With "deal sites" popping up everywhere you turn and also taking some heat as of late, it's important to know that not every service is cut from the same cloth. I know this firsthand because I am the founder of BlackboardEats—a destination for food enthusiasts who want the inside scoop on restaurants and insider perks. Our content is purely editorial and our deals are designed as a win-win for both adventurous diners and tasty restaurants alike.
Our city editors are seasoned food editors who handpick every restaurant based on what we love. We then send our restaurant reviewers in anonymously and pay our own way to ensure that we truly experience the restaurant as a subscriber would. If the experience meets our expectations (more often than not they blow our socks off!), we'll offer the restaurant a feature with no strings attached. The restaurant just needs to honor the offer for 30-60 days.
If something has fallen off or the food is not as wonderful as we remembered, we do not feature the restaurant. Instead, we offer them the opportunity to advertise their restaurant in a "sponsored" email blast. In contrast, the majority of "deal sites" are always advertorial-based—where the restaurant gives a part of their revenue to the deal site (which sometimes causes more harm than good, unfortunately). By focusing on the power of editorial, a BBE feature is a great way for restaurants to not only share the love among food-enthusiasts but also make some serious moolah in the process. For example, one of New York City’s most beloved Spanish and tapas restaurants, Mercat, pulled in $155,317, while over in Los Angeles one of Mario Batali’s restaurants, Mozza2Go, profited some $380,000. Not too shabby.
Dining on a deal is par for even the most expensive palates these days.
And while everyone likes a palate- and wallet-protective deal, it's also nice to know how to use them. Dining on a deal does not a coupon-clipper make: it's par for even the most expensive palates these days. A way to, ahem, support the habit, a bragging right, if you will. But an element of grace gets lost when the value proposition is the carrot and not the restaurant. Here are a few things we've learned along the way to help you enjoy gold-plate specials like a class act:
1. Get deals for places that you actually want to try.
It's easy to get excited and click away with deals popping up in every other email, but take a moment to consider your driver: are you going after it simply because of the discount or is it an added kick in the bum you need to finally check the spot out? If the latter, click away.
2. Ditch the ADD when it comes to the fine print.
Fine print is not intended to annoy, but rather to spare you any humiliation. If you attempt to claim a lunch special during dinner, bonjour awkward! Spare yourself the stomachache and read up, buttercup.
3. Say it loud and proud.
Some restaurants like you to say your code when you check in with the host while other restaurants prefer that you tell your server. The best thing to do is offer the information to the host a la "I have a BBE code and it is..." If they say, "tell your server," simply tell your server. When you tell them is up to you, but for the love of 30 percent off, try to make sure you let them know before the bill hits your table to spare them re-printing a bill and to spare yourself a non-discounted check.
4. Channel your inner 5th grade math.
Always tip on the pre-discount total. Your server isn’t walking away with a cut of the restaurant’s traffic. If you take the time to do the proper math and tip on the amount served and not the amount charged, you'll be a class act.
5. Become a regular (if you love the place, that is).
Thank your hosts for having you and let them know you're planning to return. Restaurants take great pride in what they do. They first offered the discount so you'd fall in love. If you dig the place, let them know and tell your friends.
6. Speak before you Yelp (or blog).
It's easy these days to shun a spot publicly on the interwebs after an off night. But even the master chefs of the world have a "moment.” What’s more impactful is giving the restaurant direct feedback, so speak before you type. If you had such an astronomically disastrous evening, the restaurant may want to make good, so give them the chance. BBE food editors always vet every single restaurant pick and send writers in anonymously to ensure nothing has "fallen off." If their experience is just OK, we don't run the piece. We want to hear your good, bad and ugly thoughts, though, so spare no feelings and share away!
Maggie Nemser is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Blackboard Eats. In 2006, Maggie accepted the position as food editor for Yahoo! and Yahoo! Shine where she began to conceive of an online product that would act as a one-stop shop of highly-curated specials that bring value to both the consumer and the restaurant—and BlackboardEats was born in September 2009. The first edition debuted in Los Angeles, and the New York edition launched in January 2010.