As a college student, my favorite things to save are time and money. That’s why I was thrilled to discover order-ahead food apps that offer discounts and let me skip the line. Now, I can order and pay for a breakfast sandwich from my favorite deli on my phone, and my food will be there waiting for me when I arrive.

Now, I find myself using order-ahead apps at least 3-4 times per week. There are, however, a few tips and tricks to use that will maximize your savings on these apps. Soon, you’ll be able to brag, “I only paid $3 for this poke bowl!”, or “I got this $10 smoothie for free!” Here are three of my favorite order-ahead food apps. Check out how I use them to save money and time as I bounce from class to work and to class again.


LevelUp is based on the concept of combining individual restaurants’ rewards programs into one app. Instead of downloading separate apps for Bareburger, Gregory’s Coffee, or Fresh and Co., for example, you can keep track of your rewards at all restaurants that use LevelUp rewards on the app. Under the “Rewards Progress” menu on the app, you can see all of the restaurants you can earn rewards at, and how close you are to earning the next reward. For example, Juice Press gives you a $20 reward when you spend $100. You’re still earning rewards for individual restaurants, LevelUp makes the process easier.

How to Use: Some restaurants on LevelUp offer an order ahead feature, where you browse the menu online and place an order to pick up. The app’s browse tab separates the restaurants that have order ahead from those where you can only order in-store. You can pay with your phone using the app’s QR code that links to your credit card.

How to Save Money (Rewards): Any reward credits you have on LevelUp are automatically applied when you pay using the app. There’s no hassle, and no need to remember to tell the cashier you’re using a reward. LevelUp keeps track of the money you spend towards a reward at each restaurant. The app displays both your “Available Rewards” and “Rewards Progress” on the Rewards tab. 

     · Welcome Rewards – Several restaurants on the app offer         discounts, usually $2-5, on your first order.

     · Birthday program – I gave the app a fake birthday when I         signed up, hoping that I would be surprised one day with             free credits. LevelUp exceeded my expectations, and when         my fake birthday arrived, I had $35 total in credits - $10 at             Glaze, $10 at Juice Press, $10 at Bareburger, and $5 at                 Gregory’s Coffee.

Variety: There are lots of restaurants around the city that allow you to pay with LevelUp, from fast-casual to sit-down spots. I have found paying with my phone to be convenient because I avoid having to fumble around with my wallet (the stress of putting your change and wallet away while someone is waiting behind you is real). However, not all the locations where you can pay using the app offer rewards. I try to prioritize ordering from restaurants that have an opportunity to earn rewards on the app.


Allset is an order-ahead, dine-in only app. The idea is to simulate the experience of eating out at a restaurant without any waiting. You choose a restaurant, a reservation time, and your food order all on the app.

How to Use: When you open the app, you first choose a time for your reservation. When searching for restaurants, you can filter by neighborhood and type of food, or you can search using keywords. Once you choose a restaurant, you can browse the menu and place your order for that seating time.

How to Save Money: There is no official rewards program on Allset, but they do have a great referral program. Allset gives you a shareable code that you can easily send through iMessage or social media. When a friend signs up for the app with your code, they get $15 in credits. After they place their order, you get $10 in credits. You can use a maximum of $10 in credits toward an order. Referring just a few friends will get you some almost-free meals on the app. Plus, when I didn’t use the app for a few weeks, they sent me an extra $5 in credits to encourage me to order again.

Variety: I love that Allset not only offers a variety of cuisines, but also a variety of casual and formal restaurants. 

Other features: Allset allows you to split the bill with whoever you’re dining with if they also order on the app. 


Probably my favorite of the bunch, Ritual is the only app I have yet to find that has its own system of rewards. When you order from any of the vendors on Ritual, you earn ten points for each dollar you spend. Ritual is unique because the points you earn from different restaurants all apply to the same rewards bank. Instead of having to order at the same restaurant ten times to receive a discount, you can order ten times from Ritual and use your rewards money at any restaurant on the app.

How to use: You use the app like any order-ahead application, choosing the restaurant and placing the order online. You can browse restaurants on a map, search by keyword, and search by neighborhood. The estimated wait times have never been longer than 15 minutes. I often place my breakfast order on the subway on the way to work, and my food is ready when I arrive.

How to Save Money (Rewards): Ritual is all about earning rewards. No matter which restaurant you order from, you earn 10 points per dollar. When you reach 10,000 points, you get a $10 credit to use at any restaurant on Ritual. While it may sound like you have to spend a lot of money to get rewards, Ritual has lots of opportunities for bonus points. For example, the app has a “First Taste Special,” so most restaurants offer 5x or 10x points for your first visit. At many vendors, the 5x points special has stayed after my third or fourth order. Plus, with so many restaurants to order from, I can take advantage of bonus points by continually trying new spots. The app also gives 5x points for ordering dinner for the first time, 500 bonus points for choosing your favorite restaurant, and more.

Variety: Restaurants on Ritual are usually more casual spots that typically offer counter service. Because the app is marketed primarily towards people wanting to order lunch conveniently from their office, there is a higher volume of restaurants in Midtown and the Financial District. They keep adding restaurants, though, so the number of participating eateries in the NYU area are increasing.

Other Features: The app also connects you to other Ritual users from your company. Your co-workers can “piggyback” on your order, and you can bring all the food back to the office (or vice versa). The app offers 500 bonus points for your first piggyback as well as bonus points for getting other people from the office to sign up.

All in all, it’s easy to avoid paying full price for your coffee or lunch with these apps. The key is those referral and rewards programs, so if you want to get free food, use my codes! Get $10 off on Ritual (and make this author's day) with referral code MARISA89037! For $15 off on Allset, download the app and enter YXIV66 under “Promotions”. Your wallet and I will thank you.