Student-run App DartDashed Proposes a Solution to Late Night Dining Woes
Students discuss the new app’s niche, marketing and possibilities for expansion.
The COVID-19 pandemic did not go easy on Dartmouth’s late-night food scene. The popular Collis Cafe late-night was shuttered in March 2020 and never returned, leaving students with only the Courtyard Cafe and Novack Cafe as meal options after the dinner meal period ends. But these locations close earlier and are often a further walk for students, creating a vacuum in the world of Dartmouth late-night dining.
In mid-October, however, a new player stepped into the arena. The student-run app DartDashed proposes one solution to the current problem: A snack delivery service that operates between the hours of 7:00 PM to 1:00 AM every night — promising delivery to any spot on campus within 45 minutes.
App developer Elizabeth Orecchia ’23 cited the shortening of CVS’s hours — which used to be open 24/7 — as the incident that led her to create DartDashed. With Collis closed, CVS had become one of the only remaining options for a late-night snack run.
“I was at CVS one day and the employees were talking about how they were shutting at 10:00[pm] now, and I was like, ‘Well that’s going to impact people, it’s gonna impact the student body in a big way,’” Orecchia said.
Within a matter of days, Orecchia had a basic app up and running and the first items available for sale. Since then, Orecchia has expanded the company, hiring students to assist with marketing and delivery.
The delivery process is fairly straightforward. Orecchia buys the items in bulk and stores them in a delivery van parked at a central location on campus. After a student pays for their order, a DartDashed team member will drive the van to deliver the purchase to the customer’s indicated location. While the app promises delivery in under 45 minutes, Orecchia claims that most deliveries happen within 15-25 minutes of purchase.
She considers the first weeks of operation a success, reporting 500 items purchased in the first week alone and a user base that has since grown to over 1000. The app has been particularly popular among ’25s — especially those that live in the distant River and Choates dorms.
Choates resident Emily Mazo-Lopez ’25 has become a repeat user of the app in its first weeks of operation, logging over ten purchases. Accustomed to a more urban life in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mazo-Lopez was struck by Hanover’s lack of food delivery options.
“I’m from a city, and there’s UberEats, DoorDash or even just Instacart for groceries and all that, and there’s nothing like that here,” Mazo-Lopez said.
Mazo-Lopez reported that her first experiences using the app have been overwhelmingly positive.
“I couldn’t have thought of something more convenient,” Mazo-Lopez said.
The convenience of snack delivery is what led Claire Mitchell ’23 to begin using the app and become a returning customer.
“When I study, sometimes I’ll be really into it, and it’s really nice to have something delivered to me compared to going out and having to wait in a long line,” Mitchell said.
Since its inception, DartDashed’s inventory of snacks and other convenience-store items has grown and diversified. In addition to receiving user suggestions, Orecchia monitors product sales to assess trends and determine which products to restock and add to inventory.
“We get a lot [of product ideas] by feeling out what the market is demanding and what’s selling out really fast,” said Orecchia.
An especially hot feature of DartDashed is its “Trader Joe’s” section. The popular grocery store chain known for its specialty goods does not sell its items online — and with the nearest storefronts being in Bedford, New Hampshire and South Burlington, Vermont — it is no surprise that a particularly large order from Trader Joe’s was “sold out within a day or two,” according to Orecchia.
Orecchia has also been impressed with the apparent success of DartDashed’s recently launched water subscription service. Rolling out in 22W, the service has over 50 signups so far. The service, in which flats of bottled water will be delivered to students on a routine basis, is targeted at students living in older dorms who may not have reliable access to filtered water.
Though the introduction of the water subscription has drawn some to question its necessity, Orecchia pointed to other similar programs at Dartmouth’s peer institutions.
“[Harvard’s] water subscription service sells out every single semester, basically,” Orecchia said.
In 22W, Orecchia expects to not only be juggling the new water subscription service but also the expected increase in demand due to frigid temperatures.
“It’s cold out for most of the year — people don’t want to leave their dorms and walk somewhere to get stuff,” Orecchia said.
The desire to hunker down and “order in” doesn’t apply just to snacks, but also to hot meals. And for now, DartDashed only offers snack and convenience-store-style items (unlike its namesake, the delivery mega-platform DoorDash).
However, Orecchia does see offering meals as a potential future for DartDashed. Though partnering with local restaurants or fast-food chains could present significant licensing challenges, the DartDashed team hasn’t written it off completely.
“A strategic partnership could be interesting,” said Orecchia.
While the expansion to hot meals may be far in the future, the DartDashed team is working on other developments to improve the app.
On the technical side, computer science major Abby Owen ’23 is leading the charge to create a more user-friendly platform. Owen says she plans on spending time over Winterim building a new app.
“As people that use the app [and Orecchia] know, the interface is pretty basic — and it’s simple, which is good — but I think there’s a way to make it a lot cleaner and a lot faster,” Owen said.
In addition to improving the technical aspects of the app, Orecchia is interested in adding new services to DartDashed. She’s considering adding a pong cup supply subscription aimed at fraternities, or possibly a way for parents to use the app to send care packages to their kids.
Already excited about these possibilities for expansion, Orecchia sees a future for the app. While the idea originated from the current lack of late-night options, she sees DartDashed as more than a temporary solution to a temporary problem.
“I see us as a permanent establishment,” said Orecchia.
Will students agree? Only time will tell whether DartDashed will be a long-term answer to students’ late-night dining woes.