Boston’s Suffolk University has partnered with Grubhub to provide its students with another dining alternative. The move will expand the dining options available to Suffolk students and enable greater use of the campus card for payment. The partnership comes during a time of transition as the university community adapts to a new campus normal and prepares to welcome students back.
Suffolk’s Campus Card Services has made it a personal mission to constantly improve upon student satisfaction. Specifically, the card office looks to implement new technology and emerging services to the Ram Card offering wherever possible.
“Members of the department routinely attend town hall meetings, conduct focus groups and student surveys to figure out what our students want and need,” says Mikhail Ilin, Manager of Campus Card Services at Suffolk University. “Most frequently, we hear our students’ desire to add to our already robust network of merchants that accept the Ram Card. But adding new merchants can be a daunting task.”
As with other universities in major metropolitan cities, Suffolk University – located in the heart of Boston – has no shortage of restaurants, supermarkets and other service providers that are all readily available to students.
“When a merchant partners with us, they get a full slate of marketing services run by students for students,” says Ilin. “But I am always on a difficult discovery mission to bring more merchants to the network – until now.”
In early April, Suffolk Campus Card Services formed a partnership with Grubhub. “We saw this as a way to increase our merchant base and provide options for students instantaneously,” says Ilin.
“We’re proud to help Suffolk expand its off-campus dining program and bring more options to students,” says Lyle Margerum, Director of Technical Operations for Grubhub Campus. “Working in partnership, we were able to onboard Suffolk University in a matter of hours. It’s been a quick and easy process for everyone.”
“The Ram Card has always been convenient because we can use it on and off campus while in Boston. Partnering with Grubhub means there's no location limitations anymore. This makes students’ lives easier by enabling them to use their Ram Card funds from anywhere in the US.”
– Caroline Martel, graduate fellow, University Card Services, Suffolk University
“Just a few easy taps on a smartphone is all it takes to tie the Ram Card to the student’s Grubhub profile and they’re ready to order,” says Ilin.
Also core to the agreement is Suffolk’s card system vendor, CBORD. PCI compliance, monthly settlements, and other financial functions are handled behind the scenes by the UGryd team at CBORD, says Ilin.
“Suffolk has been a long-standing partner with CBORD, and has implemented several solutions created by us and our partners,” says Sami Takieddine, Director of Platform Operations, Patron Engagement at CBORD.
“The expanded Grubhub partnership leverages our GET CBORD Student and UGryd platforms,” adds Takieddine. “There was no additional cost for Suffolk to implement, which was icing on the cake.”
Suffolk has also put efforts in place to market the Grubhub partnership to its campus community.
“Ram Card's social media accounts post daily, and students often interact with us on our Instagram page,” says Hannah Sweet, Operations Specialist, Campus Card Services, Suffolk University. “We will post a fun demo video across our social media accounts and YouTube page on how students can use their Ram Card on Grubhub that highlights why this is a great resource.”
“The Grubhub partnership is very timely for our university and promises to be the most significant retail addition to our campus card offering in a long time.”
Suffolk is also hoping its community will embrace the trend of posting meals on Instagram.
“We’ll encourage students to use a hashtag, #RamGrubhub, which will allow us to repost their photos,” says Sweet, “We’re also utilizing the features of polls and Q&A’s on Instagram stories to help gain insight into students' thoughts and their go-to restaurants.”
These marketing efforts are also being carried over to Suffolk’s weekly digital newsletter, as well as on printed flyers that will be posted around campus. “Postcard sized versions of those flyers will be handed out at tabling events and frequent outings where we talk with students about new features of Ram Card and learn their opinions,” says Sweet.
With questions still swirling about COVID-19, students returning to campus, and the new normal, Suffolk’s partnership with Grubhub provides flexibility at a crucial time. Suffolk serves a sizable number of commuter students - a group that’s hungry for a flexible dining option.
“This partnership enhances our ability to serve our large commuter population. Seventy three percent of students currently live off-campus, and that number is projected to increase as a result of COVID-19,” says Kurt Hentschel, Director of Strategic Procurement at Suffolk University. “Commuter students would typically only utilize their Ram Card while at school, but with Grubhub they now have an opportunity to use it from home too. It’s especially helpful right now with many restaurants moving to delivery only service.”
Grubhub and CBORD have both made efforts to assist higher education institutions as the industry responds and adapts to COVID-19 related challenges.
“After COVID-19 hit, we worked with Grubhub to expand our partnership from an on-campus only offering to one that includes access to their network of more than 300,000 restaurants nationwide,” says CBORD’s Takieddine. “Suffolk jumped on the chance to implement the program to provide a safer, healthier way for their campus community to purchase meals.”
“As students return this fall, Suffolk and many of our other campuses can offer more choices for off-campus dining and contactless delivery,” adds Takieddine. “This program is a win-win for colleges and universities.”
“Our product and engineering teams quickly adapted to the demands of the changing college dining market,” says Grubhub’s Margerum. “Offering institutions the ability to use an off-campus tender on the Grubhub marketplace gives administrators an easy way to transition back to more traditional on-site dining services and keep students fed wherever they may be.”
For students interested in helping with COVID-19 efforts through financial donations, Grubhub also has a Donate the Change program. The program offers the option for customers to round up their total purchase, with the spare change being donated to charitable organizations that support restaurants and drivers impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. This is in addition to the free Grubhub+ Student membership available to Suffolk and other university students, which offers free delivery from participating restaurants.
“Enabling institutions to use off-campus tender on the Grubhub marketplace gives campuses an easy way to transition back to more traditional on-site dining services and keep students fed wherever they may be.”
Additionally, Suffolk’s partnership with Grubhub is helping with another very important goal. “Even before the COVID-19 crisis institutions of higher learning all over the United States were dealing with another crisis – food insecurity experienced by some members of the student body,” says Ilin.
Suffolk operates a food insecurity program where students can receive money loaded on their Ram Card to purchase meals on and off campus.
“Many of our students in need of this assistance reside quite far from campus, which creates a difficulty since most of our merchants are located near our campus,” says Ilin. “The Grubhub partnership will allow these students to use the donated meal funds and leverage that program where they reside.”
Regardless of what the fall semester will hold as Suffolk students return to campus life, the message remains clear: the move to Grubhub was the right choice.
“This Grubhub partnership is very timely for our university and fills a significant gap in our offerings to students, particularly our commuter students,” says Hentschel. “It promises to be the most significant retail addition to our campus card offering in a long time.”