Do Restaurants and Coupons Work?

With the immediacy of the Internet and social media, getting deals on just about everything has never been easier. Companies actually post coupons and deals in plain sight for those that “Like” their Facebook page. Or, even better, they send them directly to your email inbox if you sign up for their weekly newsletter. Some even go so far as to have a page for coupons, discounts, and deals right on their website. As amazing and accessible as some of these coupons are, are there places where coupons or discounts don’t belong? Like, let’s say, a restaurant?

If you’ve been on the internet in the last couple of years then chances are you’ve seen coupons and deal websites like Groupon or LivingSocial. These sites are notorious for offering deep discounts for professional services like carpet cleaning, hair cuts, and also restaurants. More and more often restaurants are popping up on the list of offers.

These coupons are a great way to get people to try out a new restaurant. Offering deals like “spend $10 and receive a $20 voucher to spend on dinner” makes people more apt to try something new. It’s a great idea but, does it work?

With these deal sites taking a portion, and the restaurant receiving a portion, is it worth it for the restaurant? How much do they actually make on the meal?

Often times, to make up for the discount, restaurants will include a “fine print” that requires customers to spend a certain amount over and beyond the amount the voucher is good for. For example on the $20 voucher, the customer must spend $40. Other times, an automatic gratuity is added to the bill. Again, for example, an 18% gratuity is required if using one of these vouchers.

Customers will obviously not want to start off the night informing their waiter of their coupon for fear they’ll get poor service. And, a customer who is just wanting to try the new restaurant may be unaware of the “fine print” until they get the bill and it went from the $10 spent on the voucher to an additional $35 after tip. Now, if the customer wasn’t happy with the new restaurant, they’ve become extremely unhappy.

So the question becomes: who gets the better deal if a customer uses a voucher or coupon? The restaurant or the customer?

What are your thoughts? Do vouchers belong in restaurants or should they be left to services and retail stores?

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