FOOD CULTURE: Deal-driven Dining
2011 has been the year of flash sale: Groupon, Gilt Groupe, and Living Social dining. Even Open Table has joined the discount free-for-all with Open Table Spotlight. And while meal discounts used to be the domain of new and purportedly failing restaurants, we’ve seen “deals” from David Burke, Alice Waters, Mario Batali (who offered a $30K wedding at Del Posto), and Thomas Keller. But when big-name, fine-dining chefs get involved, it’s not a deal these sites are selling, it’s access—to exclusive dinners and experiences. The popularity of flash sale sites surged in the deep recession, and now that luxury goods brands don’t have stock to offer at a deep discount, sites are turning to serious restaurants and a food-obsessed consumer base to help fill their coffers. For consumers, these opportunities aren’t always a value, but with reports by Rice University of 20 percent customer return rates after using daily deals and the ever-present opportunity to up sell, it’s a marketing channel that restaurants simply can’t ignore.