What began 14 years ago as a student’s quest for a tuna sandwich at the University of Pennsylvania has evolved into the concept for a website which now services about 400 campuses nationwide, including the University of Michigan.
Michael Saunders, the founder of www.campusfood.com, said the website is an “online food court” that allows students to order food from various restaurants. The website began servicing Ann Arbor in 2003 with only a few participating restaurants like Pizza House and Tio’s Mexican Café, and since then the number of participating restaurants has grown to include 65 restaurants in the Ann Arbor area, he said.
Saunders said Ann Arbor restaurants appear to mirror national trends as they shift to include healthier food items with an increasing number of people ordering healthier options like pita sandwiches.
Though they are not the healthiest options, pizza and Chinese food have been ordered the most through the website. Saunders added that Chan’s Garden, Pizza House and Cottage Inn are the most popular restaurants that students order from in the Ann Arbor area.
According to Saunders, 7:36 p.m. is the most popular time for people to order food, not including the late-night spikes on weekends.
Saunders said that although there are local competitors with similar websites, he is not worried because of the customer service that www.campusfood.com provides — such as guaranteeing that orders will show up in a half hour or less. He added that the selection of places is the key to success, and they have signed with restaurants that are “the best and favorite in the area.”
In addition to campusfood.com, Saunders said he and his team launched a second nationwide website in 2009 called www.allmenus.com, with the hopes to involve a broader coverage of restaurants outside of college campuses.
“We realized that people outside of college eat too,” Saunders said. “As students are going home for the summer, they can hop onto allmenus.comand order from those too.”
Saunders explained that he and his team at campusfood.com are always working to promote the website to students while providing them good deals. Recently, Saunders said the company launched a Facebook game called “Foodie Fight” that allows individuals to play in order to win coupons.
Tony Matthews, the general manager of Squares restaurant, said choosing to work with the website has been a great decision for his business because the website has been one of the best sources of online orders for Squares since it debuted on the site in February.
“Squares has an interesting niche because a lot of people like our food delivered, so it depends on your demographic and what your customers want,” Matthews said. “I don’t think it would be beneficial for a sit-down restaurant like Applebee’s to sign up with campus food.”
Domenico Telemato, a general manager at New York Pizza Depot, said they were one of the first restaurants in town to sign with campusfood.com. According to Telemato, New York Pizza Depot receives numerous orders each week through the website, but now that most students are no longer in town, the website is not as effective as it was during the school year.
Online orders through the website do not necessarily lead to an increase in business though, Telemato said, but rather often represent the same clientele who chose to use the website instead of directly calling the restaurants.
“It’s probably the same people that instead of picking up the phone, they just get online,” Telemato said.