Groupon is a great way to get more for less, but it takes some digging to find the gems. We have had our fair share of being quite disappointed with Groupon induced dining experiences. Just because sushi and Mexican are great, doesn’t mean that Mexican sushi is. At the same time, we have also had some delicious, cheap meals. It’s all a matter of knowing what to look for, and here are our tips for digging out the weeds to find the flowers in the ginormous garden of Groupon.
1.Google search reviews and images (duh….)
See what other people say and eat with your eyes first. Check out Yelp for customer reviews and pictures, and always look at the restaurant website. If the pictures of the food and venue are amateur Iphone 6 quality, chances are the lack of effort and pride in the product will be reflected in the food and service.
2.Answer the question: why is this restaurant offering a Groupon?
A great restaurant with high quality food and steady customers isn’t going to offer a discount…. there’s a reason they are advertising on Groupon. However, there are a variety of reasons the establishment might be trying to generate traffic besides bad food and service. Asses the following:
· Do they advertise Seamless/other online delivery services? Perhaps sales are driven by online orders, and they are looking to fill seats. We guessed this to be the case at Mahal Tika Indian Cuisine in Williamsburg (read about out 30 under 30 assessment).
· Where is it located? If the location is inconvenient (ie In Jersey or a 15 minute walk from the train), they could be struggling to get foot traffic.
· When did if open? New restaurants might be trying to build up hype and word of mouth.
· Is the style and type of cuisine common for where it is? It could be trying to burst forward in a highly saturated market. For example, Hells Kitchen has an Asian restaurant practically every 10 feet. A year or so ago I got an incredible Groupon meal at Bann in midtown, and it worked in pushing it up the list on my Asian fare go-tos.
3.Call ahead to get a vibe for the service.
I’ve never had a Groupon dining experience that needed a reservation, but it’s a good technique for assessing the quality of the restaurant. Is the hostess helpful and nice? If he/she is blunt, short, and rude, chances are the rest of the service sucks as well.
4.Read the fine print
Can you sit at the bar? Does it include happy hour deals? Is it only valid on weekdays? Does it include alcohol? These details can trip up novice and advanced grouponers alike. At said Mexican-sushi joint (Sushi Mambo if you’re wondering), the Groupon did not cover happy hour drinks, a detail I failed to overlook. I made the case of “well if Jeremy buys the drinks and I buy the dinner, it is two separate checks and it shouldn’t matter.” My logic was sound, but the manager curtly refused. The plantain sushi rolls would have probably tasted better after a margarita….
Follow those steps, and if the vibes are right, pull the trigger and go dine out on a Groupon!
Bonus tips and advice:· If you are using a Groupon service (haircut, screen repair, etc.), call the venue first. Sometimes they will give you better deals to take out the commission Groupon gets. · There are frequently 20% sales, so keep an eye out!· Always tip based on what the bill would have been without the Groupon 🙂