Opinion: Unpredictable dining hall wait times make it impossible to plan ahead

Despite the convenience of the Grubhub app, listed pickup times are unreliable, sometimes forcing students to wait up to two hours during peak periods to get their food. 


Emily Sorkin

(Emily Sorkin for WSN)

Abi Rivera, Opinion Editor

As a hungry college student, I often find myself standing in the bustling Upstein food court, desperately refreshing the Grubhub app and scanning the room.​​ The large monitors displaying hundreds of order numbers are mostly highlighted orange indicating that the order is being prepared. Other students, equally impatient and hungry, tapping their toes and checking their watches in anticipation of their number turning green on the screen. I have already missed one bus home and am about to miss the next. Despite the wait, I can’t bring myself to leave — the promise of a meal after hours of hunger from a full day of classes keeps me rooted to the spot. 

Long waits at popular NYU Eats locations leave students and staff feeling not only frustrated, but also discouraged — especially during peak times when students flood dining halls after class. As hunger pangs grow and time ticks by, the promise of a satisfying meal seems further and further out of reach. For those with busy schedules with short breaks, the delays can cause real disruptions.

On the Grubhub app, which allows you to order ahead from NYU Eats locations, you’re assigned a pickup time for your order. Minute by minute, this time can often stretch far beyond the original pickup time, sometimes exceeding it by nearly an hour. Unreliable pickup times leave students with no other option but to keep waiting for what feels like forever, or be forced to go to class before their food is ready. 

NYU Eats told WSN that wait times are dependent on factors like ​​dining hall location, class schedules and popularity, and that Grubhub locations serve made-to-order items that typically take extra time to prepare.

Currently, the dining halls’ peak periods are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12-2 p.m. and 5:30-8:30 p.m, according to NYU Campus Services Senior Director of Marketing Ronni Mandell. Many students have lunch and dinner during those times, so those planning on ordering dining hall food for both meals every day can expect to be left waiting for a longer time than usual. 

“To address the wait times, NYU Eats has added additional staff members who help facilitate the lines and get orders to our customers as quickly as possible,” Mandell wrote.

Stern sophomore Sofia Toledo waited two hours for a Southwest Bowl from the new Crave NYU at the Paulson Center. Toledo placed her order through the Grubhub app at 2:45 p.m., just as soon as her class ended, only to realize she was about the 150th person in line on the app. 

“When I did come up, the dining hall was pretty crowded, and my bowl was cold,” Toledo said. 

Toledo is not alone in her experience. Despite its efforts, NYU is not equipped with an efficient enough strategy to feed thousands of students and manage hundreds of orders during peak periods.

Peak periods are a challenge for dining staff, too. The team at Peet’s Coffee in the Kimmel Center for University Life can only prepare so many coffees and pastries during the 15-minute passing period between classes at Kimmel. 

NYU Eats could reduce wait-time-related frustration among students and staff if it used a setback ETA for pickup times on the Grubhub app. This would make the times more likely to be accurate, and help ensure that those with meal plans are able to have the meals they need throughout the day. 

The change would make it much easier for students to make informed decisions about when to order their food, whether that means ordering ahead of time or choosing a different dining option altogether.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Abi Rivera at [email protected]