Last fall, the University of Notre Dame added GrubHub to its student dining options, but this wasn’t the student body’s first experience with food apps. Grubhub’s entry to the Indiana university market was as a replacement for the previous campus-focused delivery service Tapingo, acquired by Grubhub in 2018. What nobody could predict back then, however, was just how valuable a food ordering app could be during the time of COVID-19.
With coronavirus social distancing measures on the rise, having an ordering app available was one bright spot in a summer of campus services pivots. Grubhub (like its predecessor) is intended to help students order food to-go from a handful of campus eateries, from coffee shops to pizza places, including both national chain and local independent restaurants. As Notre Dame moved into Phase 5 of its reopening plan, they made the decision to limit dining options to only to-go orders with no facilities open for students, faculty or staff to sit together potentially spreading the virus. With Grubhub in place, it allowed students to either order in person while waiting in line, via on-site kiosk, or place orders online or on the Grubhub app on their smartphone.
Why Grubhub on Campus? It’s About More Than Just Coffee
The benefits of linking Grubhub with a student body is more than just a captive audience with big pizza cravings. With its integration into Tapingo’s existing market of over 150 college campuses, Grubhub is able to link accounts to campus dining meal plans as well as debit-style student cards that parents or students can refill. This means that you can order to-go via the app for more than just retail “fast” food locations, but in the dining halls as well.
Students at Notre Dame (as well as other Grubhub-linked schools) aren’t just using the service to get fed on campus, either. Grubhub is connected to over 250 restaurants in South Bend, Indiana, where students can order food for delivery or carry-out. This integration into the community helps those who have a campus meal plan as well as those who live off campus or who want some variety in their non-microwave meals.
The Drawbacks: Everyone Has the Same Great Idea as You
However, like all new plans, there can be some speed bumps. In the first few days of the 2020 fall semester, instead of just a few orders waiting ahead of app users, the campus restaurants (even national chains) were experiencing massive delays.
The Notre Dame student newspaper reported that some Irish complained about 90-minute delays for coffee, even just minutes after restaurants opened. Others saw the app’s estimated time algorithm add 20-minute chunks until suddenly the order was deemed “ready.” And others found themselves waiting for food that would never be made, as restaurants on campus ran out of ingredients before all orders could be completed.
The senior director of campus dining, Chris Abayasinghe, noted that with all the changes staff and dining services have made recently, some amount of a learning curve was bound to take place. With Notre Dame’s recent two-week closure due to positive COVID-19 cases, the upcoming reopening has allowed all dining services to regroup and make more adjustments.
“Now we’re going to come back … and as we think about that, a new pattern will emerge from this and I think from [what] my staff has done and continues to do — they’re incredibly flexible folks — and they have pivoted so much,” said Abayasinghe in The Observer. “So I see this continuing trend where we will learn what that pattern looks like and go from there.”
Time will tell how fast students and dining staff adjust to this fall’s “new normal” at Notre Dame, but Grubhub will at least be in the position to pivot with them all.