Yesterday, Grubhub announced an agreement to acquire Tapingo, whose platform enables college students to order ahead at on-campus restaurants, cafes, and dining halls. The acquisition is for $150 million, according to the Grubhub press release.
Tapingo’s technology is already at 150-plus colleges and universities in the U.S., including University of Southern California, Georgia Tech, and New York University, among others. As an order-ahead platform, it’s a pretty simple operation. Users download the mobile app and choose from available food options in their vicinity, whether that’s an on-campus cafe, the dining hall, or the ubiquitous Taco Bell that’s in pretty much every school in America.
For merchants, or in this case, the campus, Tapingo’s cloud-based platform directly integrates with meal plan systems and other on-campus POS systems, making it possible for these eating establishments to integrate order-ahead and pickup without having to add a bunch of new steps to the process.
Grubhub’s already been available to college students for some time, though not via meal plans or other campus-owned restaurants. The partnership with Grubhub means schools using Tapingo can both widen the number of food options available to students and also make delivery available. “Joining Grubhub is an important step forward for Tapingo. Grubhub is the industry leader in food delivery, allowing us to provide even greater value to our campus partners and student diners with access to Grubhub’s technology and delivery expertise,” Daniel Almog, Tapingo’s CEO and co-founder, said in the Grubhub press release.
The college campus is one of the next great frontiers for delivery, seeing schools offer delivery companies thousands of potential new customers, most of whom are prime candidates for quick, convenient delivery options. Chipoltle’s been delivering to college campuses since 2015, also through a partnership with Tapingo. In Florida, the University of Miami has worked with a service called Delivery Dudes since 2016, enabling students to have meals delivered to their dorms from campus eating establishments. And at Boston University, a campus-sanctioned startup called Stoovy Snacks (yes, that’s a riff on Scooby Snacks) does a Grubhub-like operation that includes dining hall options. One difference, and potential advantage, is that Stoovy couriers are BU students with ID cards, meaning they can access individual rooms and apartments inside campus buildings and literally drop the food off at the front door.
Besides greater reach, third-party delivery services also stand to gain more long-term and therefore more-profitable customers in college students. Theoretically, at least, someone who becomes loyal to Grubhub (or Postmates, Uber Eats, or whoever) as a younger student would continue that relationship once their life moved off campus. Almog even hinted at that in his press statement: “By joining forces with Grubhub’s network of over 85,000 restaurant partners that offer online delivery and pickup, we’ll continue to serve our loyal diners long after they graduate from college, which has always been our aspiration.”
The Grubhub-Tapingo deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018.