I tried a new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale thanks to a Groupon offer that I purchased last week, and in the process found out something fascinating about the restaurant’s experience. It started with the mom of a Groupon executive, and ended with 431 people coming in the door … and the restaurant owner comparing the results to a coupon she advertised in the local newspaper.
Let’s start at the beginning. When I got the offer this week for On The Menu Café, I jumped on the deal. The restaurant had two things going for it: It was two blocks from my favorite comic shop, and it served organic food (which I didn’t know until I read it in the offer).
When I spoke with the owner, she told me that a Groupon exec from Chicago was visiting his family in Fort Lauderdale when his mother suggested they visit the new restaurant. He did, and thought the food was so good that he wanted to help the new business by sending a few hundred customers their way. Groupon normally doesn’t take new restaurants. The number of Groupon walk-ins can be overwhelming if the restaurant is not experienced enough to handle it. The exec thought this particular restaurant could, and that the experience would be great for Groupon customers. (Having eaten there, I agree. The food is exquisite. It’s the kind of place you hope catches on so that you can keep returning. I checked in on Facebook to help spread the word, too. )
I asked the owner about her experience with Groupon. The deal was offered on Jan. 17th, and they sold 431 Groupons. She said that they’ve already, in just one week, had a few people come back a second time. Regarding the visits when a Groupon was redeemed, she said they hadn’t made or lost any money, and that she was very happy to know that 431 people would try her food, maybe more if you count the friends they bring along.
Here’s the clincher – and a bad one at that for the local newspaper, the Sun-Sentinel. She compared her Groupon experience to the $1,000 she spent with the paper to put a Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon in the Clipper. She said four coupons were redeemed, costing her $250 per table served.
When I got home, I read an article about Groupon on Mashable.com in which founder Andrew Mason indicated that he thought Groupon knock-offs were having trouble reaching high quality advertisers when compared to Groupon. I won’t argue with this. I see Groupon as the Rolls-Royce of daily deals, but there’s a huge share of market that can be profitably captured in the local deals space when you compare the performance gap between a locally distributed coupon book to Groupon. The urgency and scarcity associated with these daily deals, reinforced by a large e-mail database of deal seekers, make them very attractive to local publishers.