For my previous Spoon article, I created a detailed list on free food throughout Westwood and how to get it. In the article, I mentioned PlayFull, an app where you play mini games to earn points. These points can then be traded in for coupons, which provide special food deals and discounts at certain restaurants in Westwood, including Garlo’s Aussie Pie Shop, Koala T Cafe, and Chick-Fil-A.
There are currently 3 different mini games that users can play, and each play costs one coin. Winning games and daily quests earns you tickets, which you can use on coupons for discounts, like buy one get one free drinks or even a free pizza.
Recently, I was graciously invited to meet with the developers of PlayFull and interview them for Spoon. I had the chance to meet six of the nine UCLA students and alumni who are currently on the PlayFull team–Patrick Lu and Zhuping Hu, the co-founders of the app; Roman Chang, Alex Hesselgrave, and Andrew Lee, the back-end developers; and Kimberly Hwang, the designer of the app’s adorable penguin mascot, Pluu.
Spoon: Why and when did you develop this app?
PlayFull: We originally started off as Mad Plus One, a gaming app company, and we developed two iPhone games before we became PlayFull. We had a friend who who wanted a loyalty program for their restaurant, and the idea for the app originated in November 2013. It seemed like a fun opportunity to combine our background in game development with the creation of an app that rewards users with discounts on food in real life. The first version of PlayFull was released in March 2014; and our company has improved, expanded, and slowly evolved over the past few years.
As current and past UCLA students ourselves, we mainly made this app to cater to UCLA students because we understand what it’s like to eat out as a college student. However, in the future, we would like to broaden our reach to beyond Westwood and expand our audience.
Spoon: Who are your partners, and how do you receive deals from restaurants?
PlayFull: We have two types of partners: restaurants and organizations. There are currently 21 restaurants that we have teamed up with, including Subway, Garlo’s, Chick-Fil-A, Koala T, Enzo’s Pizzeria, and Chipotle. Our most recently added partner is Ike’s, so you can get discounts on some of their delicious sandwiches. We work together with the local businesses in order to get the best deals for both users and the restaurants and increase sales (from a recent Daily Bruin article, PlayFull has increased Chick-Fil-A’s sales by about $15,000 in the past year).
In addition to our restaurant partners, we sponsor various UCLA organizations and events, including Dance Marathon, LA Hacks, ACA, Relay for Life, and Bruin Scouts. For example, we had raffles for shirts and gift cards and also donated about $15,000-20,000 worth of food to feed all of the Dance Marathon participants throughout the entire event. Our main goal is to bring people together and connect Westwood restaurants with UCLA organizations on campus.
Spoon: What platforms are PlayFull currently for, and do you plan on expanding to other platforms in the future?
PlayFull: The app is currently available for iOS and Android systems. Zhuping is in charge of iOS development, while Alex and Andrew are working on the Android version. Currently, we don’t have any plans to expand to other mobile platforms yet because it would require building the app again from scratch for the new platform. But we do want to expand our web platform by creating more interactive features on the PlayFull website for users, as well as a web portal for restaurants to view analytics so that they can reward loyal customers.
Spoon: What are some of your favorite places to eat in Westwood?
Zhuping: I really love Garlo’s, and they have the best coffee. I also like Koala T for their food.
Alex: Garlo’s is perfect all the time. I’m also a sandwich type of guy.
Kimberly: I love Chipotle, and I really liked Chilly Ribbons until they closed their store.
Patrick: I enjoy the food from all of our restaurant partners, but I’ve probably eaten the most at Denny’s. Pieology is really good, and we’re hoping to partner with them in the future.
Spoon: Lastly, what are some of the newest features of PlayFull?
PlayFull: As we mentioned previously, Ike’s was just added to our list of restaurant partners. Users can now find friends and message them, and we plan on making the team feature (users can join teams and earn points to win challenges together) that we utilized in Dance Marathon into a usual part of the app.
We usually post special food events (like our most recent free boba at Koala T event) on our Facebook page and occasionally in the Free & For Sale groups, so please follow us for the latest updates. And please send us feedback so that we can improve the app for a better user experience.
If you want to download PlayFull, you can get the app for iOS or Android. And if you want to save some more money, be sure to take a look at this list of UCLA student discounts, as well as this app that feeds you for paying attention in class.