Web site service makes ordering food convenient for U community

With Simpledine.com, people can order food from local restaurants online.

A Carlson School of Management student is working to change the way University students order food.

Michael Quinlan, a marketing and German senior, is an intern for SimpleDine.com, a marketing company that has given the University community a new option in ordering food since early 2004.

Through SimpleDine.com, students can order food from restaurants near the University online.

Local restaurants post their menus on the Web site. The site offers different restaurant options, including Bona Restaurant, Mangia, Manhattan Loft, The Steak Knife and Vescio’s Italian Restaurant. Quinlan said the site continues to add restaurants.

The site also has information on restaurants’ delivery options, open hours and locations.

Quinlan said he visits restaurants and gives presentations about the service. Restaurants can then sign up for the service but must pay a single start-up fee.

Restaurants benefit by freeing up employees from phone lines, receiving free exposure, improving accuracy of orders and saving money for the business, Quinlan said.

Students can also receive discounts from restaurants by using the service.

Quinlan said he heard about the position through a Carlson School professor. Quinlan is the first and only SimpleDine.com intern on this campus.

Jon Dodge, SimpleDine.com sales and marketing vice president, said the company employs students to “have someone on the pulse of the campus, who knows what is popular with students.”

The company has been successful with targeting students, because “students like to be innovators of the new and improved,” he said. Dodge said he assumes students will see buying products on the Internet as more convenient because, “99 percent of students have access to the Internet.”

Stacie Mundro, an interior design sophomore, said she heard of SimpleDine.com through an e-mail sent to her University student account.

“It sounds a lot easier than finding the phone number,” she said. She has looked at its Web site but has yet to use the service, though she plans on ordering from the site eventually, Mundro said.

Mark Bergen, a Carlson School marketing and logistics management professor, said he is skeptical of such a “drastic change in buyer behavior.”

He said that conceptually, anything that makes life easier can make for a successful product or service. But “the service will have to fill a specific need in order to change the way people buy food,” Bergen said.

He said he understands the appeal to students who have an “especially hectic” lifestyle. But many people go to restaurants for the dining experience. Through this service, the atmosphere of the restaurant, time to relax and socialize within the restaurant and the presentation of food is all lost, Bergen said.

“The expert is always the customer,” he said. “(Even if students) try it, that does not mean they will stick with it.”