Between student loans and credit-card come-ons, today's college students face a tantalizing array of ways to jack up their personal debt levels.
This semester, University at Buffalo students face a seductive newcomer: BuffEats.com, the website that delivers dinner to your door without the grueling effort of making a phone call. Just punch in your credit card number, scan the offers from 30 restaurants, click away and wait for the pizza, sushi or whatever. (A credit card is required, even for cash orders.)
Not all of BuffEats' clients deliver, but at a cost of 6 to 10 percent of orders, it's a simple way for places to crack the UB market, said Chris Cavallari, a site owner who handles sales and marketing.
BuffEats uses a system developed at Penn State, where LionMenus.com offers access to about 150 restaurants, including ones not known for delivery, like Red Lobster. "At Penn State, TGIFriday's delivers. Chili's delivers," Cavallari said. "It changed the market."
The website went live Aug. 1, and reached out to students by Facebook and Twitter. By mid-September the site was getting more than 600 page views a day, and 20 to 30 orders a day on weekends, Cavallari said.
>Have the students eaten it up?
"It's slowly starting to pick up -- every week we're getting more page hits and more orders. We want people to order BuffEats more often than going to the dining hall. Just for the convenience of customizing your order and getting the great food Buffalo has to offer."
>Who are your best customers?
"At UB there are 5,000 international students, and there can be a huge language barrier. Through the website, there's not as much of the barrier there, compared to calling in a phone order. It's great for foreign students, and freshmen without cars, because most of the places on our site offer delivery."
>Don't restaurants already have sites?
"Here they can browse, check out the specials, including exclusive deals with some restaurants, and make their order without leaving the site. All with 2 4/7 phone support."
>How do restaurants get orders?
"We do it through fax. There's an email confirmation that goes to the customer, and the restaurant gets a fax in 30 seconds to a minute."
>Making a phone call is too complicated?
"In today's world everybody's on the computer all the time, whether on Facebook, doing homework or just surfing the Web. We're adding a convenience where they don't have to move at all."