A new virtual marketplace has discovered that college students like free food and may appreciate a more convenient way to access it, along with their favorite late night snacks from area restaurants.
Since last week, Campusfood.com has given University students the chance to do just that.
Servicing students from over 200 different colleges across the nation, the Internet-based business is the leading network of collegiate restaurants in the United States. Before becoming involved with dining facilities across America, Campusfood.com was limited to the area around the University of Pennsylvania, where the founder, Michael Saunders, developed the idea five years ago.
According to Saunders, “I was in my dormroom and I kept on getting a busy signal [while trying to order some food]. I thought there must be an easier way and everything mushroomed from there.”
After graduation, Saunders moved his headquarters to lower Manhattan’s Tribeca where he now runs a six-person operation. Campusfood.com contacts dining facilities located near college campuses to see if they are interested in expanding their ordering by marketing it on the Internet. In return for representation on the website, businesses pay a service fee as well as a percentage of the profits made by their online patrons. Once a buyer enters and verifies his desired items on a virtual check, the information is transmitted and sent to each restaurant’s fax machine. For the free deals available only to website users, Campusfood.com covers most of the bill.
After only a week of affiliation with the Ithaca community, 10 percent of Cornell students have registered with Campusfood.com. According to Saunders, news about the online service relies on word of mouth. Undergraduates appear overjoyed by the potential complimentary sub, pizza or other form of nourishment.
“I was immediately intrigued by the prospect of free food as my points [Big Red Bucks] were running low this semester,” Ashok Srihari ’05 said. Due to the simplicity of using the website, Srihari was convinced that he would use Campusfood.com again. However, next time he will have to spend his own money because offers for free edibles are limited to one per customer.
Word of Mouth
Jacquelyn Nastri ’05 heard about Campusfood.com through a friend’s away message. After visiting the website, she decided to order from King Submarine for the first time because the menu looked appealing and, more importantly, there was no charge for her sandwich.
“It was convenient but it took a really long time for the food to get there,” she said.
Campusfood.com asks for information that is essential to getting addresses and information correct in the university setting. Patrons of the website must specify the type of building, such as a lab, classroom or dormitory, to which the food is to be delivered. Additionally, the company recommends that a buyer give his screenname on America Online Instant Messenger to improve the real-time nature of the transaction in case any problems arise.
For local businesses, Campusfood.com’s marketing scheme for attracting more Cornell consumers has had mixed results.
“So far we have done a whole lot of free pizza and that’s it,” said Brian Bowers, the manager of Rogan’s Corner. Bowers claims that since Campusfood.com’s advertising for free pizza began, he has received extra orders but simply because students are not charged for the food. However, he is hopeful that soon they will have some good steady customers after the sales ploy ends.
Hal’s Delicatessen has only had a little extra business since the online service began to include restaurants in Ithaca. According to Mike Kuntz, one of the partners of the family-style establishment, the purpose for getting involved with Campusfood.com was to draw a larger university crowd.
As Campusfood.com attempts to entice the collegiate consumer, the company also acts to improve restaurant efficiency and, hopefully, increase sales. Steve Kempf, the manager of The Pita Pit, finds that he saves a lot of normally wasted resources by affiliating with Campusfood.com. Now, he does not need a person always answering the phone and fielding questions about their offerings. Last Friday, with the commencement of the promotion for free pitas, the food joint broke its delivery record by dropping off 110 orders, which crushed its original record made on Slope Day 2002 by 36 orders.
“Orders are coming through the fax machine faster than we can pick up the phone,” Kempf said.
Already Kempf has had to hire another delivery person and more workers in the store. Even though a majority of these additional patrons were on account of the free food, Kempf feels that this will entice new students to order from The Pita Pit. Kempf has already seen a small increase in deliveries for paying customers which he attributes to The Pita Pit’s presence on the Internet.
Campusfood.com is one of many web addresses where students can, at the click of the button, make purchases without walking out of their house or picking up the phone. Local businesses did not seem worried about losing patrons to online buying but, instead, saw the Internet as a way of gaining additional consumers. Even on campus, facilities such as Bear Necessities in Robert Purcell Community Center allow students to now place their requests online.
Archived article by Dana Rosenberg