Marketplace: University students create coupon coasters for Park City restaurants
As regulars at Park City Mountain Resort, Austin Scaccianoce and Aaron Dobron are frequently asked by tourists where they should grab a bite to eat after they leave the mountain. The two college students figured they would create a product that answered that question for them.
Scaccianoce and Dobron, seniors at the University of Utah, recently partnered with a handful of Park City restaurants to create a collection of coasters that double as discounts at some of the area’s top restaurants. The two seniors named their fledgling company MounTins.
The coaster coupons are available for purchase at some Park City stores and online, and Dobron and Scaccianoce said a couple property management companies have purchased them to place inside their units for guests to use.
The coasters, which are kept inside of a square tin, have photos and facts about some of Dobron and Scaccianoce’s 10 favorite restaurants in town. Each coaster can be used to get $10 off at the restaurant featured on the coaster.
Dobron and Scaccianoce came up with the idea a couple years ago. They saw a problem — tourists not knowing where to eat when they were in town — and figured they would try to solve it. They researched the existing options for visitors, including online search services and local coupon books, and decided to come up with a different solution.
Last year, Scaccianoce and Dobron spent weeks talking to locals and visitors on the street and touring the restaurants themselves, in search of the best ones in town. Then, they asked which ones would be interested in a new experiment.
They found a range of locally owned restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner that served a variety of food.
“We really tried to have one-pack-has-all type deal,” Scaccianoce said.
They settled on the idea of a coaster because coasters fit in a restaurant setting and are big enough to include more information than a traditional coupon, Dobron said. They drew up primary designs for coasters and made prototypes out of stacked paper in order to show the participating restaurants.
Then, they spent six months perfecting the design before starting to sell the products around town.
Dobron and Scaccianoce said they are excited to see one of their ideas take off. The pair met in a design class at the university a couple years ago and have embarked on different entrepreneurial endeavors throughout the years. None of the projects have materialized into scalable businesses.
Scaccianoce said it has been fun to put in hours of work and see a product go to market, rather than just receive a grade for his work.
“It went from an idea and, within one year, we are starting to make sales. It feels really good,” he said.
But they are still bootstrapping it. Scaccianoce and Dobron assemble the tins themselves at the university. When they get in an order of the coasters, tins and stickers, they invite friends over and bribe them with pizza to help put the tins together for a few hours.
“We’re students, so we don’t have a lot of money to throw into this,” Dobron said.
But they are happy to put in the hours to create a product they say helps visitors and local businesses in Park City.
They plan to add a digital component to the business so guests can view videos of the restaurants before visiting them. Dobron said they hope to soon bring the idea to other ski towns in the Mountain West.
Now, when they are on the lift and a tourist asks where they should grab a bite to eat, the two business partners say they are eager to show off their product.
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Another ski season is in the books, and much to the relief of the restaurant industry, the outlook, like the weather, is looking sunny.