The real Bite of Seattle

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The food critic, as seen by chefs.JPGIt began innocently enough, three decades ago, with a street festival called Bite of Chicago. Back then, Al Silverman, who owned an Olde English joint behind the Factoria Mall called Barnaby's, smelled the bratwurst...and an opportunity; he launched a modest festival at Greenlake.

These days, Bite of Seattle, still owned by Silverman family under their corporate umbrella, Festivals, Inc, takes over Seattle Center for three days at the height of summer, feeding some half-million visitors. Most of them look well-fed to start with, which doesn't prevent them from lining up for elephant ears, funnel cakes and churros.

Worse, the Silverman clan sold out this year to the single most destructive force in the restaurant industry, Groupon.

With Orwellian hypocrisy, Groupon's VP for North American Sales says: "As evidenced by the awesome restaurant and food deals featured daily on Groupon, we really love food. We're very excited about our three year commitment to celebrate the amazing food, restaurants and culinary talent of the Seattle area, and we're delighted the festival supports the great work being done by Food Lifeline to give more people in Western Washington better access to nutritious food." If only. Three years. Wow.

Let me just remind you, in case you haven't heard it here before: In the name of "encouraging new business" and "dining opportunities," Groupon caters to finicky, self-absorbed cheapskates, and preys on weak restaurants with unsophisticated management, undermining their customer base and their profitability.

Now, suddenly, Groupon has its name attached to Seattle's most bloated food event. Pass the antacids, please. And bite me.

1 Comment

Ron -

I realize you have a strong opinion of GroupOn and restaurants but at least let me point out the other side of this equation that some of your readers may have also experienced. In these difficult times, there have been several instances of certain failing restauranteurs offering incredible deals on GroupOn and other coupon offer sites and then doing a take-the-money-and-run game before they close their doors. And I've had it happen with several other service businesses as well (and I do have to give credit to GroupOn and LivingSocial and others for eating the loss for their customers). So it's actually more of a two-way street from my point-of-view as a consumer.

Perhaps a short piece on GroupOn etiquette for both parties - restaurant owners and diners - might be a good future post on Cornichon? I for one always tip well as a rule, having owned restaurants in my youth where I tried my hand at just about every function in the food chain myself for the experience. And if I'm already enjoying a great meal at a discounted price, I can afford to be even more generous especially if the service was incredibly good.

With all the noise online and offline competing for customers, you may want to tell some of your restauranteur friends about one of the most powerful rules of Marketing 101: The Power of Three. Get that customer to use your product three times and you've got their loyalty. Every major brand does that but most people neer realize it. Think about this: Most household brands start off giving a small free sample of their new product whether it's detergent, cereal or razor blade. And what do they give you with that free sample? Usually a coupon to buy the product at a too-hard-to-resist discount like 50%. And when you buy that second time, what's on the product? A smaller but still sufficiently appealing coupon (maybe 25% off). They know that once you've bought their product three times, that brand loyalty is locked in.

Getting customers in the door to try your menu out the first time is tough. But how about getting them back the second time? Why not give GroupOn customers a 25% Off Gift Certificate so they come back that second time? And maybe a "Desserts-on-Us-Next-Time!" certificate to go with their second meal to get them back that magical third time? Done correctly and carefully, a good restaurant with a great menu could expand their cusomer base with the right plan for their marketing. You have meals cooked and empty seats anyway. Why not find a way to fill them with people who might be enticed to come back?

Just sayin'...

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on July 20, 2013 9:00 PM.

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