Members of the BYU Prelaw Student Association watched as their pizza and drinks disappeared while random students walked into their event, ate and left — an unexpected side effect of the Lunch Box app.
The Prelaw Association hosted an event specifically for “their members” to ask questions to senior law school students from across the country, according to Linden Baker, the association president. They provided pizza and drinks for their members, but when the event was posted on the Lunch Box app, the “for members” clause was left out, despite the fact that it was included on every advertisement.
“Because someone not involved in running the event talked about it on the Lunch Box app, we had completely random students walking in. (They would walk) up to the front of the room, making a lot of noise and grabbing food,” Baker said. “It was really distracting and frustrating; we didn’t put the event on Lunch Box and hadn’t planned for it.”
The Lunch Box app was designed by two BYU students earlier this year to help students find out about events on campus offering free food. Since its release in March, the app has quickly grown, spreading to multiple campuses, including Harvard, Princeton and Stanford.
While the app has received a very positive response, according to David Hepworth, who created the app with Chase Roberts, occasionally club leaders do have a negative experience with the app.
“Most content we have is posted by the clubs or are open community events that we post,” Hepworth said. “When clubs post themselves, they will include information like who is allowed to show up or what to expect. Occasionally it will happen where somebody will post an event that they hear about, the club doesn’t know about it, and they get overwhelmed.”
The hope is that Lunch Box is about more than just free food, according to Hepworth.
“It’s our hope that students are using the app, not just to find free food but to connect with clubs and events that they are really interested in,” Hepworth said. “Sure, there will be students that take advantage of events, but a lot of clubs have seen great success using the app proactively and are really growing.”
Jordan Frustaci, a student from Las Vegas majoring in civil engineering, said last year he was able to use Lunch Box to promote and boost attendance for a seminar he helped with.
“I think that app alone got almost half the people to come who were there,” Frustaci said.
Understanding that free food can draw quite the crowd, Hepworth said they have tried to help clubs out by providing discount catering options within the app and clubs with the opportunity to specify who an event is for. As the app grows and more clubs use it, Hepworth hopes it will help distribute students between events they are interested in.
“I use Lunch Box when I’m hungry and I know that I’m going to be on campus for a long time,” said Megan Machen, a senior majoring in advertising. “I don’t use it all the time though. It depends on how hungry I am, how far away the event is, and what I have to sit through to get food.”
Hepworth is constantly looking for ways to improve Lunch Box and to hear about clubs’ experiences.
“We spent a lot of time up in the BYUSA office talking with the club leaders to get their feedback on how we should build this,” Hepworth said. “And within the app, anyone can leave feedback. That’s one way that we are hoping that people who do have a bad experience can send us a message. If we don’t hear about it, we won’t know how to fix it.”
After her experience with the prelaw event, Baker still thinks Lunch Box is great for publicity but wishes she, or someone else involved in organizing the event, had been able to authorize the post before it was allowed up.
“I think (Lunch Box) is a great idea; it’s a great marketing tool if you want to use it,” Baker said. “There just needs to be infrastructure in place to make sure the information students put up is accurate.”