The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every part of campus life, and dining is no exception.
Starting this semester, UT Dining has rolled out a new system to ensure students can eat safely in a socially-distanced, clean environment. One aspect of the new system is the more-involved use of the GET app.
Many students may already have this app. Last semester, it was used merely as the electronic alternative to carrying around a physical Vol Card and could be “swiped” at scanners to access a building or pay at Vol Dining locations.
It has been referred to as “GET Food” this semester, stirring some confusion among students who believed it was a separate app. It is available for download on the App Store and Google Play Store as “GET.” A desktop version can be found here.
Upon downloading the app, students will need to select “University of Tennessee” and log in with their NetID details. Users can set up a PIN number or Touch ID for extra security. A display will show that users have “9,000 meals” left in their account.
“The ‘9,000 meals’ is a number used to give the students the ability to make unlimited reservations,” Mary Leslie Patterson, senior district marketing director for UT Dining, said.
“A student is not charged for his or her meal until the student comes to the dining hall and swipes or taps their card at the cashier stand.”
The app allows students to reserve 45-minute time slots at three campus dining halls: PCB, Fresh Food Company and Southern Kitchen. Students do not have to arrive right at their time, but instead can arrive any time during their 45-minute window.
Reservations can also be made up to 14 minutes past the start time, allowing you to reserve a spot when you get to the hall versus making one in well in advance.
Even so, some students are saying the system does not give them enough flexibility.
“What I dislike is that not everyone will get an appointment if they've not made one early enough. People might get hungry even though they have a meal plan, but are forced to eat off campus,” Avinash Palaparthy, junior, said.
Regarding these concerns, Patterson says that even if students arrive near the end of their allotted time, they can make another reservation or take food to-go.
Regarding takeout, the dining halls are now allowing students to order and take their meals on the go. Just approach the cashier and ask for a takeout box.
UT Dining is currently prohibiting the use of personal containers at their locations due to hygiene concerns. Similarly, all dining locations have gone cashless to reduce the spread of the virus.
Along with dining hall reservations, the app enables online ordering at the various campus restaurants, such as Starbucks and Panda Express. It works just like other, more familiar apps: pick something off the menu, add it to the cart and check out.
However, at this time, there does not appear to be an option to apply Meal Equivalency at check-out on the app.
At peak times, such as around 6 p.m., you may encounter a message that the number of orders has exceeded the merchant’s capacity, so try to avoid ordering at those times.
Additionally, the pick-up queues at the restaurants could get very long, so students will have to navigate how to order and pick up safely.
“I ordered Panda-Cane’s one time, and there was a line of roughly fifteen people waiting with practically no social distancing,” Samuel Sui, freshman, said.
A picture posted to the UTK page on Reddit last week showing a packed PCB at lunchtime suggested a similar experience at the dining halls. Since this incident, Patterson says UT Dining has made changes to the app’s queuing process to ensure dining areas do not exceed their capacity limit and prevent long lines from forming.
In the coming weeks, UT Dining will be introducing a meal donation program through GET. More information will be released as details are finalized. For more inquiries related to campus dining, visit the Vol Dining website.