During his senior year at Yale, Kevin Tan ’17 worked on an app for food discounts in an effort to impress a girl who “really liked Tropical Smoothie Café.” By June 2017, he had officially launched a food delivery app complete with a system by which students can gift each other reward points at their favorite restaurants.
The app, which is called “Snackpass,” operates in partnership with local restaurants to provide users with discounts and rewards. As well as Tropical Smoothie Café, these restaurants and eateries include Good Nature Market, The Juice Box, Papa John’s, Popeye’s, Book Trader Café, Anaya Sushi and Ramen and Alpha Delta Pizza, among others. According to Tan and Snackpass co-founders Jamie Marshall ’19 and Jonathan Cameron, more than 5,000 Yalies currently use the app, in addition to students from several other New Haven institutions, such as the University of New Haven, Quinnipiac University, Gateway Community College and Southern Community College.
“Our mission is to get everyone lit discounts,” Tan wrote in an email to the News. “Also, lines are terrible.”
Since it was launched, Snackpass has reached $150,000 in sales with a growth rate of 20 percent per week, according to the app co-founders. And just one week ago, Snackpass received funding from a venture capital firm, they said.
Discounts on Snackpass generally range from 10 percent to 50 percent off a purchase, but the app also features more creative promotions that involve social engagement.
A popular ongoing offer allows students who use another user’s referral code to get a free smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Café.
Yalies interviewed expressed appreciation for the app’s focus on student needs.
“I love Snackpass,” said Jordan Perry ’21, who started using the app a week ago when a friend recommended it to her. “It makes it so easy to see exactly what the discounts are. It’s also good to see which ones deliver. It’s really nice.”
Perry added that she and her friends find it convenient to use the app when they want to eat together because they are able to both place individual orders and pick up food as a group.
In addition to benefitting students, Snackpass aims to serve the New Haven restaurant community. Snackpass helps restaurants gain exposure, which in turn encourages them to offer additional discounts to students who use the app.
Chris Moore ’19, who was present at a recent event titled “Snack: On Creating” where Tan spoke about the development of the app, praised Snackpass for the value it adds to both restaurants and customers.
“In terms of app development, make [a product] so if there’s something like a relationship between two entities that are using the app, they both want to use the app and they both have an interest in using it,” said Moore, who is the founder of an app called “Moves” that curates updates about parties at Yale. “Make something that people think they won’t be able to live without once they’ve heard of it.”
At the event, Tan emphasized his focus on customers and stressed that rather than viewing technology as an end in itself, he is more interested in the things that can be done with it.
“It seems like they’ve found a very good opportunity,” said Felipe Pires ’19, chairman of the Yale Computer Society, who was also present at the event. “They found the opportunity by making the right decisions. So it’s a pretty interesting story.”
As of now, Snackpass is only available for download to iOS users. Although both Moore and Pires praised the app, they noted that they could not use it because they had Android phones.
But at the event, Tan said he and his co-founders are planning to develop an Android app soon and also stressed that Snackpass is still a work in progress.
“We’re in the phase of testing and validating ideas, we’re not even close to being done with trying out new features,” he said.
Snackpass also takes the form of a social platform on which users can connect with one another. While some students interviewed appreciated this feature, others expressed reservations.
Sunnie Liu ’21 said she thought it was interesting that Tan viewed Snackpass as a conversation starter and as a way to make friends on campus.
“I guess everyone is connected by their love for food, so this is a perfect way to do it,” she added.
Perry, however, said she would prefer if other people using the app could not see what she was buying.
Still, with a Snackpass order every three minutes, the app remains extremely popular on campus and in New Haven.
“I’m very excited to see more and more Yalies trying stuff like this and developing apps like this, getting more and more visibility,” Pires said.
The Snackpass app was most recently updated on Aug. 8.
Saumya Malhotra | firstname.lastname@example.org