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How NYC Restaurateurs Handle the Groupon Conundrum

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During the meteoric rise of discount site Groupon and its dozens of copycats like Village Vines, Gilt City, and BlackBoardEats, many an article has questioned whether or not this is actually sustainable or good for businesses. Today the Times, which, by the way, is starting its own line of coupons for dining and shopping, gets some major New York restaurateurs on the record about the costs and advantages of participation:

Ed Brown, Ed's Chowderhouse, CON: "The discount doesn’t bring any more money to the bottom line. There is no way you’ll ever make money on them, and we didn’t...So then what’s the sense of it? You might as well pay them a few dollars and ask them not to come to your restaurant."

Michele Casadei Massari, Piccolo Cafes, PRO: "Think of how much it would cost you to hire public relations people, though you’re never sure what media will be interested...But Groupon gave us a massive marketing campaign that a small business like ours would never be able to afford."

Rep for Marc Murphy, Landmark, CON: "...the customers who are paying full price are subsidizing the discounters. So how long does it take for patrons to think, 'Why should I ever pay full price?'"

Rick Carmac, Fatty Crab/'Cue, PRO/CONFLICTED: "The wisest way to look at it is as a marketing cost...We used Groupon once, but it was not our demographic, it was the lower end of the dining scale." He now uses Village Vines "to fill Fatty Crab seats in slack times."

Monica Byrne, Home/Made cafe in Red Hook, CON: "When I go out to eat, I won’t use a coupon — the whole thing is getting over on somebody, and it feels yucky to me."

Lori Mason, Klee Brasserie, CON/CONFLICTED: "Klee Brasserie has offered discounts on sites that included Open Table, Gilt City, BlackboardEats, VillageVines, Groupon and DoodleDeals. 'But it’s hard to know how any of it pans out,' she said."

So sure, do it if your restaurant is struggling and you need the marketing. But don't expect the coupon clippers to come back and pay full price.
· Wise for Some Restaurants, Coupons Are a Drain at Others [NYT]
· Restaurateurs Concerned About Rise of Discount Sites [~ENY~]

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