite foods, and, when that item is put on the menu again, the app notifies the user.

In future updates, Michaels said that she hopes users will be able to leave text reviews, instead of only ratings, so there will be more information to base improvements on.

“Also, we will soon be able to add retail locations like those in the Tuck Shop to the app, so we can get information about those (places) as well,” Michaels said.

She said she also hopes that the app will help students become more aware of what is on the menu, so they will be able to go to a dining location that best suits them.

“It can become a tool to those that have allergies or dietary restrictions (as well as) to help them make the most of their dining experience,” Michaels said.

Student government Vendor Relations Committee Chair Haylie White, who was on the committee last year when the app was being developed, said that her role was to communicate with Sodexo and relay information to committee members.

She said that this was to help Sodexo decide what information to have available on the app.

“Now that the app is up and running my and student government’s role is basically to help advertise the app and its capabilities,” White said.

Before the app was released to the campus community, White said that she worked with Michaels and Mike Shields, the former committee chair, to fix technical issues.

“At the beginning, the app was working well, but we came across the problem that the chef notes were being written on the app for students to see instead of just for the employees; luckily Emily (Michaels) was able to get that fixed,” she said.

White said that she uses the app and finds it to be accurate and convenient.

“I can’t tell you how many times a week I would go on the UPJ dining website and go through multiple pages until I could find the menu; it was such a hassle,” she said.

With the app, White says that she is able to locate the menu within a minute.