NEW YORK -- Hungry, crunched for time, but don't want to spend a fortune? It's the plight of the urban professional. However, according to Pace alum Mohamed Merzouk, grabbing a meal doesn’t have to require a tradeoff. Thanks to Merzouk, a new app is saving New Yorkers time and money, all while helping the environment.
Algerian by birth, Merzouk received his bachelor’s degree from Ehec Algiers before moving to the United States six years ago. After briefly attending school in Virginia, he fell in love with New York, enrolled in Pace's Lubin School of Business and began working towards his M.S. in Investment Management. It was while studying at Pace that Merzouk noticed America's shocking food waste.
"About 40 percent of food produced for human consumption goes to waste in the United States," said Merzouk. "Most of the waste occurs when the food doesn’t meet the standards of grocery stores, or because restaurants do not sell their entire inventory due to unmet demands." This reality, and Merzouk's own food ordering experiences, left him searching for answers.
"I often spent my lunch breaks ordering takeout, which had become a bit of a burden," he said. "Despite ordering from the same places, often at off times, I never received a discount. 'This isn’t right,' I thought. There are times of the day when restaurants are slow, and if we apply the laws of supply and demand, prices should be lower," he said.
Merzouk's solution to the problem is his new app, Gebni. Modeled off the concept of happy hour, in which bars offer discounted prices to boost sales during known downtimes, app users order food at demand-adjusted prices. As a result, restaurants boost sales during slow times and save customers money. By fielding requests days or weeks in advance -- Gebni knows you always celebrate Taco Tuesday -- restaurants have a more accurate idea of order volume, thus reducing waste in the kitchen.
"Customers love the idea, because everyone needs to order food and everyone loves to save money," said Merzouk. "Savvy restaurants have been very receptive because they know business requires a dynamic pricing structure to fill in demand's peaks and valleys."
Gebni is currently alpha testing, but is set to launch early this fall in partnership with 60 to 80 restaurants in Manhattan's East Village and Financial District, two popular locations for fund-conscious Pace and NYU students.