When you think of healthy, conscientious diners, college students are not likely the first ones to spring to mind. It may sound like a hackneyed stereotype, but according to new data collected by online food-ordering service GrubHub, it’s true: college kids are all-around terrible diners.
Over the course of the 2013-2014 academic year, GrubHub identified all orders placed with an .edu email address that were delivered to zip codes adjacent to the school’s campus. Using these data, GrubHub could then determine what, when, and how college students were eating.
The results, on the whole, aren’t that surprising.
According to GrubHub’s data, late-night orders (placed between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.) are twice as common among college students as they are among other diners. When the rest of the population is getting ready for bed or otherwise trying to avoid gorging on fried food, college kids are hitting the books and hitting up their favorite off-campus restaurants. (For delivery, that is – college diners order food for delivery 64% more than their non-college counterparts do.)
But all those late nights have a consequence: college students are two-thirds less likely to place early-morning orders (between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.) than are other diners. Few enough college students eat breakfast, and apparently even fewer order breakfast out – probably because cold pizza isn’t a menu option.
College students, blessed with young bodies and fast metabolisms, can afford to make interesting dietary decisions. And according to GrubHub, college students take every opportunity to do so. Just take a look at college students’ top fifteen most-ordered dishes:
Save for the salad sitting at #5 (and arguably soup at #4), the list is basically the greatest hits of fast food. These are popular foods for all age groups, but college students eat even more junk food than the average diner: the top fifteen foods that college students order more than non-college diners are also wholly unhealthy.
Finally, college students are 23% less likely than other diners to place orders with healthy requests, such as “dressing on the side” or “no mayo.” And despite the perception that college is a breeding ground for radical eating habits, vegetarian or vegan orders are 25% less common with college students than with other diners.
According to GrubHub’s data, college students’ manners are just as questionable as their food choices. On the whole, college kids are not a picky bunch (menu notes and special instructions are 21% less common with college students than with non-college students), but they aren’t particularly thankful, either – the students who do bother to make menu notes and special instructions are 18% less likely to include pleasantries like “please” and “thank you.” (Although this trend probably reflects a younger generation’s utilitarian attitudes toward technology rather than some larger conspiracy of ingratitude.)
More importantly (to servers, at least) college students aren’t exactly generous tippers. On average, the tips students give are 7% less than tips left by other diners. But to be fair, these same college students also graduate with an average of $33,000 in student debt, so they might deserve a little slack.
Overall, though, it seems that the stereotypes are true: college diners are not the healthiest or most conscientious group of customers to grace America’s eateries. But if a restaurant wants to deliver comfort food late, college students may represent a sizable audience – and GrubHub is more than willing to pull these two parties together.
(If you’d like to see how individual campuses stack up, click here.)