After nearly a decade of using the Internet to make it easier for hungry students to get food delivered, CampusFood.com has a new competitor.
EatNow.com — an online food delivery service that offers Yalies food from 19 New Haven eateries ranging from pizzerias to ethnic restaurants — is a fresh source of competition for CampusFood, which currently hosts 10 restaurant choices. The new site offers an expanding restaurant selection, favorite order and ‘EatLater’ features, group-ordering options and no added surcharges or delivery fees.
“Just looking at Yale students, the number one thing is that you’re always on the go, you haven’t lived there very long and don’t really know what’s in the area, and you’re pressed for time,” EatNow co-founder and CEO Nat Turner said. “We have really every menu in the area that will deliver to you.”
The site also offers frequently updated restaurant specials and an automated clock to indicate which restaurants are open, Turner said.
Christine Heller, a representative for CampusFood, said her company currently has fewer choices for Yale students than EatNow, but she said CampusFood designers are making improvements, especially in response to the new online competition.
“It definitely keeps us on our toes, and in that sense it’s good, but I feel like only time will tell as far as service goes,” Heller said. “We have seen competitors come and go.”
Although EatNow arrived on the New Haven scene this August, the concept for the site had been in the works for months. Turner said the idea arose last year when he and his friends at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business encountered several dorm food-delivery experiences, leaving them feeling worn and without options.
“Fifteen people hovered around one computer, and that just didn’t work,” he said. “We went to CampusFood. They had about 14 or 15 pizza places, and that didn’t mean much to us, because we wanted all the different options. One person wanted pizza, the next Chinese food.”
On the Yale campus, EatNow operations took off with the help of Louis Socha ’09, who responded to an internship opportunity offered by a friend who graduated from his high school to work at EatNow. Socha, who spent much of his summer walking from restaurant to restaurant in search of enthusiastic New Haven clients, said many welcomed EatNow with open arms.
“They are very excited about it because they want Yale students to know who they are,” Socha said. “They think it’s a good way to get their name out and advertise within the school. It’s sort of hard for restaurants to advertise within a private university like Yale.”
EatNow offers delivery from some restaurants like Est Est Est Pizza and Restaurant and Yalie’s Pizza and also features online ordering from restaurants farther from Yale, such Royal India, Fresh Taco and State Garden Chinese. Turner said he hopes to soon feature at least 50 New Haven restaurants on the Web site.
Joe Porcello, the owner of Joe’s Hubba Hubba, said he signed on to EatNow this summer with hopes that the service would generate publicity for restaurants far from campus.
“I’m on the other side of the Green, where the foot traffic is not as popular as near College and Park Streets, but I think this will help us grow,” he said. “I think this is a great way for kids to get the food, because the Internet is so popular with college kids.”
Matthew Doud ’09, who used the service to order from a local pizzeria, said he was surprised by the number of restaurants in the area.
“You can see the menu without having a long phone conversation, and since there were more restaurants listed in their directory than I had previously known about, it offered a greater selection than I could have hoped for,” he said.
Turner said he is also seeking to expand EatNow beyond food delivery in order to fulfill the void in streamlined services — automated dorm-room cleaning included — for college students across the nation.
“We don’t want to just be EatNow.com,” he said. “We want to build a whole network of ‘Now!’ company groups. We want to establish EatNow.com in the market place, and make sure every student loves it.”
Some students who have tested the service, such as Ben Liss ’08, said EatNow.com may already be on its way toward establishing itself at Yale.
“It’s very convenient,” Liss said. “I went online, put down a credit card number and my food was here.”