It is almost a cultural cliché that college students are always starving and broke, so many restaurants ignore college campuses when they are looking outward for expansion of their delivery programs. Believe it or not, college campuses represent some of the most concentrated markets for certain types of delivery food – and many restaurants find that delivering a limited menu to local college campuses can exponentially increase their order volume when college is in session. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to advertise your delivery options to a college campus near you, these five stats and tips might change your mind.
College Students are twice as likely to use Social Media as the General Population
When a college student has a great meal, or places an order for something to eat, they are more than twice as likely as the rest of your target market to go to their social media networks to place an update. Whether you are looking to expand your presence on Facebook (still the most commonly used social media network in the world) or upstarts like Foursquare and Yelp, college students will become your best friends if you can provide prompt and professional service.
Many college students even use social media as their primary “research” tool when they are making buying decisions – so a single review on the social media page of a well-liked college student can translate into dozens of orders for your company, or even your selection for catering projects and large institutional orders. Of course, if you don’t deliver to your local college campus, you’ll never break into this close-knit social referral community.
Young People develop their buying/eating habits during college
According to the US News and World Report, up to a third of all college students will settle, work, and ultimately live in the city that they went to college in – and they will continue to frequent many of the same restaurants and establishments that they used during their college years. Your ability to cultivate a future audience for your restaurant is dependent on your ability to bring in college students – showing them the variety of cuisine that you offer, and guiding their tastes and their appreciation for fine dining.
This tip is particularly important if you are an “upper budget” restaurant that doesn’t typically do a lot of business with budget-conscious college students. It might be worth investing in a limited delivery menu that you advertise specifically for delivery to colleges – “hooking” college students on your food and your brand, and gradually upselling them to your fancier fine-dining options by the time they graduate and start working locally. For example, a fine Italian restaurant might consider offering pasta deliveries to college campuses during exam time as a great revenue-boosting marketing stunt.
College students might be broke… but their parents aren’t
While there are certainly exceptions, the average college student has parents that are 40% wealthier than the national average. Aside from paying their children’s college loans and giving them money for textbooks and tuition, these parents also take an active interest in their young students’ lives – and they frequently visit campus for formal events and to check on their kids. When parents are in town, students always go out into the city for their meals – since they use their parents’ arrival as their chance to have a nice dinner without being on the hook for the bill.
When students are doing their research for a nice restaurant to take their parents to, their mobile devices will be the first place that they look. A good advertising campaign on a local college campus, coupled with a delivery program that exposes a large number of students to your food, can put you out ahead of the competition when graduation and alumni events roll around and your restaurant fills up with parents and students.
College Students have Limited Mobility
Many a sports bar and casual dining restaurant has opened up within two or three miles of a college campus, only to be disappointed with the paltry in-restaurant crowds that they receive from the schools. No matter how perfectly priced and designed your menu is, you’ll have trouble filling the seats of your restaurant with college students because of their low mobility. Only a small percentage of college students have cars on campus – so they usually only go to restaurants that they can walk to. College students would much rather order their food online using their mobile devices or computers, and have the food delivered to campus where they can share it with their non-car-owning friends – all without having to take an hour or two out of their day to walk to a restaurant nearby. If you don’t offer delivery to your local college campuses, you’re missing out on as much as 70% of the potential orders that you could receive from students.
College Orders are Highly Seasonal
As every restaurant owner knows, it is far easier to adjust the scale of a delivery or take-out business than to adapt to seasonal demands for a large sit-down restaurant. Offering delivery to college campuses allows you to tap the high demand around exam time and during the school year, without leaving you on the hook for massive facility expenses and staff fees during the summer when the orders from the college campuses dry up. Many popular delivery-only restaurants hire the majority of their staffs from college campuses – allowing them to adjust their workforce and their order volume along with the return of the students in the fall.
The best times to offer delivery specials to college students are in the fall (during move-in, when college students are too busy with campus events and socializing to go out to restaurants) and during the very end of each semester, when meal plans start to run out and students are looking for alternatives to their food that they’ve been eating all year.