New website offers restaurant deals

Yalies tired of dining hall food now have a less expensive option when eating out.

CrowdQuest, a student-run initiative that reaches out to local restaurants to create weekly deals for campus communities, started its Yale chapter this semester. As the website advertises its third deal, managers and owners of restaurants who have worked with CrowdQuest told the News they were excited by the new opportunity to reach out to Yalies. Students interviewed said they were eager to eat out affordably, though they were not sure deals would lead them to explore new restaurants.

“A lot of people don’t know about most of the restaurants in New Haven, and there really are a ton,” Travis Ing ’12, co-founder of the Yale chapter of CrowdQuest, said. “The days when you could open a restaurant and people would just come and it would thrive are over.”

Ing and Eric Jones ’12, the other cofounder, reached out to many New Haven businesses prior to launching CrowdQuest at Yale. The first two deals were with Bangkok Gardens and Zaroka, both on York Street, and allowed students to pay $10 on CrowdQuest’s website in exchange for $20 in food at the restaurants.

The co-founders said the deals followed the “Groupon model,” referring to a popular online website that sells coupons at a substantial discounts. A predetermined number of people must sign up for each deal in order for it to “go live,” ensuring that restaurants will receive an increase in business, Ing and Jones said. While the restaurants that use Groupon get half of its proceeds, CrowdQuest keeps just one-tenth of the revenue. The student initiative only features one deal per week, as opposed to the multitude found on Groupon.

For Ram Shrestha, manager of Zaroka, the decision to create a deal with CrowdQuest was a simple one, he said.

“It’s a medium of advertising, another way to get people in,” he said. “Lots of people will see the benefit, and low prices will encourage people to go to the restaurants.”

Because CrowdQuest uses 10 percent of the $10 students pay toward operating costs, it earned only $9 for what would normally cost $20 without the deal. Still, Shrestha said he thought the added exposure and influx of customers made the deal worth it.

Still, of five New Haven businesses interviewed for this article, three said they were not immediately interested in working with CrowdQuest.

Bethany Thompson, owner of the newly opened Box 63, said she turned down the chance to be featured on CrowdQuest because she wanted to get a feel for the business landscape before participating in such large-scale deals. She added that while she might consider the student initiative in the future, her restaurant already promotes discounts by word-of-mouth and social media.

Two students interviewed who had used CrowdQuest said they were happy with the deal. Robert Morse ’12 already used his deal at Bangkok Gardens and said it was “surprisingly easy to use.”

The other student, Daniel Berenson ’13, said he bought the Zaroka deal because he likes the restaurant, which he said is often too pricey to go to under normal circumstances. Still, he added that he would likely check out a new restaurant through a CrowdQuest deal only if he had heard good reviews.

But part of the premise of CrowdQuest is that it would encourage students to visit new restaurants, its founders said.

Karthik Kumar and Jonathon Youshaei, two of the three juniors at the University of Pennsylvania who created CrowdQuest and later collaborated with Ing and Jones, said they felt their website could help bring college students to local restaurants.

“We looked at Groupon as being a very smart idea but overlooking some of the most budget-conscious consumers out there,” Youshaei said. “We also saw that there was a gap between connecting restaurants and student events to the actual student body, and we wanted to make that connection as strong as possible.”

Four of five students interviewed who have not used CrowdQuest said they have heard of the initiative. Demi Horvat ’14 said she would probably use the initiative to buy a deal to a restaurant she is already familiar with, but added that she is not sure if she would try a new restaurant because of a deal.

Currently, the students at the original the University of Pennsylvania chapter are focusing on developing CrowdQuest further, with the possibility of allowing student events to be marketed through the site. Yale is the second campus to adopt the program, and Kumar, Youshaei and co-founder Mimoun Cadosch-Delmar said they are looking to expand in the future.

CrowdQuest deals begin on Mondays and last seven days.

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