In 1997, University of Pennsylvania student Michael Saunders grew frustrated with the inconvenience of ordering food over the phone. More than a decade later, he is now the president of Campusfood, a website that serves over 300 college campuses across the country – but local restaurants listed on the site are not universally pleased with the service.

According to its website, Campusfood is a virtual food court, an online company that allows college students to browse the menus of all restaurants that deliver to their campus. Students can then place their order through the site and have the food delivered to their door within an hour.

But fees for customers and restaurants alike irritate employees of participating eateries.

“I would definitely call Campusfood a necessary evil,” said Mike Arthur, the assistant manager at Wingo’s on O Street. “It’s so expensive to use, for restaurants and for students. They charge the students a service fee, and they charge 5 to 10 percent of every order to the store. We wish everyone would just order through our website instead.”

Arthur said he feels that despite the extra cost, restaurants have no choice but to register with the site.

“You’ve got to be on Campusfood because their online presence is so huge,” he said. “They bring all the business.”

Across the street from Wingo’s, the owner of Kitchen No. 1 also said that Campusfood is not an ideal option for online ordering despite receiving 111 orders through the website just last week.

“Campusfood has the worst service,” owner Joey Chan said. “If there is a problem with the order and you call customer service, they will keep you waiting to talk to someone. You will be on the phone 20 or 30 minutes and then the customer won’t receive their food on time.”

Steve Awadallah at the Wisey’s on Wisconsin Avenue said he noticed a decline in customer service at Campusfood since Wisey’s joined the website four years ago.

“When they first started out they were very Mom and Pop, and we loved them. But now that they’ve grown they’ve started outsourcing customer service, and there’s all these middlemen now. . I have seven calls to them that they still haven’t returned.”

Despite obstacles in service and steep fees, employees at other local eateries said the site is linked to jumps in business.

“Campusfood is a great service,” said Mehei Hosin, manager at Quick Pita. “We definitely get more orders from students because of Campusfood. . We’re all for it.”

According to Sri Suku, co-owner of Crepe Amour on M street, the restaurant joined the website this fall because of the publicity it provides.

“I think it’s a great avenue for students to use to get food. It gives us the exposure we need on campus,” Suku said.

As the dominant online ordering service for students, Campusfood uses games and discounts to encourage students to order through them.

“Last year they had a game on Facebook called Food Frenzy where you could earn coupons to restaurants by playing a game. It was a pretty good deal, and you could get coupons almost every day if you were lucky enough,” Matthew Davis (COL ’11) said.

This year the site grants students points for placing orders and meeting certain challenges like ordering three pizzas in one week.

“I order through Campusfood at least a couple times a week,” Reilly Hart (COL ’11) said. “It’s just the convenience of having a one-stop website. I like that it keeps track of all the various restaurants, and I like that I can just type the order online.”

“I know some people who pay close attention to the points system,” Hart said. “I have a friend who has said, `I’ve ordered pizza this week, I’m going to order pizza so I can get the achievement.’ But I don’t really pay attention to that.”

Above all, students value Campusfood for the convenience.

“I don’t even notice the service fees or delays,” Davis said. “I think it’s worth it for the convenience, having all the menus and everything in one place. It’s definitely worth it.”

Campusfood did not respond to requests for comment..

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