Eat More, Spend Less
A new slew of deal-focused websites are trying to make dining in Philly less expensive and help restaurants get customers though the door.
At Restaurants.com, the deal is pretty straightforward: Shoppers pay $10, and in return they can get up to $25 worth of food at hundreds of local eateries. These are one-day specials (but can be bought at anytime). The hope is not that the restaurants see a one-day boost of customers, but that scrupulous diners will make a return visit — even if they have to pay full price. Many big name restaurants are missing from the site, but neighborhood joints, like South Philly’s new Wishing Well, are prolific. “The coupons are a great way to get publicity and convince skeptical diners to try a new place,” says Wishing Well marketing manager Vicki Cuce. “It’s a cost-efficient way to win favor with customers.”
Groupon.com has a slightly different, community-oriented approach (and has been the most visible of these discount websites). Every day the site offers one deal — ranging from restaurants to private training sessions to spa treatments — that usually involve buying a gift certificate at half price. (Example: Last month, $25 got you a $50 prix fixe dinner at Water Works.) But the website’s slogan, “Collective Buying Power,” is also its catch. There is a customer threshold that must be reached for any deal to be valid (usually around 100 people). If less than the allotted number buy in, the deal is a no-go and money is refunded. This ensures, theoretically, that the cut in price by the restaurant will be made up for in quantity.
But so far, it’s been really successful. Nearly 2000 people bought that Water Works dinner, and in February more than 400 people bought a groupon for Cork restaurant in South Jersey.
While it is no doubt a cheap way to get people in the door, jury’s still on out whether it cheapens the product. Thoughts?