Elevate, a startup founded by two graduates from the University of Virginia, is offering an alternative meal plan that allows students to receive meals from a variety of restaurants off-campus the at the start of this spring semester.
UVA graduates Josh Cohen and Seth Kramer founded Elevate during their time as undergraduates. The idea came as Cohen and Kramer worked together as caterers, providing bulk meals to UVA fraternities which avoided meal plans in order to save money.
This opportunity gave these entrepreneurs the idea to provide food to students while bypassing catering. Cohen, a software designer, developed the mobile app. Kramer, a financial analyst, reached out to restaurants and marketed the company while also overseeing operations.
Participating restaurants in Elevate’s meal plan include but are not limited to Wingo’s, Flavio and Mr. Smith’s. According to Kramer, Elevate provides a cheaper, less cumbersome and tastier meal plan then what Georgetown Dining can offer.
“We have better food that is less expensive and more convenient. You can order ahead from our app, letting you skip ahead. A better meal plan and better food,” Kramer said.
Students participating can buy meals and eat them at restaurants around the Georgetown area. Meals carry over from week to week throughout the course of a semester. Similar to the Tapingo meal ordering app meal used on campus, students may order meals through Elevate’s mobile app and later pick them up without having to pay an additional fee.
The 45 meal plan is priced at $600, at $12.40 a meal, though this price falls below $12 with the larger meal plan options. The 75 and 105 meal plan are each worth $925 and $1,350 respectively. First-time students can try the service before enrolling by purchasing two meals for $25.
Kramer said they decided to bring the off-campus meal plan service to Georgetown because of the similarities between UVA and Georgetown: Both have good restaurants in the surrounding area.
“We both live in D.C. and felt Georgetown was most similar to UVA. So many good restaurants right off campus, just like at UVA. A big reason we went Georgetown was because of the current meal options,” Kramer said.
Cohen and Kramer decided to expand to Georgetown because of proximity and awareness of dining complaints. They also believed that the culinary richness of the Georgetown neighborhood could provide exciting opportunities.
According to Kramer, Elevate is also very popular with parents, as it is cheaper and allows their money to be spent on quality food for their kids.
“Parents like it, because it’s less expensive, and they know their kid is going to enjoy eating really good food,” Kramer said. “This is a way for parents to allocate money for food and know it’s going to food.”
In comparison with Georgetown’s dining plan, Elevate’s 45 meal plan is cheaper on a per meal basis. The average meal at the O’Donovan Hall is worth roughly $14.50 compared to Elevate’s $12.40.
Bret Reinking (SFS ’19), a member of Georgetown University Student Association’s Dining Policy Team, said he plans to stick with meal plans offered by Georgetown. He has high expectations for the upcoming expansion of the meal exchange program and the renovations of Leo’s and Hoya Court, and he is not impressed with Elevate’s offerings.
“I’ve seen Elevate ads on Facebook, but they don’t really stand out to me, because, even though I’m not completely satisfied with the current meal plan, I’m optimistic for the upcoming dining hall changes that will have positive impacts,” Reinking said.
Several restaurants in the Georgetown neighborhood, including Wingo’s participate in Elevate’s meal plan.
A student at UVA, Nicole Cantarelli, said Elevate allows her to pick up easily, food at nearby restaurants and the program fits well with her schedule.
“It’s so easy, because I can just pick food up on my way from my apartment to class or the library,” Cantarelli wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Elevate now aims to establish a relationship with large chains to allow the company to expand with more ease, opening in areas with already operating chains. Cohen and Kramer remain hopeful of an eventual breakthrough.
There are plans for Elevate to continue expanding to other campuses in the near future, as well as expansion to other groups on campus, such as office employees. Elevate has reached out to Georgetown students through advertisements on Facebook, in which they highlight features such as advance ordering, meal variety and cheaper prices.
Despite the advertising, students like Fax Victor (COL ’19) said they were not aware of the service and still rely on cooking or existing campus food locations like Leo’s or Epicurean and Company.
“I’ve never heard of Elevate,” Victor said. “For me, it’s either Leo’s, the restaurants on campus or cooking in my dorm.”