Although it’s pretty easy to browse Yelp reviews for local restaurants, you’re probably more likely to trust a close friend’s recommendation than one from a random stranger.Two students in Wash U’s Olin Business School, Andrew Glantz, junior, and Jacob Mohrmann, senior, along with Aidan Folbe, a freshman at Dartmouth, have capitalized on exactly that fact with new app, FoodShare, which provides a hungry person in the St. Louis area with a meal, in exchange for users recommending participating restaurants to their friends.
It’s a total win-win-win: individuals in need get free food, you share a great local restaurant with a friend, and the restaurant gains a potential new customer.
When making a restaurant recommendation, you have the option to add a personalized message or a photo of your meal. The meal donations are thanks to a partnership with Operation Food Search, the largest distributor of food in the St. Louis bi-state region.
As of now, FoodShare has 48 partner restaurants, with several more partnerships in the works. The list includes nearby student favorites like Three Kings and Seoul Taco, along with restaurants in various surrounding St. Louis communities, including Central West End and The Hill. The app generally avoids chain restaurants, in order to emphasize local STL food culture.
You may have heard of FoodShare before, as the app was initially released last year with a points system: those users who recommended restaurants and those who acted on friends’ recommendations would earn points, which could then be redeemed for cash.
Glantz said the system wasn’t the most practical since it was taking users a while to earn any substantial amount of money. This was part of the motivation for the new social venture format.
While all participating restaurants are on a free trial right now, in the future, each will pay a fee for being included on the app.
Glantz explains, “We pass that money on to Operation Food Search in order to offset their distribution costs in delivering food to food pantries, so that it can get to the people who need it.”
Through a recent kickstarter campaign as part of the switch to the new version, FoodShare was able to donate 483 meals. If you factor in a broad base of users, there’s huge potential for creating a substantial improvement in the lives of St. Louis residents.
And STL is just the beginning. Glantz says, “Within a year, the vision is to expand to our next city, probably Chicago, and then in two years, hopefully to LA, D.C., New York and then eventually nationwide.”
Glantz expects the new version to launch by the first week in October, and during the first month, for every person who downloads the app, FoodShare will donate a meal, off the bat.
It’s the perfect way to feel good about your decision to go out for dinner—after all, your own Gogi bowl is helping feed St. Louisians who might not otherwise have access to a hot meal.