With over 44,000 students back on campus, and essentially two classes of first-years, it’s no surprise that dining lines are longer than last school year. In the first month of the school year, it’s evident that students are frustrated with the longer wait times.
Despite the convenience of ordering from the Grubhub app, the wait times through the app are often astronomical, with lunchtime providing some of the worst waits. The length of the wait times leaves students impatient and oftentimes late for classes, clubs and other events.
“I only come when I’m not in a rush,” said Imani Bynum, a second-year studying psychology, who said she was frustrated by the sheer amount of students in popular eating locations, such as Talley Student Union. “I go to my first classes hungry all the time.”
On the other side of things, Dining recognizes that the wait times are less than ideal for students. NC State Dining’s director of marketing and communication, Jennifer Gilmore, said dining is struggling with staff retention and numbers, a familiar problem faced by countless chain restaurants across the country.
“We're hustling, we're hustling as best we can,” Gilmore said. “We're also, you know, readjusting and forecasting there. In addition to a shortage of staff, we also have supply chain issues. I mean, I'm sure you're seeing that too. … We're also struggling with getting certain products that our students want.”
In the past, long lines have been a normal occurrence among busy restaurants like Port City Java and Starbucks.
“[Last semester the lines] weren’t as long, but it still happened in the more popular restaurants like Starbucks,” said Regina Hernandez, a second-year in exploratory studies.
Hernandez is one of many students who have limited dining options depending on the meal plan they can afford and said she was frustrated by the overwhelming experience. Having been on campus during the last school year, both she and Bynum noted that they’ve noticed the dining staff seeming overwhelmed.
“There weren’t this many students last semester,” Bynum said of the long wait times. “[The kitchen staff] probably just have to get used to this flow of people.”
Bynum said not only are the virtual lines to receive food long, but so are the lines to pick up food that is ready. In the first week of school, the line to pick up Tuffy’s Diner Grubhub orders was especially long, according to both students, and successfully placing an order does not guarantee the order will be made.
“More than once I’ve had my whole order canceled,” Hernandez said. “[The restaurants] are backed up but the finished order line is also backed up. Orders will be sitting on the counter, which makes everything worse.”
Lines haven’t improved since the first couple days, either.
“They've gotten totally worse,” Bynum said. “Los Lobos has the longest line out of anywhere here. Your order would be ready and you'd still wait 30 minutes to eat.”
Hernandez said she has to plan when to order her food because it takes so long from when the order is placed.
“[I have to] order more than an hour ahead,” Hernandez said. “I’ll order before my class even starts, and sometimes it still isn’t ready. Fountain [Dining Hall] is super busy too.”
Because of its proximity to residence halls like Bragaw, Lee and Sullivan Halls, a dining hall like Fountain can see periods of particularly high demand.
“Monday night, or the first night of classes, a lot of students don't know where else to go but Fountain Dining Hall,” Gilmore said. “We got slammed that first weekend. That's what typically happens, is that we have a big run there because that's all they know — I think [in addition to new students] all the sophomores and even some of the juniors and seniors showed up at Fountain Dining Hall.”
In fact, Fountain Dining Hall broke its record for most students in one meal, a record that was originally around 4,700, according to Gilmore, and that was set during one of the hall’s special events.
“We served 5,300 students on that Monday night,” Gilmore said. “We overshot our biggest night by [about] 500. And of course we couldn't really predict that. So it was kind of crazy. And it stayed like that for a couple of days.”
Another contributing factor to the lines are the technical faults of Grubhub, such as the cancellation of orders, or closing the queues before the restaurant is actually closed. Overall, frustrations lie within the ordering system and students, not dining staff members who are readjusting to full capacity.
“I'll say for the most part,” Gilmore said. “Our students have been really kind and patient to our staff, and we really, really appreciate that.”