Starting today, you can send your friends and family members gifts using only their email address or phone number. This new trick comes from Gratafy, a Seattle-based social gifting platform launched last year, which lets you digitally share gifts that everyone generally likes: food and drinks. The gifts come from participating restaurants and bars in Los Angeles and Gratafy’s hometown of Seattle. You can think of the service as an new take on the restaurant gift card, but one you can buy from the web or your phone, and offering a broader selection of cards than just those for big chain restaurants – like you might pick up at your local drug store, for instance.
The service is aimed at those who need to buy gifts for people who are hard to shop for, or for any other occasion where you might opt for a gift card over a physical (and let’s be honest, more thoughtful) present. Previously, users could login to Gratafy using Facebook, and their friend would then receive the gift you chose – a fruity cocktail from a favorite bar, an entree, a dessert, etc. – via email, text, or Facebook.
Participating restaurants like Gratafy because it gives them another way to sell their full-price menu items and potentially reach new users. Meanwhile, Gratafy makes its money by taking a small percentage of merchant gift revenue. It says extra dollars added to the menu price are sales tax, and they also include tip (15-20% stipulated by each merchant) in each gift.
But Gratafy’s Facebook requirement also limited how Gratafy could be used. That is, you could only send gifts to Facebook friends. Now you can send to anyone you have an email address or phone number for. Users can also choose to login using only an email address themselves, instead of authenticating with Facebook.
To date, the company has partnered with close to 250 restaurants in Seattle and Los Angeles, including Seattle’s Tavern Law, Ethan Stowell Restaurants, John Howie Steak, and Tom Douglas, as well as Los Angeles-based Paiche, The Hudson, and Sassafras among others. However, when Gratafy expanded to L.A. in August, it was reporting around 200 restaurant partners, so the service has not grown significantly on the merchant side in the year since – however, that may change soon as the company expands.
Gratafy is the kind of service that would see a lot more sales and user growth during big gift-giving seasons, like the holidays, which, according to the decorations that went up everywhere the day after Halloween, have apparently arrived. Founded by University of Washington grads, Ryan Halper and Brian Erke, Gratafy plans to expand into other major U.S. cities later this year.
It’s interesting to see how companies like this an others are leveraging email to power sharing. Square, for example, recently made it possible to quickly send others cash via email with its simple Square Cash app. Google Wallet is now bundled into Gmail for something similar. And now Gratafy is letting you send gifts over email, essentially.
The startup is competing in a tough space, where even Facebook has struggled with so-called “social gifting” and competitors like Wrapp have far more funding. (Gratafy has under $3M, while Wrapp just raised another $15M this summer). At the core of social gifting is that by making gifting easier, to some extent, you’re also removing the thought and care that goes into the gift-giving process. And despite our modern, disposable culture, that’s not something everyone is willing to do just yet.
(correction: Gratafy takes a percentage of gift sales for revenue, but claims the extra dollars it charges is for sales tax.)