Lehigh University Dining has seen significant gains in customer usage and decreased lines at retail locations since doubling down on its usage of the Grubhub program following the closure of the Clayton University Center last December for a major renovation. The center was the site of an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall and the main retail hub for Lehigh Dining, accounting for some 21,000 meals a week. The center will reopen in 2025 with a fully transformational dining program, but in the meantime, Lehigh will rely on its other dining locations, which are now seeing more traffic.
“Rather than build any temporary dining locations, we renovated an existing retail location, Hawk’s Nest, to become more of a retail food court with four concepts [ChickNBap, Mein Bowl, Tres Habaneros and Good Batter], a grab-and-go and self-ordering and checkout kiosks,” explains Marketing Manager Evan Rehrig. “While there have been some bumps in the road and learning curves, our true success lies in the explosive growth we're seeing with Grubhub and on-campus orders.”
The dining program first started using Grubhub before the COVID pandemic, but at first, use of the program was slow with only 581 orders in February 2022. However, a number of measures adopted over the course of the year began to build usage so that February 2023 saw 4,853 orders in that month alone.
“We generated more sales one month into the Spring '23 semester than the entire Fall '22 semester,” Rehrig offers.
The measures leading to the growing use of Grubhub included Lehigh’s dining services provider absorbing the user fee for on-campus orders beginning in Fall 2022, so that students, faculty and staff don’t have to pay that fee.
In addition, the dining program promoted use of Grubhub as a way to “beat the lines” at the locations that were now seeing heavier traffic due to fewer dining options open.
Lehigh Dining also continually markets Grubhub through promotions such as a $3 off code for the first order and discounts during midterms and finals, as well as general signage and promotion during orientation events and regular campus announcements.
The Grubhub ordering process is easy for students, faculty and staff to use. Once they’ve downloaded the app, they sync their campus cards so that they can use their meal plan dollars in addition to credit cards to pay for their meals.
After ordering, customers go to the designated counter on-campus, with turnaround time from order to pick-up being between 7 and 12 minutes, depending on the time of day.
While the Hawk’s Nest locations, particularly ChickNBap and Good Batter, get a good portion of the Grubhub orders, a location called The Grind also does a hefty business through Grubhub
“The Grind opened in 2019 on the first floor of the E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library,” Rehrig said. “It’s just always busy there. That’s a student hub on campus. The line is always out the door. The menu is very student-centric, which contributes to its popularity.”
Grubhub data backs that up. It shows The Grind accounting for six out of 10 of the most ordered items this past February.
Now, Lehigh Dining is looking to build on Grubhub’s momentum, exploring launching it in their popular on-campus food trucks, and discussing adding a pizza pickup option at Rathbone Dining Hall.