Grubhub Marketing: A Harsh Lesson in Disaster Management

Use GrubHub promo code “FREELUNCH” to go hungry.



The Grubhub marketing campaign offering free lunch to NY residents resulted in hungry customers and overwhelmed employees.

Hungry New Yorkers took Grubhub up on its offer for a free lunch, resulting in utter chaos as the website and app crashed due to unprecedented order volumes. The Grubhub promo code “FREELUNCH” gave people $15 off their order within a three-hour window between 11 am and 2 pm. The Grubhub promo code was applicable to all five New York City boroughs and surrounding areas.

The Grubhub free meal offer eventually resulted in hangry customers calling up their customer services as orders were delayed by hours or canceled outright. Christopher Krautler, the company’s director of consumer public relations admitted that the influx of orders went beyond what was anticipated.

The GrubHub marketing campaign was held after the delivery company conducted a survey of full-time NY workers, out of which 81% admitted that they value lunch time but find it difficult to take a break.

The Grubhub marketing disaster is a lesson in what not to do. Sure, even negative publicity is publicity. But sometimes, it leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth that is difficult to shake off. Or in this case, no taste, just hunger pangs.

Users took to Twitter to air their grievances with memes and snarky comments calling out the company for its unpreparedness.

grubhub marketing failure

Grubhub’s recent marketing campaign resulted in hungry New Yorkers waiting endlessly for lunch.

1. Research and Testing – Unpreparedness

Krautler admitted that they were shocked by the response. He mentioned that the company has plans to look into why this offer received such an overwhelming response while similar offers in the past have been unable to drum up business on such a large scale.. The Grubhub marketing campaign got things right in terms of rolling out a limited period offer and playing on people’s fear of missing out. Although they recognized the need for a break and tailored a campaign designed to meet it, they missed out on the next most important step. They failed to research expected responses and test whether their processes are capable of handling such large volumes. The app and site crashing within minutes shows their lack of preparation.

2. Offering Proper Support to Partners

Many New Yorkers complained that restaurants turned off the delivery option as soon as the promo became effective. While it is understood that they wanted to avoid the onslaught of customers, it is always important to keep partners in the loop and to offer the required support. Many restaurants in the city took a pause on new orders or simply “closed” for the day. Some of the places were forced to adopt these measures as the Grubhub free meal promo made things extremely stressful for its workers. A Twitter user with the handle @arneespeaks posted “Grubhub not giving restaurants a heads up to be prepared for the surge in demand is gross. The restaurant called me super apologetic saying that they’re essentially out of food because they had no clue this was happening.”

3. Logistics

In case of any promotional event, it is important to ensure that logistics are in place and running smoothly. An employee from a Mexican restaurant told Buzzfeed News that as they were not aware of the promo, they were understaffed and the restaurant’s delivery driver was unable to keep up with the demand. Eventually, she booked an Uber to hand deliver 11 orders herself. Grubhub later revealed that the app was averaging around 6,000 orders per minute. Although Grubhub has previously made it to the top of the best food delivery app list, Tuesday’s fiasco will not be forgotten soon.

 Grubhub delivery drivers mentioned that it was a “crazy lunch day” as they dashed around NY trying to fulfill orders. A frustrated Manhattan resident voiced his displeasure at the absolute lack of preparedness and stated that he hopes the delivery company gets pulled up for such a thoughtless execution. The Grubhub marketing disaster shows us that even if we have the best of intentions, execution is what matters the most.

Christy Gren
Christy Gren is an Industry Specialist Reporter at Industry Leaders Magazine she enjoys writing about Unicorns, Silicon Valley, Startups, Business Leaders and Innovators. Her articles provide an insight about the Power Players in the field of Technology, Auto, Manufacturing, and F&B.

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