Groupons, coupons and KGB deals

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We all get them. Not a day goes by without some deal or other landing in your inbox. These eating out deals have become de rigeur for any restaurant, hotel or bar eager to increase their footfall or launch a new restaurant. Admittedly I was quite skeptical to begin with – after hearing horror stories where the real menu is hidden away and the voucher menu is a shadow of the real food on offer, we gave them a wide berth.

But then a couple landed that looked quite good: Chateubriand at Anthony’s, dinner for two at 42 The Calls caught our eye and we toddled along to be pleasantly surprised. Not exactly blown away, but satisfied all the same. OK, there is a set menu for the deal – which usually contains dishes from the main menu and actually represents good value. Where they make up the shortfall is on the wine, the water for the table (unless you request tap like we do, ha) and other extras that we inevitably order.

J has also dabbled in a few afternoon tea deals which have also demonstrated good value. I’m told that if a restaurant gets the calculations wrong on a deal i.e. too many vouchers and too many takers it can cost them dearly. On the whole though as a consumer its a good thing to drive trade and competition and as long as the product is right at the end of it, it will drive trade and succeed.

Yesterday we used a voucher we had for River Plate in Leeds, an Argentinian steakhouse in The Calls area of the city. It was a two course deal for two people for the ridiculously low price of £17 or so, representing very good value as the food we ate would have cost us just shy of £49. Of course we had some wine and coffee which cost us £27  – and the food was good, with a short selection of main menu dishes including Sea Bass and Sirloin mains. The place was empty it being a mid week mid afternoon, so the deal is at least filling the odd gaps and I expect they get a lot of people cashing in their vouchers on an evening, with steak more a night time affair.

My conclusion is that deals are good to stimulate trade in difficult times but as diners we need to tread carefully as you can end up in a place that you wouldn’t entertain simply because there’s a deal on. On the whole we’ve been happy with ours but not blown away and I do think owners need to be careful that the first experience of their restaurant or hotel might be via a deal and if it’s not a good one, you’ve lost potential customers in the future.

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