Mogl founder explains his ambitious plan to end hunger through a gamified restaurant rewards app

Mogl founder explains his ambitious plan to end hunger through a gamified restaurant rewards app

Mogl today launched version 2.0 of its restaurant rewards app with a renewed focus on ending hunger in the US.

The app works by allowing customers to register their credit cards in order to earn 10 percent cash back when eating out. Users then select how much of their rewards they’d like to donate to local food banks at a cost of 20 cents per meal.

Tackling the hunger issue is one of the first examples that comes up when talking about startups that want to change the world. It may feel cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

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Co-founder Jon Carder said he started Mogl after realizing that he “wanted to build companies that made a difference.” The realization came when, after a successful startup exit, he was unhappy with his decision to move to Indonesia to surf.

“In a month of this wannabe retirement, I was bored out of my mind,” he said.

Mogl actually started out as a review service similar to Yelp before pivoting into the restaurant rewards business. In Carder’s view, restaurants were stuck with grind mechanics in their ramification of rewards like “buy 10, get one free.”

Early versions of Mogl included an option to donate to food banks. As the startup research the problem of hunger in America, the team realized that the issue was bigger than they originally thought.

“The hunger problem is a disaster,” Carder said.

Government studies suggest that 1 in 5 kids in the US count as “food insecure,” which means they sometimes skip meals or go hungry because of their parents’ financial situation.

Once Mogl realized how the magnitude of the problem, it created a new mission for itself: “No one suffers from hunger in a Mogl city.”

The startup has built a “hunger tracker” for each of the six cities it operates in (San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura County, San Francisco, Phoenix). The tracker uses government estimates, food bank statistics, and Mogl’s own data to calculate the number of meals a given region needs to be fully-fed.

Carder asserted that the issue is mainly a distribution one, as there’s enough food to go around in the US, but food banks aren’t always able to get to it.

While organizations often rely on the generosity of others to fund their endeavors, Mogl also wants to capitalize on our desire to look good in front of our friends. The app includes options to share about your donations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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The app also taps into your competitive side by showing you a leaderboard with your friends of how many meals have been donated.

Food banks address the short-term problem, but Mogl also wants to contribute to sustainable solutions as well. The startup has partnered with Virgin Unite to set aside 10 percent of donations for an entrepreneurship fund that helps other startups interested in ending hunger.

Currently, Mogl is only available in a few cities, but the company says it will enter any market once 100 members have signed up and five restaurants have joined.

Carder and his team are taking on an enormous task, but it’s great to see a startup dedicated to addressing a serious real-world problem. It has a long way to go in raising awareness for the issue, as many Americans aren’t aware of how severe domestic hunger really is, but its restaurant rewards solution manages to give back while coasting off an existing consumer behavior.

Most users wouldn’t take the time to download an app and sign up for a restaurant rewards program, even for 10 percent cash back. But what if doing so would help others in need at no additional cost to them? That’s the experiment Mogl has set out to prove.

Mogl for iOS

Header credit: Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock

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