Granite Bay High students used the service to get food delivered, then the principal banned it

DoorDash driver Jake Vertin shows his orders in 2013 in Palo Alto, Calif. Granite Bay High School has banned its students from using the app to deliver food during the school day.
DoorDash driver Jake Vertin shows his orders in 2013 in Palo Alto, Calif. Granite Bay High School has banned its students from using the app to deliver food during the school day. Bay Area News Group file

Call it a recipe for chaos. Instead of dashing for the cafeteria at lunchtime, students at Granite Bay High School had been pulling out their smartphones and ordering chicken sandwiches, fries, spring rolls and much more from DoorDash, the food delivery app.

The Placer County school soon became inundated with couriers searching for their student customers, with dozens of deliveries arriving throughout the day, school officials said. School policy requires that visitors sign in at the office – including drivers from DoorDash.

“We had to stop what we’re doing, check them in and find the kid whose food it was,” Principal Jennifer Leighton said. “We’re not equipped to deal with that. It’s a disruption.”

The situation eventually became too much to handle, Leighton said. So just before winter break, she ordered a ban on DoorDash and all other food-delivery apps at the school.

“We can’t manage it, and we shouldn’t manage it,” she said. “It’s not our job to find a kid and make sure he knows his lunch is here.”

The ban has sparked an uproar among students who like the convenience of summoning up food on a smartphone. The school is considered a closed campus, so students are not allowed to leave during lunch.

“Students are definitely against the ban,” said senior Connor Hinson, 17, who is an editor at the school’s student newspaper. “People are upset.”

DoorDash prides itself on reaching customers wherever they might be, including high-rise buildings, parks and beaches. When ordering, customers have the option to write a note to the driver about the precise location for the delivery. Drivers also can call if they aren’t sure where to go.

“As long as it’s in our delivery radius and there’s an address, the dasher is more than happy to bring your favorite food,” said Kristen Webster, a spokeswoman for DoorDash.

DoorDash, a San Francisco-based startup, competes in a crowded field of on-demand food-delivery apps that also includes Uber Eats, GrubHub and Postmates. The apps typically have limited delivery areas depending on their partnership with local restaurants.

Julia Huss, 17, who has used DoorDash several times at Granite Bay High School, said she doesn’t have time to pack lunch in the morning. She disagrees with the principal’s account that the service has been disruptive. Huss said she would personally pick up the food after texting the driver, instead of letting it sit in the office.

“It’s unnecessary,” Huss said of the ban. “I don’t see a reason for it.”

For Huss, DoorDash had meant passing on school cafeteria lunches and instead enjoying sandwiches from Panera Bread or fresh sushi from Blue Nami in Roseville. Now that the service is banned, she is back to “skipping lunch or mooching off friends.”

DoorDash makes its money in part off delivery fees, which can be as much as $6.99 per order in addition to the price of the food. A credit or debit card is needed to process the transaction.

Officials from school districts in the region said they have not had problems with students and apps such as DoorDash. Some districts have rules against food deliveries – both from local restaurants and apps – while others said students were not using such services. DoorDash made its debut in Granite Bay last summer before expanding into Sacramento in the fall.

Principal Leighton said parents are still free to drop off food for their children on a table in front of the school office. Students also are allowed to use DoorDash or other services after hours during extracurricular activities, subject to the approval of the supervising staff member.

Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang

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