Since its launch last fall, Snackpass — a New Haven-based app that gives discounts to local restaurants — continues to flourish, with more than 5,000 Yalies using the app.
Founded in the winter of 2016 by Kevin Tan ’17, Jamie Marshall ’19 and Jonathan Cameron, Snackpass allows students to place advance orders for food from a selection of more than 60 restaurants. Over 7,000 students from Yale and other New Haven institutions use Snackpass.
“In December, we were at about $166,000 gross merchandise value per month,” Tan said. “Last summer, we rebranded the app and hired more employees. It really blew up when the semester started and is still growing.”
Since the beginning of the academic year, Snackpass has grown by an average of more than 20 percent each week.
And this week, Marshall and Tan traveled to Providence, Rhode Island to begin a partnership with restaurants across Brown’s campus, said Nikhil Patel ’21, a Snackpass marketing and engineering intern. If the Brown venture is successful, the team is considering expanding to Boston as well.
Operating in partnership with local vendors, Snackpass provides students with discounts and rewards while offering restaurants a social media platform for advertising. Some of the restaurants most popular among students — including Good Nature Market, The Juice Box, Papa John’s, Book Trader Café, Anaya Sushi and Ramen, Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Alpha Delta Pizza — have partnered with Snackpass to provide discounts.
According to Patel, the app offers perks specific to each vendor, such as a free coffee or smoothie, when users have accrued a certain number of points. Students can also send one another “gifts,” like coupons or gift cards from a specific vendor.
Tan built the Snackpass app his senior year, while he was looking for ways to procrastinate during finals week. Looking to impress a girl who particularly liked Tropical Smoothies Cafe, he created a program to send her a “gift” online. The app, initially called Happy Hour, didn’t gain much traction, but it blew up when it rebranded as Snackpass over the summer. The app’s revenue grew from $20,000 in July to $80,000 in September.
Patel said getting restaurants on board has become easier as the app has become more popular.
“They are super excited to join the phenomenon and increase the revenue,” Patel said. “We create a social media marketing platform for restaurants at almost no cost to them. With easy access, they are able to increase their sales exponentially.”
Tan attributed the recent success of Snackpass to the team’s three core priorities: making food more convenient, affordable and social. Easier access to cheaper food appeals to everyone, but especially college students, Tan said.
Explaining the factors that contributed to Snackpass’s success, Tan emphasized the important role Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale has played in the app’s growth. Snackpass is one of Tsai CITY’s first Startup Accelerator Program teams.
“Andrew, the Executive Director of Tsai Center, has been instrumental,” Tan said. “I was able to get great mentorship during his office hours. Because of Tsai Center, the future is bright for startups at Yale.”
On top of mentorship, the Startup Accelerator Program provides a six-week training program and $1,000 of seed funding.
Snackpass user Jordan Perry ’21 agreed that convenience and easy access are features that draw her and her friends to the app.
“Snackpass makes it easy to use online menus and student discounts,” Perry said. “Also, that the food is ready when you pick it up is a huge plus. My peers and I use Snackpass basically whenever anyone orders food.”
Still, Perry told the News that she sometimes feels uncomfortable about Snackpass’s social media aspect, which makes public all her and her friends’ activities — including ordering food or liking a restaurant.
Tan and Nikhil both told the News that “big news is coming in a couple weeks.” But both declined to specify what the big news is.
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org