Instead of making the trek to the dining halls on Saturday mornings, students can have brunch delivered right to their rooms by a new student-run startup.
Last month, four juniors founded a brunch delivery service called The Reading List, a startup that brings homemade pancakes and assorted breakfast food directly to customers’ entryways. Since starting business two weeks ago, the founders have filled 24 orders and hosted a tasting for 75 students. The four students who created the start-up, Nicole Ivey ’14, Yohanna Pepa ’14, Mona Cao ’14 and Cora Ormseth ’14 — the latter two of whom are former production and design editors for the News — said they aim to address a lack of affordable brunch food available to students outside of the dining halls on campus.
“We wanted to try our hand at offering people at Yale a special, sustainably produced brunch,” Ivey said. “I’m from the South, where brunch is a huge deal. We want to make delicious products so our customers can treat themselves.”
The Reading List menu features seven different kinds of pancakes, all sold for $6, as well as a variety of breakfast sides for $2 that includes fried eggs and country maple bacon. Each type of pancake on the menu — which students can pay for with cash or a credit card — is named after a famous book, such as a pumpkin pancake called The Cinderella and a carrot-cake flavored pancake called The Watership Down.
They chose to name the startup The Reading List because so many students share a passion for literature, Ivey said, adding that in the South, communities come together through their love for brunch, but at Yale, students connect over their common interest in books.
“We thought the name was a good way to tap into the Yale culture,” Ivey said. “People say they don’t like to read for their classes, but secretly everyone loves a good book.”
After a conversation between the four founders about their love of food in January, they held a food tasting on Feb. 2 to see whether other students would enjoy their cooking, Ivey said. Students who attended the tasting filled out a survey, and the group received overwhelmingly positive feedback so they decided to proceed with opening the business, she added.
Customers are required to submit their orders by 3 p.m. on Friday afternoons, after which Ivey, who spends Fridays working in New York City, purchases the exact amount of ingredients necessary from the Union Square Farmer’s Market so the chefs do not end up with extra inventory. Pepa creates spreadsheets tracking all the orders and preparing for delivery, and Ormseth is in charge of writing personal notes to customers to include with the food — personal connection with customers is an integral part of The Reading List business model, Ormseth said. Cao said the group has made a profit so far.
Though Ivey said The Reading List has focused on deliveries, the group has also been contacted about hosting study breaks and catering private brunches at which they plan to serve mock mimosas. The Reading List plans to host a formal Easter brunch open to all students and to cater other religious holidays that involve a large meal. They eventually aim to own a restaurant entirely dedicated to serving brunch.
“We don’t see this as a short-term thing,” Cao said. “We want to make it sustainable when we graduate and eventually find a physical location where we can serve brunch.”
The Reading List founders have attended office hours at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute to take advantage of the resources offered by the University to startups, Cao said.
Hallie Meyer ’15, who founded a sustainable catering business called the Northern Greening with Emma Schmidt ’15, said the Yale community is conducive to startups, but that creating a food-centered business requires commitment and effort.
After two weeks of deliveries, customers said the food was well-prepared and delivered on time. Customer Joseph Marquez ’14 said he was impressed with the food quality and the variety of options on the menu.
“This project will be of great value for many students who want to take a break from dining hall food or want to enjoy a brunch where they don’t even have to leave their suite,” Marquez said.
The Reading List founders held their first week of service during last week’s blizzard, but they were able to conduct deliveries regardless, Ivey said. Pepa said that although they considered canceling deliveries on the day of the blizzard, they decided they did not want to disappoint customers.
Customer Amy Xiao ’14 said she was grateful that Cao and Ormseth were able to bring her pancakes to Rosenfeld Hall, across from Timothy Dwight College, despite the weather conditions. Julia Schwartz ’16, whose friend surprised her by sending her a Reading List brunch on her birthday, also said she appreciated The Reading List’s perseverance during the storm.
All food prepared by the founders of The Reading List is cooked in the Davenport College kitchen.