7 Food Ordering Apps For Hungry Students

By Julia Dunn on March 23, 2018

It’s a Friday evening and Sunday is your regular grocery shopping day. You’re all too familiar with the conundrum this presents. The fridge contains a jar of pickles, two eggs, a half bottle of orange juice, one slice of provolone cheese, some wilted lettuce, white rice, and a lemon. You visit one of those websites to input a list of hodgepodge ingredients in hopes of receiving a decent recipe that doesn’t remind you you’re two days away from your next shopping day. Needless to say, there is no such recipe that gracefully combines the odds and ends in your pantry. Did you really think you could use pickles and orange juice to make a cohesive dinner?

…It’s a Tuesday night and you’ve been darting between work, class, meetings, and back to another class all day. Such was also the case on Monday, and you were gone at a training all day Sunday with no time to pick up some veggies at the farmers market. You don’t have time to go shopping tonight, since you work early on Wednesday morning, but you need something tasty—and fast.

…It’s Saturday afternoon and you’ve got friends visiting from out of town. You want to show them your favorite restaurants in town, but worry there will be a long wait if you go in person. Your friends are a bit tired and don’t feel like going out to eat, but you also don’t want to spend too much time cooking.

food, salad, meal, phone

Image via Bich Tran at Pexels

These three scenarios share a common solution.

Sometimes, cooking just requires too much effort and far too much time. Those thirty-minutes-or-less recipes always end up taking forty-five for one reason or another. Doing the dishes is another story. Sometimes (often), your food shopping schedule is thrown off by, well, life. Between multiple classes, internships, jobs and professional development opportunities, plus the demands of maintaining a strong social life, students know this all too well. Luckily, food ordering apps have risen in prominence and usefulness in the past few years. It’s the new way to order takeout, without the hassle of calling a noisy restaurant and hoping that your order is interpreted correctly on the other end.

Food ordering apps can be true lifesavers if ever you encounter the above scenarios. Furthermore, it’s a real treat to have your favorite restaurant dish delivered to your door; you don’t even have to put real pants on, much less actually leave your house! By granting you a single space through which to browse hundreds (even thousands) of different restaurants, food ordering apps might even cause you to become more adventurous. You have almost too many options; you can order your favorite, trusty rustic Margherita pizza, or try a butternut squash gnocchi to mix things up. Maybe you’ll even decide to order from a place you’ve never heard of before, or spontaneously decide tonight is the night to explore Ethiopian food.

There is no shortage of food-ordering app options out there for hungry students; here are seven food ordering apps to try out, and some ideas on what to order.

1. GrubHub

Living in California’s Bay Area, I see GrubHub as one of the most prominent food ordering apps locally. It’s available in 900 cities! You can usually find a sign in the window of most popular restaurants that displays the GrubHub logo, meaning that restaurant is a participant. To use the GrubHub app, type in your location and you will find a list of restaurants in close proximity. If you have a specific food item in mind, like “pizza” or “sandwiches,” you can search specifically for those—or, you can search based on cuisine for a broader selection of menu items. According to their website, you also have access to “reviews, coupons, special deals and a 24/7 customer care team that tracks each order and makes sure you get exactly what you want.”

Given that so many restaurants are compatible with Grubhub, you can order almost anything that you’d like! I’m a huge pasta fan, so I’m usually searching for penne primavera or linguini with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella sprinkled on top.

The app makes recommendations for you based on your ordering history, so the more often you use the app, the more refined your recommendations will be.

2. Seamless

Seamless is an app belonging to Grubhub’s brand portfolio, but I list it separately here because it is technically a separate app. This food delivery app is another option if you’re looking to order food without (usually) having to pay a delivery fee. Certain restaurants do enforce a fee, but overall the app does not charge delivery fees the way many other apps do.

According to digitaltrends.com, however, there are often order minimums enforced if you order from the Seamless app. The app is available in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and they often offer discounts to new users, so if you’re on the fence and looking to try Seamless, you’ll have that incentive available.

On Seamless, you can browse restaurants by city, or search over 75 cuisine options on the website. You can get really specific if you filter by cuisine; beyond the most highly advertised options–American, Italian, Mexican, Asian foods–Seamless offers categories such as Afghan, African, Cajun, Cuban, El Salvadoran, Egyptian, Filipino, Halal, Jamaican, Moroccan and Pakistani cuisine for its users. You can even search for bagels, bakery items, BBQ, frozen yogurt, smoothies, and ice cream.

Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, Kosher and low-carb eaters shouldn’t fret either–there are categories for each of you!

food delivery apps, food ordering options, apps, student life

Infographic by Julia Dunn

3. Tapingo

Tapingo is unlike the other food ordering apps on this list in that it is a college campus-based commerce app. According to their website, “[They] believe in a world where technology removes the hassles and stress of everyday transactions—so humans can focus on more important things. You know, human things.” Students can use Tapingo to order a coffee drink and pick it up at the campus coffee shop without having to wait in line, or they can use it to request deliveries from campus eateries.

 Note that you can only use Tapingo to order from your campus restaurants if your university partners with the company; participating universities include San Jose State University, Temple University, The University of Texas-Austin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, UCF, Arizona State University, Virginia Tech and more (Tapingo now serves over 200 campuses across the U.S. and Canada).

Wikipedia notes that Tapingo users can “browse menus, place orders, pay for the meal and schedule the pickup or have it delivered. On certain campuses, students are able to use their university’s meal dollars to pay for food.” Furthermore, an article by VentureBeat states “The app knows your location and learns about your preferences over time to make contextual recommendations. For example, the app will know if you get a latte every morning and offer to place the order for you.” Sounds delightfully dangerous, doesn’t it?

Out of the apps on this list, Tapingo is the most college student-oriented–so if you find yourself hungry, running late for class, and without the time to stand in line waiting for somebody to make your sandwich, order it on the Tapingo app! This platform is gaining increasing amounts of traction, challenging the way consumers engage in mainstream commerce, and it could really save students some time in their daily routine.

4. HealthyOut 

I only heard about HealthyOut somewhat recently, and as a vegetarian who loves “health food,” I decided to take a closer look. HealthyOut is a food delivery app focused on providing users with more information about various restaurant dishes than just the cuisine category to which it belongs. The app allows you to search for menu items that fall within a certain caloric range, as well as items that are tagged as paleo, pescatarian, low-carb, dairy-free, high protein or gluten-sensitive (and more).

From here, the app will show you a list of local restaurants and the number of dishes on their menu that fit the criteria you set during your search. HealthyOut will even display a visual breakdown of a menu item’s composition (i.e. how much of it is fat, carbs, protein, and so on) for folks who really need to know what their food is made of.

If you have highly specific dietary restrictions and want to understand what your options are for ordering delivery, HealthyOut may be the best app for you. Often times, students with specific dietary needs experience trouble at their university’s dining hall, and despite speaking with the chefs and managerial staff, they may find significantly fewer options that work for them in their meal plan. Perhaps HealthyOut can alleviate some stress for these students (although, of course, buying restaurant food regularly can add up).

pizza, takeout, food ordering

Image via Pexels

5. Eat24 

Its slogan being “the best food in town, right in your pocket,” Eat24 has become a popular food delivery app that works with 20,000 restaurants and counting.

Eat24, now under GrubHub’s management after having started out as a Yelp platform, is popular namely due to its unique “What’s Good” feature. According to Lifewire.com, Eat24 “uses an algorithm to pick out the absolute best dishes for you based on popular items, local tips and user reviews. You can even use your camera to scan your credit card through the app if you’re the one picking up the tab!” Thus, students looking for a pretty comprehensive food delivery app may enjoy Eat24’s suggestions.

6. DoorDash 

DoorDash has an interface fairly similar to its competitors, yet it maintains popularity among college students and the non-student population. Personally, I appreciate the real-time tracking feature that DoorDash provides after you place your order. From the comfort of wherever you are, you can watch your order move through the preparation and delivery processes and anticipate when it will arrive.

An article by Digitaltrends.com highlights something called the “DoorDash Delight” scoring system. They note that “the ‘Delight Score’ uses factors such as food quality, restaurant popularity, delivery time, and customer satisfaction in order to recommend the best restaurants in your area.” For individuals who don’t necessarily know what they’d like to eat at a given time, checking out the “Delight Score” could help indecisive eaters make a decision based on several intersecting criteria.

Additionally, if you’re in need of a job and don’t mind driving around town to different restaurants, DoorDash hires “Dashers” to complete delivery orders; they promise a flexible schedule, allowing Dashers to set their own working hours.

7. Uber Eats

 The offspring of the San Francisco-based ride-requesting app, Uber, Uber Eats is exactly how it sounds: Uber for your food. They claim to make ordering takeout as easy as requesting a ride, and it’s pretty true: just add dishes to your cart, check out through the app, and wait for your items! Uber Eats is available in over 50 cities in 13 countries, and students with dietary needs can use the “Special Instructions” field to write down requests applicable to the dish they have ordered.

Next time you’re hungry, take a few minutes to investigate the food ordering apps popular in your town. Each of the above apps operates under relatively similar parameters, yet their features differ slightly to accommodate varying populations.

If you’re looking to really scour the food delivery app scene, check out Postmates and Delivery.com, both of which deliver more than just food. You may even want to see if your university partners with any of these companies (other than campus-based Tapingo) in order to offer special deals to students. As a graduate student at San Jose State University, I have received exclusive student-only offers from the campus bookstore for a few of the above food ordering apps, which is a nice perk!

You can click here to find out the most popular food delivery app in your city, according to Recode, and here to discover what college students in other towns and states like to order most often on these apps as reported by USA TODAY College. Happy eating!

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
A writer, editor and educator based in Northern California.

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