The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how IU manages student dining.Residential Programs and Services has implemented a range a range of changes, including the closure of dining halls, mandatory social distancing and the expansion of the use of Grubhub.
To minimize the spread of COVID-19, IU dining halls will no longer offer indoor seating for the fall 2020 semester. The change comes after a state executive order mandated schools and universities only serve takeout food. While some dining halls, such as Woodland Eatery at Forest Quadrangle, offer a small amount of outdoor seating, most students must eat in their dorms or elsewhere on campus.
IU has expanded its use of Grubhub, a popular food delivery app, to promote social distancing. Students can use the app to place online orders at dining halls for pickup and delivery. In lieu of a credit card,students' CrimsonCards can be linked to their Grubhub account.
“We went to Grubhub and asked them if they could handle our entire program under their mobile ordering system, and they said yes,” Rahul Srivastav, executive director of IU Dining, said. “We then changed our whole ordering system to Grubhub so that students could order through the app.”
In-person ordering, while still permitted at a majority of campus locations, is restricted to a smaller menu with fewer options. Two locations on campus — Read Direct and Gresh Direct — now serve food via Grubhub only. The changes were made in order to limit wait times and decrease the amount of time students are indoors in a crowd.
“When you order in-person, the wait time is longer, and that’s an opportunity to gather in a small place,” Srivastav said. “During COVID-19, the most important advice is to not gather together in a small area. The more people that order in person with customizations, the longer it will take."
IU has incentivized students to order food remotely via Grubhub by removing certain in-person services. Students are no longer permitted to customize their orders in person, and can only do so via GrubHub.
“This semester, if you ordered a Club President at the ClubHouse, we can’t remove the lettuce from it if you order it in person,” John Alexis, a student supervisor IU Dining, said. “Realistically, we could do it, but it’s IU’s policy that we don’t so that students are encouraged to use Grubhub. A lot of my job is double-checking to make sure our employees aren’t sometimes bending that policy."
The overhaul of the traditional dining process to make way for Grubhub has at times been a hurdle for IU Dining staff. Employees are still getting accustomed to the new format of responding to online orders, Alexis said.
“I wouldn’t say the staff is quite used to it yet,” Alexis said. “There are a lot of things we’re still learning, and the workflow is being reengineered almost constantly. We’re finding more and more ways we can be efficient.”
With the arrival of students on campus over the past two weeks, the new dining system is now serving thousands of students each day. Freshman Tamara Riamo, who arrived on campus this week, said she has had a positive experience so far, but was initially unsure how to navigate the online ordering process.
“I went downstairs to order in person at first, but I was told it would be better if I ordered through Grubhub, so I did," Riamo said. “My friend’s order took longer than it said it would, but mine was ready right away. It was a bit weird to walk through all the different arrows to pick it up."
In line with state COVID-19 safety guidelines, IU now mandates that students wear a mask upon entering all dining halls, maintain a 6-foot distance between themselves and other guests and use hand sanitizer when inside. Students that arrive at a dining hall without a mask will be given a disposable one by a safety ambassador, a new position that will promote social distancing within dining halls and enforce other safety protocols.
“We’ll have safety ambassadors in dining halls guiding people to go in the right direction and reminding them to have masks on,” Srivastav said. “We want to do that in a hospitable manner. If someone feels uncomfortable coming into an area, we can help them out with their orders as much as we can.”
All IU dining halls have been reorganized to promote social distancing, with designated areas for students to order in person, pay for their order, wait and pick up their food. Decals on the floor remind students to keep their distance by demonstrating what 6 feet apart looks like.
“Throughout the summer, RPS redesigned the dining halls and created waiting spaces, traffic arrows and red dots on the floor that are 6 feet apart,” Srivastav said. "We’re making sure that waiting spaces have enough space and that traffic flows are safe.”