Smile Politely

Hooked on Hooked

Over the past few months, the U of I campus has received a makeover. Plastered on almost every restaurant or coffee house’s windows are the Hooked signature, navy blue signs with a nautical feel.

For those who are ill-informed on what this is, Hooked is a mobile app (Android and iOS) that allows its users to take advantage of short-term deals across campus. These deals can last anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on what the company decides for the day, and a single company can have multiple deals throughout the same day.

Not only that, but Hooked was developed by college students for college students. Fortunately, you don’t need a college email to reap the benefits of its lightning fast deals. According to Kristian Zak, one of the initial developers and current Marketing Director, he and his friends came up with the idea when they realized that their big spending was leaving their stomachs full but wallets empty. Instead of waving a white flag to enjoying a nice meal out, they came up with their own solution. The four friends collaborated with surrounding restaurants to enact these deals and entice students during lull hours.  

Naturally, this has fared incredibly well across campuses as it caters — pardon my wordplay — to the archetypal college kid who wants to be able to treat himself in an affordable manner. Personally, I’ve found that Hooked has come in handy when my friends and I are are simultaneously famished and indecisive. If we don’t have a specific craving, it’s now habitual to check Hooked and allow it to be our appetitive compass.

Upon downloading the app, the user is greeted with an obligatory tutorial and welcome message from the Hooked team. The message briefly explains what the app is about and how it works. What’s great about it is its smooth, simple design. All you have to do is browse through companies’ deals, which are based off your proxemics, enjoy the mouthwatering photographs, and hit the “Get Hooked” button to claim your deal. The payment isn’t even though the app. There’s no worrying about credit card information since you show the deal to the cashier and pay the restaurant directly.

Amazingly enough, the benefits go beyond that of the consumer’s wallet. It also helps out local and national business that have found a home at the University of Illinois and colleges nationwide. I was lucky to speak with Orange Leaf’s General Manager, Sonya Brock, about how this accessible app has impacted her business. 

SP: How has Hooked affected your company’s success?

Sonya Brock: During what would normally be our store’s “down time,” Hooked has easily doubled our business, which has helped keep us busy and working.

SP: How do the deals work to benefit your standalone restaurant (non-chain)? After all, you are offering some substantial discounts!

Brock: We don’t overlap our Hooked deals with our independent, in-store deals. During our happy hour, there isn’t a hooked deal that ever runs at the same time. The deals that we do offer on Hooked helped us — especially in the beginning – to get the word out about our business.

SP: Overall, do you feel it’s something that helps to promote the image of your restaurant, not just its revenue? (i.e. has it helped to promote yourself as a conscientious company, one that’s in tune with the needs of college kids?) 

Brock: I think that it has improved our image and put us a step above the competition. We enjoy seeing you guys happy and think it’s great that we’re able to provide the deals and discounts for you. Knowing how expensive college can get, we do our best to help everyone out.


Like ice tea on a hot, southern day, it’s refreshing to see a business model where everyone comes out a winner. Next time you’re strolling down Green Street with just a few bucks and a vocal stomach, make sure to pay a visit to any of the restaurants sporting those recognizable Hooked posters. All it takes is a download and a tap for instant savings on countless dining options.

If you’re interested in learning more about Hooked and are a fan of win-win situations, you can check out their website or just download their app by searching “Hooked” in your respective app store. 

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