Who is cooking up the best dining deals? Top sites catering to the sophisticated palate

If you’re anything like me, your inbox is probably full of opportunities that inspire you to eat out, travel and shop. With so many sites for restaurant deals popping up, diners have no reason to pay full price again. The same is true for restaurants when it comes to how they approach marketing.  The influx of group buying, deal of the day and flash sales sites has changed the way consumers make purchasing decisions.   Even the big spenders are deal hungry and want to know they’re getting the most bang for their buck. This has also changed how restaurants are marketing themselves. The good news for them is that attracting new customers and filling table inventory has never been so effective.  With no money down, they can now get new customers and fill inventory at times when tables would otherwise be going empty.

Which sites are taking dining deals a step further and acting as a true marketing partner to restaurants? We are now seeing models that are encouraging diners to not only act on a great discount, but taking them through the reservations process to commit to a dining experience. When you look at the deal of the day or group buying sites, this is not always the case, and there are many times when vouchers never get redeemed (according to some sources can be a ‘substantial number’) and the restaurant loses out on that new customer.

Let’s run through sites foodies and restaurants can tap into:

Make a reservation and ensure a discount:
VillageVines: Launched last May, this is one of the hottest new sites out there. The site lists dozens of top restaurants in five cities, all enabling members to get up to 30% off their total check. The site makes money by charging members a $10 fee for each reservation. Restaurants can list dates, and times they need to fill inventory and at the same time they are attracting top quality diners. The best part is, no coupon is required. This is always a hassle when redeeming from other sites. There seems to be plenty of choice with table inventory. This model incentivizes diners to spend more when they know they are getting a discount off their check. Restaurants listed are all very good quality.  I experienced this myself at Pranna last weekend and it was excellent.  We saved about $30 on our check.


DineTonite: Launched last month, the site currently focuses only on New York restaurants and offers real time reservations and discounts up to 40%. Diners pay $5 per reservation. Like Village Vines there is no group element required to tip the deal.

DineTonite Email

Flash sale sites/Limited time sales:

OpenTable Spotlight: We all know that OpenTable offers booking technology for many restaurants, but last year they launched Spotlight, highlighting credit for credit deals at top restaurants. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of deal inventory, but when you see a deal it is usually very good. Late last year, they went global and acquired UK-based TopTable enabling them to tap into international revenues, and enabling diners to book restaurants in the UK and Ireland.

Blackboard Eats: This a good option for foodies. You can get up to 30% off top restaurants. There are limited listings and they are only active in three cities: LA, New York and San Francisco. When you book through BBE, they will text you the code to tell the restaurant, diners need to remember to tell their servers what the code is to get the discount.

GiltCity: Amongst other local deals, you will find a few diner’s delights. Gilt only focuses on premium locations. Most deals will get you up to 50% off. Members need to print the voucher and take it with them to the restaurant.

Bloomspot: Currently offers deals in 8 cities. Restaurant offers are amongst other categories you’ll see in your inbox each day. On the site you can sift through offers for both casual and fine dining categories. Definitely keep an eye out on this site for interesting and new great dining options. After buying the deal you will get a ticket to redeem it at the restaurant.

Group buying sites:

Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and others offer credit for credit deals. They include restaurant deals amongst a large array of spa services, activities, entertainment and travel. These sites do not tend to satisfy the discerning foodie as the deals tend to be more run of the mill restaurants and pricepoints are lower.  Occasionally you can find something good.

Travelzoo Local Deals: Travel deal publisher, Travelzoo, launched Local Deals last August.  Instead of offering credit for credit vouchers, Travelzoo curates a specific deal with the restaurant which is normally inclusive of several courses.  They do not publish dining deals each day, opting for releasing promotions ‘only when they find a deal that is good’. They focus on top restaurants and also tap into their travel contacts for access to normally pricey restaurants at four and five-star hotels.

Zagat Exclusives: (powered by DealOn): Last year Zagat chose DealOn to provide a white label solution for deals called Zagat Exclusives. If you sign up for DealOn you can get these deals amongst their other offerings. Like Groupon and others these are credit for credit deals.

If you don’t want your inbox to get drowned every day  and you’re not interested in other activities, then I’d recommend you sign up for VillageVines, Blackboard Eats and OpenTable’s Spotlight. Travelzoo Local Deals for restaurants are very good for the occasional deal and Bloomspot is also a good as they are focusing both on fine dining and casual eats.

Have I missed a site that you think should be discussed? I would love to hear about it. Please post below!

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2 Comments on “Who is cooking up the best dining deals? Top sites catering to the sophisticated palate”

  1. Dave Pinsen March 29, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Mindy,

    One site that may not be active in the NYC area yet is Try It Local (I heard about it from a Louisville, KY-based entrepreneur named Andy Swan who is an angel investor in it.

    Also, please consider loading Disqus here for comments? It would make it much easier to comment here.

    • Mindy Joyce March 29, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Thanks Dave. Looks like an interesting site. Good to know.
      Will check out Disqus. Thanks for the reminder!

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