In the fall semester of 2023, the new (now proprietary) online food system was pitched to students as a way to purchase food items across campus anytime, anywhere. The system helps students cut the line at the dining hall, create their favorite meals at the Cabaret and browse the assortment of snacks at the Steel Plant Café.
However, the service it hinges on, Grubhub, has failed to meet student demand. The app often misleads students about what they’ve ordered, when it will be ready and if their food will ever get to them.
When placing an order at any on-campus Grubhub location, students are immediately queued into two separate groups: meal swipe and thrifty cash payment. The app on-loads students in an extremely fast manner; oftentimes, students who have a 15-minute window to get food between classes find themselves trapped in a 30-person long line. There is nowhere on the app to cancel an order before it’s prepared, resulting in a waste of money and food for the student and a waste of valuable time for the Grubhub staff.
Sometimes, menu items will be bought up at such quick rates that the app cannot update fast enough to remove the option once it has sold out. Multiple students will enter a dining location expecting an order that cannot be made, and the dining staff has no way of notifying them through the app.
The Cabaret had previously been a to-go service, encompassing students’ needs for quick food options in a convenience store setting with a 4 p.m. to midnight schedule. What used to be every night owl’s best resort has quickly become a two to three-hour-long wait. The entire space is taken up by Grubhub food lockers, which are often malfunctioning. A quick scan of the Grubhub app-generated QR code used to open a student’s locker frequently results in an error message, causing food staff to pause their operations and help each person locate their food. The only two dining locations with food lockers, Marketplace and the Cabaret, have continually been backlogged with this same issue, making some students avoid ordering at these locations.
“There were a lot of people around dinner time. I waited 30 minutes for a rice bowl that ended up missing ingredients,” said Christina Parnell ‘26, who has returned this semester from studying abroad. “The wait times were better when there weren’t lockers; the workers made your food in front of you, and it took a short time. The Cab used to be one of my main ways of getting food on campus, but even the portions have gotten less,” she added.
Choosing a meal can often be a gamble. Picturesque Starbucks drinks on the Grubhub app do not live up to their real-life counterparts at Books & Beans. Important details, like what is on a sandwich or included in an order, sometimes aren’t communicated until after the student has picked up their items. If a student needs their food remade or requires additions to the meal, it adds to a backlog of orders as they have to get their order fixed. It was not until this month that the Grubhub app added gluten-free and vegan labels to the in-app food options.
The Grubhub system puts all of Marist College’s dining service eggs in one basket. Even though the Murray Dining Hall still relies on meal swipes, the system also relies on Grubhub’s servers staying active. If there is an outage for any reason, dining locations across Marist can shut down, and the dining hall has to resort to a paper-and-pen system that leaves students waiting. It makes a lot of assumptions about student habits: that they have a charged device with them, a cell reception, the app installed, updated and more.
While the Grubhub service may make food ordering smoother in a perfect world, technology is bound to have its shortfalls. An entire campus’ source of dining cannot rely on a single app without issues, so that shouldn’t be the case. Grubhub is effectively used when it is simply another option for students looking to get quick food in between busy schedules as it had been previously. The app has bugs and performance improvements that should be addressed before such services can be fully implemented into campus life. If Marist decides to continue with Grubhub, it should be done at an arm’s length – make the service simply an alternative to ordering in person, not the end-all-be-all of campus dining.