Ever since Google tried to buy Groupon for a reported $1 billion last year the buzz has been incessant around the group discount site. Now, with rumors flying about a public offering later this year and more big tech companies trying to get into the Internet coupon game, it seems that the only people not all that excited about all the hype are those in the food service industry.
That’s because it’s hard to find a restaurant that has good things to say about their experiences with Groupon. The discounts are steep, the customers usually never come back after they redeem their coupon, and restaurants run the risk of upsetting regular customers when the house is packed with one-timers.
The problems presented by Groupon for restaurateurs prompted a Portland, OR owner to create his own coupon site, called ZapHour. The site functions a lot like popular travel industry sites like Hotwire.com in that it addresses a perennial restaurant problem: how to get butts in seats NOW, when it’s slow, not on Saturday night, which has been booked for months already?
ZapHour does this by letting restaurants be very specific with their offers. Unlike Groupon, which decides the discount amount and usually makes coupons redeemable for a full year after issue, ZapHour lets a business owner create deals for a short time frame on specific days that can only be redeemed a certain number of times.
That means if you’re really slow on Tuesday night, you can send out a coupon for that night and try to drum up some quick business. On Friday, when you’ve got a packed house of full-paying regulars, you don’t have to worry about a bunch of foodie nomads armed with 50% off coupons clogging your tables.
The site has signed on 12 food service businesses in the Portland area so far and has a patent pending for the concept. What have your experiences with Groupon been like? Would you support a ZapHour concept if it was available in your area?