A group of students has devised a way for Yalies to always know where their friends are eating.
Huddlr, which was launched as a Yale-targeted, party-networking iPhone application on Nov. 1, has expanded its services by collaborating with Yale Dining on Jan. 12. Users of the application will now be able to see where their friends are eating. Locations include all dining halls as well as retail locations such as Durfee’s and Thain Family Café. This collaboration aims to not only enhance the social dining experience of Yalies, but to also provide feedback and data for Yale Dining.
“We have gotten into a partnership with Yale Dining, collaborating to help Yalies coordinate meals better,” said Ivan Fan ’14, creator and cofounder of Huddlr. “We want to help students to be able to grab meals with people they care about.”
Huddlr’s service relies on electronically tracking the location of its users and their friends, drawn from the users’ Facebook accounts. Whenever users enter Yale dining establishments, the app will notify these selected friends about their location. By building up a network of Huddlr friends, students are now able to tap on different location icons to see where their friends are currently dining. Huddlr also offers messaging and event-creating services that aim to facilitate group gatherings at Yale dining locations.
Huddlr’s collaboration with Yale Dining will help add to the social aspect at on-campus dining locations, according to Michael van Emmenes, director of business intelligence and optimization at Yale Dining.
“The collaboration is one of a growing nature,” he said. “We envision this to be a great tool to connect friends and assist with the community feel in our dining locations.”
Besides servicing its student users, Huddlr will also aid Yale Dining by providing population flow data for each dining location. This information can help Yale Dining distribute raw material more proportionately and lower food waste, according to Fan.
According to Nemo Blackburn ’15, Huddlr will provide more nuanced data than the current Yale Dining application, since it provides information on the amount of time people spend in each dining hall, in addition to how many swiped in.
Alejandro Rojas ’18 said that the idea to incorporate a social network application with Yale Dining is a great idea, but may also take away from some social opportunities.
“It is a great way for people to not feel lonely when they are eating,” he said. “One possible downside is that it may take away opportunities to meet new people and expand your network.”
At the same time, the application will pass along qualitative information to Yale Dining, such as student comments and suggestions, which so far have overwhelmingly included a call for more Greek yogurt in dining halls.
However, van Emmenes stressed that, as a user-focused application, Huddlr will concentrate more on connecting students with each other and will thus ultimately serve a different function from the Yale Dining application.
So far, the application has increased its user population from the members of two fraternities to a few hundred Yalies. However, 14 out of 20 students interviewed said that they were not aware of Huddlr’s existence.
In order for Huddlr to provide truly accurate population data, the application must saturate the market, Fan said, acknowledging that the service has not yet reached all corners of campus. But he also said expansion is certainly on the minds of the team developing Huddlr. While the application has been advertised on posters around campus as well as on napkin holders in dining halls, Fan said that most of the users have learned about Huddlr through word of mouth and he promised further advertising campaigns.
The Huddlr team has also been working on expanding the application’s usage locations, with plans to collaborate with Yale Athletics and New Haven restaurants set in motion, Fan said. However, the team is also focused on perfecting the service so that it will be able to service Yalies adequately in all social activities on campus.
“The goal is to make Huddlr a real-time social coordination tool that is quicker than Facebook events and more focused than group texting,” Blackburn said.