|I took a friend out for dinner last Friday and thought it might be a good time to take the plunge and Groupon it. It was an £18 pound deal to get to get £46 pounds of food at a Tapas bar. My thinking went something like this. I like Tapas, the restaurant is a little out of the way but that's ok, the savings mean we can get some nice food, a good bottle of wine and try new place. So I made the booking, slightly curious about how it would all pan out.|
When we arrived, the place didn't look too appealing from the outside though it did have that kind of Film Noire dirty back alley appeal which I guess is a charm in itself. But you can't judge a book by it's cover so I made joke about it, took a mental to at least Google Earth the next blind restaurant I book and strode on in.
It was a much more pleasant experience from the inside, a friendly waitress greeted us and asked if we'd like a bottle of wine. We ordered a pretty decent bottle - upper range of their price list and chatted about the menu. When she came back to take the food order, I pointed out that we'd be using a Groupon voucher to cover part of the cost of the meal (not that it should make any difference but just as a politeness thing). I did this in a slightly awkward apologetic way, using a voucher to pay for a meal isn't something I do often and it just makes me slightly uncomfortable.
As soon as this happened though, a dark cloud came over the proceedings. The whole atmosphere of the meal changed. The face and cheery demeanor of the waitress visibly dropped. It was like I'd sucked the fun out of her. She glumly pointed out the bottle of wine we'd ordered wasn't available on Groupon so we'd have to pay for that separately. The wording of the voucher had been 'Authentic tapas for two with bottle of wine at xxx tapas bar and restaurant - value £46.00'. We also had to order the other bottle which was not on the menu but priced around £20 pounds leaving us with 26 to spend on food (when we tried it later, even my limited wine palette could tell that £20 pounds wasn't exactly fair value for it). She did actually say to another waiter passing by "it's another Groupon on table 4" which did more to make us feel cheap and dirty.
Having read about the Groupon experience from a business side, I felt some sympathy. I know that %50 - %100 of the money we paid for the voucher was going to Groupon and that Groupon customers are apparently 'tight and argumentative' - they were probably sick of people like us by now and trying to recoup some costs with the old 'cheap overpriced compulsory wine switch'. Anyway, having £26 pounds left to spend on the food, we went a fair bit over. It was decent, but I'd never go there unless they were offering a massive discount as they were. Our portions were surprisingly small, and in my new found state of Groupon paranoia, I looked around at some of the 'non Groupon’ dish sizes for a size comparison.. I hope it was just my imagination.
The meal ended up being £42 pounds + the £18 we'd paid in advance. £60 pounds for an average meal and two bottles of wine isn't great value, but more significantly, I learned the restaurant actually despised 'Grouponers' - clearly they had become jaded with the Groupon experience. Fortunately for us, we could simply scratch it from our list of restaurants to visit and forget the whole experience. As I was walking home, I went past the Tapas bar on my street that is only 3 months old but continually turns people away because they are too full. I had the realisation that good restaurants don't use Groupon because they don't have to - word of mouth is much more effective. Bad restaurants use Groupon because they have to - and any place that can discount so much for their customers makes me question how ridiculous their prices are to start. To any small business thinking about using Groupon:
1) The only reason I went there was for the discount
2) I will never go back there
3) If asked by my friends, I'd say it was overpriced (relative pricing is a powerful thing)