A new betting app lets you bet against your friends with food & drinks
Today I’m speaking with Troy Lenihan, CBO of FoodFight, which is a betting app used to place bets using food as currency. How fun is that as a concept? Now, there is no shortage of innovation in the betting space, and as sports betting becomes increasingly more mainstream, the question is if FoodFight will be one of the apps that betting fans will embrace. I, for one, love the idea and reached out to Troy to find out more about their upcoming plans.
Can you explain why we need another betting app and how yours is different? What is FoodFight?
Lenihan. Let’s paint a brief picture of the current landscape of sports gaming and betting in the U.S. With an impressive number of roughly 200 million sports enthusiasts nationwide, it is noteworthy that only a quarter of American adults have participated in sports betting. Adding to this observation, there are 55 online sportsbooks operating in the U.S., and if you include the numerous DFS and similar sports betting apps, it’s evident that the market is quite saturated.
However, a closer look reveals a conspicuous lack of product differentiation, specifically in the user experience, and innovation in prize types. This presents an invaluable opportunity for disruption and a chance to attract a larger share of fans to the sports betting market, an opportunity that we at FoodFight are keen to seize.
Our unique approach leverages an activity that fans already enjoy with their friends, family, and colleagues: friendly, low-stakes sports wagers for food and beverages. Instead of cash, our platform uses food and beverages as the betting currency between users. The result? Winners eat, while losers pay!
We noticed a gap in the market where sports betting and food consumption intersect. Most fans typically enjoy sports with food, and many appreciate a food-centered bet. Yet executing such wagers can be cumbersome, requiring multiple steps and platforms. Traditionally, you need to exchange money either physically or digitally through an app like Venmo. Next, you have to place an order with a waiter, bartender, or via a delivery app, then pay and wait for your order. FoodFight streamlines this process. Users set up a FoodFight, choose the sport, predict the outcome, select a restaurant and the menu items they want to wager, then challenge a friend or get matched with a stranger. We coordinate with the restaurant to handle the rest – payment and order fulfillment.
We firmly believe that the sports betting industry is ripe for alternatives to traditional cash betting. An alternative that redefines the consumer’s psychological approach to sports betting, lowers entry barriers for everyone from casual sports followers to the most passionate fans. We’ve discovered that betting another person for a beer, cocktail, or appetizer repositions sports betting in the consumer’s mind, dismantling potential risk aversion and making the industry more approachable. FoodFight makes sports betting not only more accessible but also a more social experience.
How did you come up with the idea for FoodFight?
Lenihan. The concept of FoodFight, funny as it might sound, has been an ongoing practice for our co-founders, and likely for many sports fans, long before the brand existed. In our college days, we nurtured a friendly rivalry as I cheered for the Green Bay Packers and Filip, my co-founder, rooted for the Chicago Bears. During Packers vs. Bears games, we’d wager against each other. But instead of staking $25 cash as college students on a tight budget, the loser would bear the cost of the pizza for the game, or the case of beer.
Several years later, we stumbled upon threads titled “Pizzabet Threads” on the FantasyFootball subreddit. Users would propose wagers equivalent to the cost of a pizza delivery, aiming to find another user who’d bet against them. Users matched via comments then moved to DMs to swap Venmo handles or delivery addresses. Hundreds of these bets were happening each week during the NFL season. Unfortunately, due to issues like fraud and account manipulation, these threads were discontinued after a few seasons, and no similar platform surfaced in their wake.
Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2021. Restaurants were struggling to draw in customers for in-person dining. Around this time, Filip was pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Chicago and had access to invaluable resources to learn about entrepreneurship. During this time, it occurred to him that a product like Pizzabet Threads could not only help revive in-person restaurant patronage but also cultivate social engagement and foster lasting connections among fans. He reached out to me, who also has a robust background in restaurant operations and management, and proposed we build this business together. Thus, FoodFight was born.
When are you planning to go live and in which states or cities?
Lenihan. FoodFight is active in two cities – our hometown of Chicago and New Orleans. Both these cities share an immense passion for their respective sports teams and boast impressive food cultures, on top of having legalized sports betting. In addition, Filip recently moved to Indianapolis, another sports-oriented city with a rich array of food establishments that we’re eager to tap into.
Our Chicago base has allowed us the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from a diverse set of partners across different establishments. This has enabled us to understand their challenges and work towards delivering solutions that seamlessly fit into their operational environments. We’re in the process of developing a turnkey solution that facilitates the rapid onboarding of new partners, potentially getting them up and running on our platform within 24 hours. This advantage paves the way for rapid growth in our partner network.
Initially, our focus was on urban markets where we have substantial networks. However, as FoodFight sets its sights on expansion, we’re now shifting our attention towards enhancing our presence in college towns – specifically those hosting BIG10 campuses across the country. That being said, we remain open to partnerships in non-target markets as well. If you’re interested in exploring how FoodFight can become a part of your establishment, we invite you to get in touch with us!
There is currently a waiting list to join, or can folks use FoodFight today? What has been the interest so far and how many people are eager to sign up?
Lenihan. During the 2022-2023 sports season, FoodFight operated a beta version of our service and successfully carried out over $10,000 in menu item sales. Interestingly, 87% of these transactions involved returning customers, which is a testament to the product’s popularity. However, over the summer, we temporarily paused our services to focus on enhancing our technology in preparation for the upcoming launch of our mobile applications.
We do have a waitlist for individuals interested in accessing our mobile application and for establishments looking to join our growing partner network. You can join our waitlist on our website – getfoodfight.com. Without any formal marketing or awareness campaigns, our user base and waitlist community has organically grown to nearly 800 members. Additionally, over 50 establishments and locations have expressed interest in integrating FoodFight’s services. We’re looking forward to welcoming them into our community soon.
Are you seeking funding or other forms of partnerships/sponsorships?
Lenihan. Currently, we are in the process of raising a $500k pre-seed round of funding with the primary aim of investing in our technology stack and to execute our go-to-market strategy. This capital will enable us to pursue key integrations that will unlock scale, and allow us to pilot services for new verticals that will significantly enhance FoodFight’s enterprise value, such as delivery and in-stadium services. We’re particularly keen to attract investors with substantial experience in customer innovation in the food service industry, food and beverage marketing, and of course the sports or gambling sectors.
When it comes to partnerships, we’re perpetually on the lookout for potential partner establishments – sports bars, taverns, and restaurants – that could benefit from FoodFight to enhance their customer experience. We’re currently operating in the Chicago, New Orleans, and Indianapolis markets, but we welcome interest from establishments regardless of their location. We’re also open to partner with other platforms or services, where we can offer mutually beneficial value adds to our respective ecosystems.
From a sponsorship angle, the FoodFight platform offers a unique avenue for food and beverage brand campaigns seeking to target sports fans. A notable example of this was our dual, digital and physical campaign with Maker’s Mark during the Super Bowl. We promoted Maker’s Mark across our web application while also interacting with patrons in-person throughout the game, offering samples of Maker’s Mark to those who engaged with FoodFight. As of now, we’re actively looking to fill sponsorship slots for the upcoming NFL and CFB seasons, set to kick off in late August 2023.
What is next for FoodFight? What’s your ultimate goal?
Lenihan. Our immediate focus is on refining our product and platform in preparation for our mobile application launch slated for the fall football season this year. We’re looking forward to an exhilarating next 12 months, with pent-up demand from establishments across our active markets that we’re eager to bring onboard.
Furthermore, we’re exploring FoodFight’s value proposition and model in the delivery and in-stadium verticals. As I previously mentioned, one of our key objectives over the next year is to roll out FoodFight across a number of BIG10 campuses.
At the core, we have two overarching goals for FoodFight:
First, we believe FoodFight will be the first sports and food super app – where we reach and engage fans wherever they consume sports and food – be it at home, in a restaurant, or at a stadium. Our vision is for FoodFight to be the go-to platform for social, friendly competition that fosters local connections and creates unforgettable real-life experiences, while also building digital communities through fun and engaging content and features.
Second, we strongly believe that FoodFight can be catalyst for positive change. While we see an incredible commercial opportunity in front of us, as our business grows and scales, we are also committed to giving back to our local communities, addressing critical issues like food hunger. Currently, we run the #FoodFight4Charity initiative, where we challenge influencers and celebrities to FoodFights involving large scale food orders. Winners of these FoodFights pick local shelters or food-focused organizations in their community, and #FoodFight4Charity losers donate agreed upon items thereby directly benefiting those in need. This is just an example of something we’re doing today, but have the intention on growing upon as we grow our users, partners and community.