The MunchCard, a restaurant discount created by four Brown students as an alternative to University-provided meal plans, has been gaining popularity since its initiation last September. This spring, about 700 undergraduates are participating in the program, compared to 530 last semester.
Steven Tran '13, one of the card's co-founders, said he "hopes to see 1,000 students using the card by next year." Tran said he predicts an increase next semester because the University meal plan can only be cancelled at the beginning of the first semester. Students can downgrade meal plans between semesters but not opt out of them. Tran said he hopes students who drop the meal plan will be attracted to the MunchCard.
The number of restaurants that accept the card has continued to grow, with 25 restaurants now taking the card. The most recent addition, Shanghai, was added to the list of restaurants on Thayer Street that take the card this week, Tran said. Most participating restaurants still offer a discount of 10 percent to MunchCard users, and many will also be offering various promotions throughout the semester.
The card's creators — Tran, Ben Vishny '14, Tucker Adams '11 and Andrew Tran '11 — have recently announced plans to launch a delivery service as well. Through this service, users will be able to place their delivery orders using a PIN provided with their MunchCards and verify their orders through text. So far, Wings over Providence has expressed interest in the service. The addition of delivery will greatly expand the potential restaurants that accept the card, Tran said.
The founders are actively pursuing restaurants closer to campus as well. They are currently focusing their attention on Blue State Coffee, which has said it would join if enough students demonstrate high levels of interest.
Tran said they encountered difficulties last semester with the restaurant Chinese Iron Wok since its owners often did not abide by their contract. After several incidents of non-compliance, MunchCard removed Iron Wok from the service.
Otherwise, business has been running very smoothly, Tran said. Their operational system is backed up and has not been down yet this semester.
The restaurants have offered positive feedback about the card, Tran said, adding that it has been especially well-received by food carts.
Mary Kate LoPiccolo '13, a MunchCard user, said she likes the convenience of the card, adding that it holds a preset amount that "gives you a limit so you don't feel bad going out to eat."
But she also said she wished that "the card could be used at more places, especially Blue State."
The creators hope to further expand the business this summer.