The Snapchat for Snacks on Campus
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because life's too short to wait in line for pizza. Especially when you have an essay to write.
It was finals week, and I was in the midst of writing an essay response to the worst prompt ever: “What is Anthropology?” Huh? I thought that’s what I was supposed to be learning? Amidst my frustration, my stomach twinged with hunger, but the last thing I wanted was another bowl of soggy pasta from the Godforsaken dining hall. What I did crave: chicken tikka masala from my favorite family-owned restaurant on campus. So I reached for my phone.
Snackpass is a new app that brings hungry college students closer to their favorite nearby restaurants with some discounts. And its arrival is timely: 59 percent of food orders from millennials are for takeout, according to a report by Technomic. This explains the popularity of Grubhub and DoorDash. But unlike these delivery options, which also charge extra fees, Snackpass lets users pick up their food when it’s ready and costs the same or lower than menu price. It’s become a popular option at its native Yale, and, thanks to a recent cash injection, it could soon be coming to a campus near you.
You can also use it to ask members out for takeout dates through the direct messaging feature.
Here’s how it works. You order and pay via the app, watch a countdown to when your food is ready and then pick it up. That’s it. And unlike other takeout apps, it’s also a social media platform and virtual punch card. Every time you order on Snackpass, you get a point for yourself and a point for a friend toward free food at that restaurant. Think of it as Snapchat for snacks. You can also use it to ask members out for takeout dates through the direct messaging feature or send a gift takeout meal to a sick friend.
The app was created by three students at Yale University — Kevin Tan, Jonathan Cameron and Jamie Marshall — in 2016. “Kevin was helping a friend who managed a local pizza shop build a website to better reach the local student community,” explains Marshall. Tan then programmed Snackpass as a platform that would help restaurants market to students while also creating a rewards system for loyal customers. After marketing the app through word of mouth in the student community, 80 percent of the student population at Yale was using it.
And it’s been popular. According to Claudia Haimovici, growth marketing manager at Snackpass, 75 percent of the student body uses the app on the 11 campuses where the app has a presence, and there are more than 100 campuses on the waiting list.
Leo Garcia, a Harvard student user, uses the app because it fits into his busy schedule. “I love having the ability to pick up my food as soon as it’s ready, rather than having to wait around for a delivery person.”
Investors have also taken notice. In its first three years, Snackpass has gone through three rounds of seed funding and received $23 million from the likes of Y Combinator (which funds Airbnb, DoorDash, Reddit and Dropbox) and First Round Capital (which funds Uber, Warby Parker and Rover). When it comes to revenue, the company gets a small commission from the restaurant for each order.
Still, there’s room for improvement. Like when it comes to late-night dining. At 2 am, options can be limited. “Most of the restaurants on the app close early at night, so at a certain point, you can no longer use the app,” says Samantha Gamble, a student at Harvard. Some users would like a delivery option, along the lines of Uber Eats or DoorDash, so you don’t have to leave your room. It’s a criticism Haimovici knows well. “We focus on takeout because college students are always walking to and from class.” However, with the recent funding, the company is looking to add a delivery option — and also to expand the app to over 100 additional campuses.
So, when I finished my essay, I treated myself to that dinner. Even better? It was discounted. For that, I didn’t mind getting out of bed to go get it.