Review: New app brings affordable dining to college students

With frequently changing discounts, TasteBud allows Columbia residents to save up to 50 percent at area restaurants.

College, and life in general, is expensive. Between tuition, rent and utilities, the average student has little money at the end of each month to spend on going out. To prevent this problem and save money, I decided to try a new dining app called TasteBud.

I’ve had TasteBud since early December and have only paid a total of $1.72 on $13.83 worth of food. For one meal at Broadway Diner, I only had to pay 31 cents. Being on a tight budget, I tried to limit how often I ate out, but TasteBud made it more affordable.

What is TasteBud?

In an email, TasteBud’s sales and marketing representative Catherine Rakkar called the company’s model a “high-tech version of the happy hour.” Restaurants that give offers in the app set the amount of discount they’re willing to give, then set times that the deals are available.

“TasteBud is an app that offers dynamic discounts at restaurants around college campuses,” Rakkar said. “When I say the offers are dynamic, I mean they change throughout the day, minute-to-minute, based on supply-and-demand as well as the time of the day.”

Columbia is one of seven different cities with college campuses the app features. “We're targeting schools that have close-knit communities,” Rakkar said. “We've experienced that at campuses such as Mizzou; when students start to use the app and love it, news about TasteBud spreads like wildfire.”

TasteBud offers discounts at local and chain restaurants like Broadway Diner, Chipotle, Flat Branch Pub & Brewery and Uprise Bakery.

Here are more reasons why I personally love the app:

What sets TasteBud apart

There are fewer awkward moments in line.

There’s nothing worse than standing at a register and holding up the line while the waiter or cashier figures out how to redeem your coupon. Using a discount with TasteBud is easy, allowing you to link your Visa card to your account. If you don’t have a Visa card, Rakkar said that they’ll be adding other cards in the future. After you pay the full amount of your bill, TasteBud refunds your account the discounted amount within 4-6 days.

Discounts apply to everything.

The discount you lock in applies to everything on the menu. It’s not a “buy one, get one free” or “free with purchase” model. If you lock in a discount of 25 percent off, your entire meal is 25 percent off. Discounts can range from 10 to 50 percent depending on the time of day.

Referring friends will save you money.

If someone signs up for TasteBud using your referral code, they instantly get a $5 credit. Once they make a purchase, you will also receive $5. That immediately gets credited to your TasteBud account and is applied to your next purchase with the app.

You get bonuses for eating in a group.

Eating out is more fun with friends, and TasteBud incentivizes it. Through the app’s “Party Mode,” you get more discount credit than the one you initially locked in by inviting other TasteBud users in your group to join the “party.” Once everyone swipes their card and pays their bill, the total discount is calculated and refunded.

Parents can pay.

For students that get an allowance, parents can now set up a meal plan that deposits $100 a month directly into your TasteBud account. You still have to swipe and pay for each meal, but TasteBud would reimburse all $100 of it. This way, parents know their money is being spent on discounted food.

Anyone can use it.

The app can be used by anyone in Columbia. While Rakkar said TasteBud is primarily being marketed to students, anyone with a Visa card can download and use the app.

Drawbacks

Though the app plans on adding more card types, it’s currently inconvenient that it only takes Visa cards. You get your money regardless, but having to wait for your discount to be refunded back to your account can throw off account balancing if you aren’t paying attention. Above all else, I wish it was available at more locations in more cities.

MOVE gives TasteBud 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Edited by Katherine White | kwhite@themaneater.com

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