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Students experience long wait times at on-campus restaurants via Grubhub app

| Thursday, September 3, 2020

With limited hours at the dining hall and less on-campus dining options during the campus shutdown and due to the pandemic, Notre Dame students are pivoting to ordering takeout from on-campus retail locations. However, this shift has created long lines and wait times at these locations via the Grubhub app, with some students experiencing wait times of over two hours.

Senior director of Campus Dining Chris Abayasinghe said adjustments had to be made in order to pivot to a takeout-only model at the beginning of this school year, and that with students exclusively ordering through Grubhub, there was a learning curve for both Campus Dining staff and the Grubhub app’s algorithm. 

“So if you’ll imagine as more and more people utilize the app, the app will then run its own algorithm to be able to understand what we find should and could look like,” Abayasinghe said. “However, as to determining what change needed to be made and when, I can tell you that my team continued to pivot and make adjustments as the days went on to really figure out how to manage the amount of orders that were coming in.”

Some of the changes, Abayasinghe said, were made to the actual process of making orders at retail locations such as Starbucks and Subway to make the process more efficient.

“So like in Starbucks for example, if you recall in the past, you would come in and just order right there and then pick up there or fulfill as you go,” Abayasinghe said. “And now what we’re positioned is, I would work out how to layout … specifically, the orders alphabetically, so on, so those are the sort of tweaks and adjustments we work really, really hard on to improve our speed of service.”

When University President Fr. John Jenkins announced that Notre Dame would shut down for two weeks to curb the spread of COVID-19 on campus, Abayasinghe said that while some retail locations closed and others shifted hours, this change affected the pattern of ordering that had developed over the eight days of in-person classes.

“So now we have LaFortune open, for example, right and Duncan is no longer open and now you have Rohr’s and Legends which are also open,” he said. “So now you imagine the students have a smaller number of options to be able to find that and then the system would go through its own adjustments again as we continue to tweak and improve.” 

Senior Erin Glendon said she tried to order Starbucks — which opened at noon — on a Sunday afternoon and experienced difficulties even as the restaurant had just opened. 

“I think it was 12:11 [p.m.] when I logged onto Grubhub and the wait was 92 minutes long, so I did not order Starbucks because I don’t know if I [would] want coffee in 92 minutes,” she said. 

These lines are characteristic of Starbucks most days, Glendon said. 

“Almost every day when I think about ordering Starbucks, I don’t because the line is pretty long, but that was by far the longest I’ve seen it,” Glendon said.

Megan Butler, a senior, had a similar experience when she placed an order at Legends for pickup one evening. She said the app told her incorrect information about when her order would be ready. When she arrived, she said, her order had not begun to be prepared, despite conflicting information displayed on Grubhub. 

“They were just calling all the numbers in order and there [were] about 70 people in front of me,” she said. “And I waited there for about an hour and a half … they actually closed, I was there for an hour after they closed. And they stopped about, I think, 25 orders ahead of me and said they had run out of food. And then I had to go off campus to find food, because no other places on campus were open.”

Butler said she had a similar experience when she ordered Subway, and the time it took for her order to be ready did not correspond with the updates she received from the Grubhub app.

“The same thing happened, where it said 20 minutes and then it just kept adding minutes [until it was ready],” she said. 

These delays are difficult, Butler said, because the delays affect other plans students could make during the day and evening. 

“You can’t really plan anything, like homework, or make plans with people because you don’t really know when your food is going to be ready,” Butler said.

Butler said she believes the lack of variety of food in the dining halls is part of the reason for the influx of Grubhub orders.

“I think less people would be ordering through Grubhub if the dining hall food was better, so then they wouldn’t have as many backups, and they wouldn’t be overloading all the Grubhub locations if they had more options in the dining hall and healthier food that students wanted to eat instead of a different form of mashed potatoes every day,” Butler said. 

Abayasinghe said that he believes that with in-person classes starting up again, the Grubhub experience will continue to evolve and change. 

“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. So I see this continuing trend where we will learn what that pattern looks like and and go from there.”

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

Contact Claire