New data released by GrubHub Inc. reports students at Syracuse University order more late-night food than any other college in America. According to Huffington Post, one in every four orders placed by SU students
occur between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
GrubHub, a free web and mobile-ordering website and smartphone app, connects hungry customers with local restaurants offering takeout and delivery. These restaurants pay commissions for every online order they receive from GrubHub, with the guarantee that each order is supported by GrubHub’s 24/7 customer service. Customers can freely view menus and coupons. The site allows for quick, easy payment with cash, credit or PayPalTM.
The restaurant industry is one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, and food pickup and delivery are the industry’s fastest growing segment.
In 2004, software engineers Matt Maloney and Mike Evans founded GrubHub in Chicago and the company has grown rapidly since then.
In 2011, GrubHub acquired both of its major competitors- Campusfood and Allmenus. Campusfood was already servicing over 300 college campuses, while Allmenus boasted over 250,000 menus.
This merge made GrubHub “the clear leader in the online ordering space,” said Bill Gurley, general partner of Benchmark Capital, the venture capital firm that has made high-profile investments in companies like eBay,
Instagram, Yelp and Twitter.
GrubHub’s website services cover 20,000 restaurants in over 500 cities. In early 2013, it announced uniting with Seamless – the second largest online food delivery company. When the companies finish combining, the two sites will service more than 32,000 restaurants in the U.S. and U.K.
In a collective statement from Grubhub and Seamless, they said they managed $875 million in takeout sales last year, which equated to more than $100 million in combined revenue.
Although the convenience of ordering online may be what keeps people coming back to GrubHub, customer reviews can ultimately make the food search worthwhile. The site provides reviews of restaurants from other people who have ordered from there, giving consumers the inside scoop before they make a purchase.
Brian Kam, employee at Asahi Sushi near Syracuse University, claims, “GrubHub can be a great tool in the food business. It’s definitely better than phone orders, which can be misheard and cause unnecessary
While GrubHub can make mealtime a less daunting task, ordering from the site does not encourage the best eating habits— especially for college students.
According to The Daily Meal, college students are 28 percent less likely to order healthy options than the average customer -- healthy meaning lower calorie content. Geoff Herbert, reporter for The Post-Standard and syracuse.com, wrote, “college students order 186 percent more mozzarella sticks, 77 percent more cookies, and 71 percent more General Tso's chicken [from Grubhub] than the average person.”
But does low calorie consumption equal healthy eating? A quick glance through food choices available on GrubHub for the Syracuse area shows more pizza shops and Chinese restaurants than anything else, especially when ordering late at night.
In Syracuse, cheap restaurants like Mafia Pizzeria and Mr. Stirfry describe their food as “Healthy” among other things, but none of these restaurants appear to feature local or organic items, and if they do they’re not advertising it.
“It’s all garbage,” says Emily Trust, student at Syracuse University. “If you’re looking to stay in shape, GrubHub is not an app that stays on your phone for too long. You’ll get real hungry one night and, before
you know what happened, you’ve ordered a whole pizza with wings. It even saves your credit card information for you.”
GrubHub users order more than 10 times a month on average and mobile orders comprise over 22 percent of the company’s revenue.
The instant gratification of ordering online is questionable and likely to be unsustainable. Consumers are just a few clicks away from satiating their hunger at any given time. It requires little to no thought and, if the
restaurant delivers, people don’t even need to leave their houses.
Since most restaurants deliver to a rather small radius from their location – a couple miles or so – consumers could walk or bike to pick up their food and it might take less time than getting it delivered. Still, many people choose to have their food driven to them on a daily basis, wasting gas and emitting pollutants along the way.
Although there are a plethora of pros and cons to using GrubHub, who’s to say how the prevalence of ordering food online will impact our economy, sustainability, or eating habits? Whether it’s just another evolutionary development in the history of food-gathering or a junk-food epidemic on the rise, the ultimate power is in the hands of consumers.