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Innovative Food Service Foodrop to Be Launched by Students

Foodrop is being perfected in the NUvention Web + Media class.

No delivery fee, no minimum order amount, one easy drop-off—that's how the area's latest food delivery service is edging into a booming market currently dominated by the likes of Postmates and GrubHub. Born from the Farley Center's NUvention Web + Media course in January, Foodrop is the brainchild of five Northwestern students—two MBA candidates, three engineers—who plan to launch the startup in May.

Foodrop's model is a remedy for pain points they've identified in the current market. It eliminates numerous drop-offs at individual locations for something more streamlined: one single drop at the most popular campus locations during the most popular eating times.

“The reason [old models are] so expensive is that the operation is not efficient, because they deliver order per order,” said team leader Kristen Zhou, a Kellogg MBA & McCormick MS Design Innovation student. “But actually for lunch, everyone eats at approximately the same time and they aggregate in similar locations, so that's where we saw the opportunity to bring bulk orders to certain places. They can be much more efficient to achieve the economy of scale and to lower the operational cost.”

From there, the team's developers crafted the minimum viable product (MVP) within two to three weeks, allowing them to jump into the testing phase. The team was eager to dive head-first into the project, so that it could launch before their two-quarter NUvention class wrapped. 

“The Farley Center has been very supportive, especially the professors,” Zhou said. She credits much of their progress to the NUvention course and honest critiques from professors. "We were assigned advisors and mentors from different industries, mostly alumni, who provided insightful advice."

After a high demonstrated interest from conducted surveys and an app underway, the team worked toward getting restaurants on board. Foodrop's menu will rotate its options on a weekly basis, featuring both national chains, like Chipotle, and beloved local shops. At launch time, they plan to have around five restaurants a week, with room for growth.

 “On the one hand, we want to limit a certain amount of restaurants so we can achieve the economies of scale for each restaurant,” Zhou said. “But we will rotate the menu so students get more food options.”

Foodrop currently plans to deliver to popular locations like The Garage, Ford, Tech, Kellogg and more. In the future, Zhou sees potential in expanding “to other campuses and also some dense locations like office buildings, hospitals, even metropolitan cities like the food-truck model.”

Until the app's public debut, the team will keep trying to perfect their product. So far, they've completed two test runs to consider room for improvement. Right now, they're considering revamping their menu design and adding new functions like rewards for friend referrals. The team is also looking to create safeguards against possible operational setbacks (such as a restaurant not having someone's order or a building having a low order count) in order to “diversify risk,” Zhou said.

Foodrop plans to conduct more test runs leading up to their official launch. 

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