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Smooth Eats runs trial nights

By Tina Ou     11/1/12 7:00pm


Rice University students craving healthy late-night food options may now have a venue to satiate that hunger: Smooth Eats, a new late-night food venture selling smoothies and sandwiches, will hold its second trial night in the next couple of weeks, according to founders McMurtry College senior Tolu Akinwumi, Martel College junior Melissa Teng and Wiess College junior Sophie Xu. 

Smooth Eats maintains a Facebook page to update Rice students on its plans since they have no permanent location during their trial period, the founders said. 

Smooth Eats sells fresh, handmade sandwiches and smoothies made of natural ingredients, Akinwumi said. For the first trial night held in Baker Commons on Oct. 16, 2012, Xu and Teng prepared the food according to the orders received, while Akinwumi delivered to the requested locations on campus. 

Akinwumi said he, Teng and Xu plan to give student groups in need of a way to fundraise for their projects the opportunity to run Smooth Eats themselves for a guaranteed profit each night. For example, a club might be interested in raising $500, and because it knows for sure that it will earn a predetermined amount of money each night, it can request to run Smooth Eats for the number of nights necessary to raise $500. 

No matter how much money Smooth Eats may bring in for one night, Teng said, the student group running Smooth Eats for that night will receive a pre-determined, guaranteed profit. Leftover profit, Teng said, will go toward future Smooth Eats operations. 

Teng said she, Xu and Akinwumi began Smooth Eats for the class COLL 207: Launch- Entrepreneurship, taught by adjunct professors Bryan Hassin (Lovett '01, '02) and Paul Thomas (Sid Richardson '99). According to Teng, the class is primarily for those interested in entrepreneurship. 

Teng said she and her COLL 207 classmates pitched project ideas, then formed groups and each chose how to approach the ideas. 

Akinwumi said he and his teammates researched ideas to see what might work as an entrepreneurial venture at Rice, and Smooth Eats is what grew from their research. 

"[Smooth Eats] is not our final project," Akinwumi said. "It's a work in progress." 

Xu said orders can be placed by on a Google document on their Facebook page or by text to a phone number, also listed on the Facebook page. 

According to Akinwumi, they completed 20 orders in one-and-a-half hours before running out of fruit for the smoothies at 11:30 p.m. In addition, Akinwumi said, they had underestimated the amount of interest in Smooth Eats' menu. 

"We couldn't take all the orders we received because we didn't have enough people to answer all of them," Teng said. "We didn't think we'd get that many customers." 

Xu said that by the end of the first night, they had made a profit of $30 after some deductions due to spillage and logistical problems. She said they are encouraged by the positive reception from students so far. 

"We know there's a demand for it because we've received requests even after the first night without any additional marketing," Xu said. "It motivates us to keep this venture running." 

According to Xu, they will be making a few changes for the second trial night, including a debit/credit payment option. In addition, Xu said, Smooth Eats will likely stop deliveries to dorm rooms due to difficulties finding rooms and using elevators. Instead, they are considering delivering to each college's commons. 

McMurtry College senior Joseph Vento said Smooth Eats looks like a great idea that could potentially be a tool for streamlining the fundraising process for clubs at Rice. 

"The trick will be in setting the sales threshold so that both Smooth Eats and the student clubs will earn profit," Vento said. 

Teng said they do not necessarily intend for Smooth Eats to be an established student-run business. She said Smooth Eats is more like a startup. 

"You can't predict where a startup goes," Teng said. 

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