Monday, 4 May 2009

The flip side of cheap meals

Today I want to provide a contrasting side to a matter we discussed here on this blog a while ago – the issue of discount restaurant vouchers.

Rita was present today when two restaurant owners spoke about those discount restaurant vouchers.

Today’s conversation proved that on the other side of the coin, they aren’t that good a deal, if you look at them from the restauranteur’s perspective.

Basically, I believe the deal is that you buy a book of discount vouchers for $50. The vouchers vary but essentially they do a ‘buy one, get one free’ meal deal. You have a main course at a restaurant and get the other meal free.

According to the two restaurants represented today, (plus a third who had previously agreed strenuously on this same issue with one of those present) there are a few generalizations staff can make about the people using these vouchers in their restaurants. Firstly they order the most minimal and cheapest food and drinks. They might only order one drink, and the rest of the time they stick with water (not the ‘paying for’ kind of water either). They rock up a lot of the time without booking. They’re not out for dinner per se – they’re just out for a cheap meal. They most often don’t disclose upfront that they are going to be using a discount voucher as part payment for their meal.

One of the restaurants has a facility on their cash register whereby they have been able to ring up the charges on these vouchers separately to other dockets, so they have kept track and can tell you instantly that the vouchers have cost them, to date, over $4000 worth of meals – that’s $4000 worth of food they have essentially given away.

The question they are asking themselves – what did we get back for that $4000 outlay of goods and services?

The other restaurant was totally full yesterday (Sunday), packed to the rafters, to quote a well known phrase. A couple arrived at 1.00, without a booking, and asked for a table. After it being established that they didn’t in fact have a booking, they were asked if they would mind waiting for one to become available. They agreed. They eventually got a table, sat down, ordered, ate their two mains, drank their water then left after using a voucher as part payment. In the meantime, the restaurant owner had turned away six tables who had subsequently arrived and wanted a meal. The restaurant had been unable to accommodate the other latecomers.

In this time of recession, every meal, every dollar, counts. If you’re knocking back full fare paying passengers at crucial times, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice as a business owner.

The voucher users get upset if they’re not treated equally along with other customers, so if it happens that they are part of a large party, and the others get a few extras (like bread rolls etc) and they don’t, then they (quite justifiably) get miffed. They don’t see it from the point of view of the business owner who is only trying to make a buck and make his business succeed in trying times. OK, so one bread roll isn’t going to break the bank – but multiply that by 60 and you might find that providing the voucher users with ‘the works’ isn’t going to help you out when the bank wants this month’s payment.

At a table of 11 people recently, they used 3 vouchers – so they managed to take up a large table, demand a lot of service from both floor and kitchen staff, order mains only then only pay for 8 mains. Many people were again turned away from the restaurant that night.

The main selling point to the participating restaurants from the company owning the rights to this latest discount offer is the potential of repeat business. The claim is that once these new customers try the food at the ‘buy one, get one free’ venue, they’ll want to return again and again. It is meant to be a great marketing tool.

The restaurant’s response to that claim now is that they would prefer to go without the customers who can only afford one main course and water. They simply can’t afford to give away that amount of food. As well, they feel that these are not the sort of diners that will return, and that they are only there for the bonus free food.

Both of these restaurants along with the third one I referred to won’t do it again. They say they don’t need that sort of business. This is not their preferred market.

58 comments:

steve said...

Just like hanging a 'Sale now on' sign out the front, or a garishly painted declaration of 'Discount meal' the voucher system just devalues what you do as a restaurant. They never work & you are right they just leave everyone feeling jipped the only ones who profit are the ones who run these schemes.
Think about it. Will someone who is promised a free meal if they buy a first really going to spend more on drinks & other dishes? No, the simple appeal is to do get fed as cheaply as possible. Will they return later when the special deal is not on, no they wont & why would they when they got it cheaper the first time?

Blue Mtns Chef said...

fully agree with all the points made.

a few years back at our last resto, we tried the 'shop-a-docket' incentives. we found much the same, people who did not bother reading the terms & conditions (valid mon-thurs only, etc), demanding more for less etc.

and the kicker was - we never saw any of those 'bargain hunters' again once the promo had expired.

so for us it was a complete waste of time & money (the marketing co. charged us $1200 for the brief campaign).

Tassiegal said...

I can see it from the resturant perspective. But I can also see it from a punters perspective (I will admit to owning one of those books and using it.).
We tried resturants that normally we wouldnt try due to the book. We were exposed to the potential of resturants in other parts of the state which made us consider travelling.
I will admit some of the deals are very much "too good to be true" and I can see how the resturant would lose money on them. I guess it is a matter of finding a balance between "advertising" and "misers looking for a cheap eat".
In the long run, I dont know if I would buy a book this year. I think most ppl I know bought one last year as it was a "new" concept for Tassie. I dont know how many will renew this year.
I personally would rather directed mailings from a central list where resturants can post "internet only" deals. Say - free entree if you order 2 main courses or something.

An Insider said...

We hate these shopper dockets.
They're for cheapskates not willing to pay what is right. its these sort of schemes that put restaurants out of business & staff out of jobs. Why dont you just point to a waiter & say 'I'm not prepared to pay your wages because I dont value you'. or to the chef 'I'm not paying full odds for your food, its your problem'.
Think about that next time you come in with your two for one offer.

Christina said...

An Insider,
I'm wondering if restaurant owners and staff are so offended by these offers, shopper dockets and vouchers etc, why go into them in the first place?
I'm sure someone, somewhere approved the offers in the first place. Why would you accept to do something like that and then moan and complain when they are used?
Why is the customer getting blamed for businesses closing and job losses? Maybe I'm missing something here. Surely the restaurant has offered these discounts in the first place.
I think the term cheapskate is a little harsh. Don't we all want to save a dollar, and if I recall the the voucher books actually cost about $50.00.
I do use vouchers when they are offered and am yet to be treate4d badly for using them.
I do return if the food and service warrants, whether I have vouchers or not. I agree with Tassiegal in that we have tried many places we probably wouldn't have if we hadn't had a voucher.
Must admit I'm definately not the type to sit back and drink water though.
I really am struggling to understand the outcry.
My husband and I love to eat out and if we can go out twice a fortnight instead of once we're very happy. Also once we bring the kids, well that's 5 meals at at least $20 each.
Must say all the vouchers we use are for counter meals. I've not used one in a restaurant and haven't purchased a book myself although have considered it.
I'm not at all impressed by being labelled a cheapskate just for taking advantage of an offer that's been made to me by the very place I choose to spend my money.
Why offer at all?

Stephen said...

Funny, I must have missed the police investigation about all those restauranteurs whose families were held at gunpoint until the restauranteur agreed to buy an entry in the book.

Stephen said...

By the way, I too use the book (even though I'm a regular restaurant goer). It prompted me to try a number of new venues.

Without the book my net restaurant spend would be less overall.

Stephen said...

This has really irritated me.

And what nonsense is this: "...that the vouchers have cost them, to date, over $4000 worth of meals – that’s $4000 worth of food they have essentially given away."Since when has the marginal cost of serving a dish been equal to the menu price for the dish? If the restaurantuer is so thick about operating costs then he's right not to have an entry in next years book - he's going to be bankrupt way before then.

Stephen said...

Then there's this bit of flim flam:

...In the meantime, the restaurant owner had turned away six tables who had subsequently arrived and wanted a meal. The restaurant had been unable to accommodate the other latecomers.

To make it worse, one of the turned away diners might conceivably have been an arab oil billionaire who maybe might have perhaps tipped with 24ct diamonds. Imagine if that had happened!!!

Damn that book - it might have cost the restaurant hundreds of thousands of dollars!!!

sir grumpy said...

Look, if you want to see the ultimate extent of these special offers, you should look at some London eating out sites.
An absolute litany of punters having troule cashing in their dockets (ie, places saying they are not valid).
Users saying if they produce docket up front they get a scaled back portion.
Restaurants saying these customers are a pain in the arse.
I won't use them because I have about 15 years ago and felt like a cheapskate and was treated like so at the restaurant.
I had a think about it and came to the conclusion they are bad news all round. But restaurants who opt to use them shouldn't then whinge...common sense tells you the lowest common factor customers (majority) will just use them as a freebie.
Those that run the scheme cash in and move to virgin territory...I think it's once bittten, twice shy from the majority of eateries and I don't blame them.

Anonymous said...

if you believe in your product, you won't need these shopper dockets. you're asking for trouble and people like stephen boyfriend of tassiegal.

Kris said...

I am with Christina, Stephen and Sir Grumpy here, I struggle to see why the punter is to blame for the Restaurateur opting to enter into one of these schemes.

Anonymous said...

Of course the customers are too blame.
Cheap cheap cheap, thats all they want, too bad about the poor sod trying to eek out a living & pay staff-I bet customers dont give a toss abourth that.
& while I'm onto it, I fail to see where all the antagonism toward restaurant & cafe owners is coming from? Is it so bad that they want to make a living? To make matters worse you lot are always constantly sniping, I wish I could have access to your places of work & give a serve & see how you like it

Kris said...

Anonymous (May 5, 4:15 PM), if the owners don't want such customers, then don't utilise the booklets/shop-a-dockets, there will be no issue then.

Such schemes are marketed to consumers as "save yourself some money", so resenting (or indeed abusing) someone who looks to do so just seems odd to me.

Stephen said...

These schemes are attractive to any restaurant looking to fill the last table. As an example, if a restaurant has 1/3rd of tables vacant on any given night, then it makes sense to offer a discount to fill those tables. The restaurant comes out ahead so long as the money received from the extra tables is greater than the marginal cost of serving them.

sir grumpy said...

Yes, but how do you plan that Stephen...a fucking roster?
Come on, are these people circling like sharks waiting for a sniff of blood.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sir G.
It seems simply opportunistic of some diners to get something cheaply & I will bet you that they dont spend one more zac than they have to.
I would also treat any docket holders with the contempt that they seem to be illicting from weary restauteurs if I were in the industry-which I am not
What other industry has to dengerate itself in order to drum up business from a parsimonious public? Not a plumber, not a sparky, nor a hairdresser or even a teacher!

Anonymous said...

Harvey norman 50% off sale, pauls warehouse everything must go go go, myers sales, car dealers, chickenfeed etc.
That answer that one for you anon 5.23

Anonymous said...

Yes but the margins are MUCH greater on all of the items in the stores you mention than they are on food anon, so you score no points there.
You do illustrate my point though, the places you mention are all about the perception of cheapness, chickenfeed being the prime example. People will pay for crap, as long as its cheap & thats why they go to chickenfeed.
Food is different. People want it cheap but then snipe about everything from the quality of it to the delivery of service.
This is why we have the battery hen conundrum that you lot conviently ignore with your quest for a newfound 'frugality' in thgese tough times.
Give me a break.
Truth is most cafe owners are afraid to charge what their producrt is worth because they know some moron will unedrcut them by a few bob & you lot will fall into a conga line of disloyalty to save a few cents-let the cafe owner meet the difference, after all, they do it for 'Love' dont they?
Cheapskates, the lot of you.

Kris said...

Crikey I hope that you're trolling, and not a representative of the industry.

Anonymous said...

No the truth is that too many people go into the hospitality business without a fucking clue. There are too many of them. If they are too afraid to charge accordingly and not smart enough to compete in tough market, then fools and money are easily parted.

Margins in bottleshops, pubs, petrol, news agencies, hotels, cleaning products, etc, theres a few with smaller margins.
Its called capitalism, great eh..

Anonymous said...

Good one Kris, a pithy comment from someone without any ownership or care of the issues facing hospitality workers-cheers for that, I guess we'' see you at the next place offering discounted coffee, dont ask where the beans are from by the way it might cause some discomfort, actually I know it wont

Anonymous said...

Last anon, go into it without a fucking clue as you say?!
I suppose you have all those clues then do you? How about enlightening us all in the matters of squeezing a living from this business?
How utterly condecending of you.

Anonymous said...

Try taking a good look around you. Don't copy everybody else, be a little more creative, keep your costs down, up the percieved value of your product, better service, advertise, train your staff.

sir grumpy said...

You gets what you pays for, as Mahatma Ghandi once said.
Or was that prays for?
Oh to be God for a day and wave a magic finger at all the greedy bastards out there.
Then deliver my commandments:
A fair shake for everybody.
A fair profit margin.
A fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
Remember profit margin is just a phrase that locks in the recipient's talent, capital risk, costs and uncertainty.
Remember customer is just a word for someone you should greet and feed like your future depended on it and because it gives you pride and satifaction to do so.
Go third and subtract.

Anonymous said...

What battery hen conundrum?

Kris said...

Anonymous (6:10 PM), if you wouldn't mind telling me your operation's name, I will more than happily steer clear of it!

In the past I have worked (at service level) in the hospitality industry, and have family members in the trade, so I more than familiar with the margins (and indeed some of the novel ways that some owners seek to narrow said margins when it comes to employment practices).

So please, save the violins, and indeed the anger and the condescension.

Anonymous said...

Taking a look through this entertainment guide I notice that there is everything from golf courses, fitness centres, hotels, cruises, beauty treatments, theaters and more.
Surely it is not just confined to food as one commenter suggests.

Anonymous said...

Stop being so santimonious Chris, I wasn't being angry I'm just disagreeing with your broadbrush & sweeping disregard for someone elses opinion. Talk about being a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Oh & just because you worked for a naono second in the service industry does not make you an expert, believe me.

Stephen said...

Sir Grumpy, a roster is fine. Something like "Discounts available on Tue or Wed otherwise pay full price".

Is that so difficult?

Stephen said...

I just noticed the text Rita has above the comment box:

Hostile or malicious comments will be deleted regardless.She's going to get RSI pressing delete on this discussion!

sir grumpy said...

Yes Stephen, I did think you thought about a sandwich board to that effect but the problem would be that the entire restaurant would be chockers with discount-voucher customers.
There wouldn't be many in willing to pay full price, knowing the great unwashed were getting a cheapie in comparison.
So that cosy little image of 66.6 per cent full being complemented by another third to take up the slack is not a goer is it? Come on.

Anonymous said...

Its quite interesting to see all of the points being so passionately argued on this topic.
From a personal perspective I can see that a restaurant would want to attract more people, but 20 years of this shit has made me aware of a few harsh truths; the main one being that they won't come when you would want them to.
By this I mean that it is human nature and fairly obvious that Friday and Saturday (when you would be busy anyway)is the same night that the vouchers will descend to feed at the discounted rate, I mean why would'nt they.

I'm not going to dispense advice, but our own promotional tack works for us.

When a customer has dined with us we give them a voucher we had printed thanking them for their custom and inviting them back at (whatever offer we are promoting) on a quieter weekday night or lunch. It also is used to invite people to our new Autumn menu, any promotion we like. And it works. Our customers feel valued and we get to put our promotions accross and direct them to try new things etc.
Not teaching anyone to suck eggs, but that and a board or sign outside tends to work. Give it a go.

Cartouche

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this discussion will lead Rita to disuade her readers from believing that a discount is an entitlement at businesses she wants them to support....

"Make sure you buy all your kitchen gear there, and tell them Rita sent you! You'll get the great Rita discount then!"

Christina said...

No one has still really answered the question of why restaurants enter into these offers and deals and then complain when people take advantage of their offer.
I'm trying hard to understand the logic here.

Rita said...

Interesting dialogue, and interestingly, points, as Steve says on his blog in his post of last night, to the great divide between customers and business people. As this was the very point of my writing that post on my blog, I'm glad everyone has had their chance to add their opinions.

There is, and that fact now stands proven if you're to believe the above comments from many, a huge chasm between a restaurant's perception and a customer's perception - of many things, not just the discount meal voucher thing.

There is an 'us' and 'them' in this equation.

I reported the conversation I was present at as being an interesting development of the discount venture which I hadn't thought about before. I can see both sides. My question, at the time, to both, was as Christina rightly also asks, why go into it initially. The answer from both was that the company salesperson was an extremely positive person who essentially wouldn't take no for an answer. Despite being knocked back on a number of occasions previously, this person persisted till in frustration, they agreed to go along with it, in the hope it would get the person off their backs!

A fine illustration of the saying about the squeakiest door getting oiled first!

I take their point about people generally wanting a bargain. I think we all can identify with that. But that doesn't mean we all prefer cheaper articles as a rule of thumb.

For example, I buy some selected home brand articles for use in cooking thinking to myself that the tomato itself didn't think to itself as it grew up "I'm going to end up in a home brand can so I won't grow as well as my mate next to me who is much redder and sweeter and juicier than me and will end up in a more expensive tomato paste" etc

Chickenfeed is good for some stuff. I don't think you can instantly diss them and never enter their portals just because you have made the moral judgement call that everything in there is shit and cheap, ergo you won't shop there.

Wrapping paper is fabulous there. I wouldn't buy it any other place. Why would you when all people do with wrapping paper is rip it up when they open a present in which it is wrapped?

Cartouche has obviously thought the whole thing through and come to a solution that works for him, and is targetted at customers who he has seen actively demonstrated in front of him (before he issued them with his own voucher) are prepared to eat, spend and return to his restaurant.

I didn't delete any of the comments, despite the fact that some were quite obviously hostile, because I think they serve to highlight people's vehement opinions on this particular topic.

I also will be sticking to my recommendation of people going to Hotel & Club to buy their kitchen items as I am genuine in my belief that you will indeed get a good price there, no matter whose friend you are. It may well increase your chances if you mentioned Rita, but if you didn't, you'd still get a good price quoted to you for your goods.

Stephen said...

'the salesman was persistent' is very weak. Face it, these restauranteurs bought a marketing package without thinking if it suited their needs, and now they're blaming everyone except themselves.

Their attitude contrasts poorly with Cartouche's well considered plan.

I'm pretty sure which one Gordon Ramsey would send home...

Christina said...

No one to blame but themselves then, I feel, yet in their frustration with their predicament they blame the very people they seek to attract in the first place.
Sucks a bit really.

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes being taken advantage of-that so hard to understand?

Stephen said...

Nobody likes being taken advantage of-that so hard to understand?Its the hypocrisy that's difficult to stomach. A business voluntarily offers a special deal to consumers, then slags off consumers for accepting the deal.

To top it all off, there's not a whiff of self-reflection or self-critisism - its everybody elses fault.

Susannah said...

Well, Rita, this certainly prompted some response!

I admit that I have one of the entertainment books, and have bought one for the coming year. I have used the "fine dining" discounts twice (both at restaurants that I have been to both before and since). I made sure that I complied with the conditions as stated in the book, which do not specify mentioning the discount when booking, but only when presenting payment (in both cases I mentioned it when requesting the bill).

My biggest saving, which has more than recouped the $50 value, was in purchasing vouchers to use at the supermarket (this was uncapped for 2008/09, but has been capped for 2009/10 - damn!!).

I can understand the frustration of some restaurants about customers who milk the system for all it is worth, and I assume that is why some have chosen not to participate for a second year. No doubt this was a sensible business decision for them.

For those who continue to participate, I will probably use a few of the vouchers to try out restaurants that I might otherwise not visit, at least for a first time. I will book before hand (it is only polite), and will mention that I intend using the voucher when requesting the bill, as required by the terms and conditions.

I don't consider myself a cheapskate. When I have used the vouchers, I certainly haven't changed my dining patterns - I have ordered additional courses, and have ordered from the wine list. In fact, I have probably diverted my "savings" on the discounted main course into selecting a more expensive wine than I would otherwise have chosen.

I respect the decision of those businesses who have chosen not to participate again. But perhaps I won't have the same incentive to visit?? (other than the ones I already know and already enjoy - they have won my business and if they continue to provide excellent service, I will continue to visit.)

As mentioned by Stephen, Christina and Kris - if the restaurant doesn't want to provide the discount, don't participate. If they do participate and find it wasn't a good move for them, they can't blame the customer for a poor business decision.

Susannah

Rita said...

If I want to eat according to my whim, I'll eat at the specific places I choose to eat, whether or not they have a 'special' going or not. I have my favourite places to eat. I don't get any discounts when I eat at those places, unless someone deliberately leaves a menu item off the bill, or gives me the gift of some product of theirs, however this is definitely not the norm. I would NEVER ask for a discount. I would never expect one. I make the choice of what and where I eat. I like that freedom of choice. I will not be dictated to by a voucher.

I want to support my local small businesses (which restaurants and cafes are) in whatever way I can. I put my money where my mouth is.
I make the deliberate choice to economise in one aspect of my life to support the other aspect of my predilection for eating great food.

I would not buy a book of vouchers.

I'm not buying into any of the above discussions about who is right or wrong. My own personal view is as stated.

sir grumpy said...

Cook things people want at reasonable prices and offer a warm welcome.
That's all you need.

Anonymous said...

You have exactly mirrored my sentiments Susannah. We have not ordered 'cheaply' and have also returned to some of the restaurants we tried as a result of the voucher intro. Everyone likes a 'bargain' and after eating at an hotel which offers a special Sunday roast we have recommended it to at least 20 friends who have all eaten there plus we have returned a number of times ourselves because they offer good service and consistently good food. There is more than one way to advertise!
J.

Susannah said...

A further note - I agree, Rita, I wouldn't be 'dictated to' by a voucher. I have dined at other places that don't offer vouchers, because I wanted to dine there (irrespective of discounts). Also, I have been a repeat diner at places that offered the voucher (bearing in mind that it can only be used once, so repeat custom doesn't get a discount). Also, sometimes I have dined at places that do offer the voucher, and have either forgotten the voucher, or not remembered until later that the restaurant in question participated. Didn't really worry me - I regard the vouchers as either an incentive to try somewhere new or as a bonus. I've more than recouped my money when all the offers are considered, so I'm not really fussed. Again, it is all a matter of individual choice, for the restaurant that participates and for the customer.

Rita said...

Thanks Susannah - I didn't mean to sound like I was bagging you, by the way. I thought your response was very sane and rational.

Maggie said...

Wow, what a can of worms.

I was at a function today, and Entertainmnt books were offered for sale. The catch? 20 per cent of the sale price went to the Heart Foundation, a more than worthy cause. Quite often the Entertainment book is used as a charity fundraiser, which is great.

I was considering buying one (charity option of course) but now I am not sure after reading these comments, which in their own well tell many sides of the argument. I think I agree with Susannah, the vouchers would not change my ordering habits, and I would probably still spend the same money in the venue ordering more wine, etc. But everyone is different....

Anonymous said...

Finally, it's not a question of whether a customer chooses to use these voucher books or not. As others have indicated, it is about the restaurant honouring with good grace THEIR business decision to participate in such schemes. I'm sick of greedy and often unscrupulous business people who pour shit on the very clients they have set themselves up to serve. Wear customer quirks with good humour and fair practices or go bankrupt and go dowm the gurgler. I have little sympathy for these whinging types.

T. said...

Tonight, i have picked up my book, flicked through it and im on the way out the door to use my 2 for 1 voucher! With EVERYONES funds a bit tight why not take up the offer! I certainly have used the voucher and returned to place after to have a 'full priced' meal. To pay $50 for the book when i know the money is going to charity! Bring on the next book so i can go to banjos and buy 2 loaves of bread for 1, go to that place i normally wouldn't or even use it to get a great deal on local attractions!
Any way im hungry, better get going!

An Insider said...

Greedy business types? last anon, for crissakes, how much money do you deludedly think is in this game?
I for one am sick & tired of tight arsed, tight lipped, parsimonious, wallet-clenchers who delight in the sport of watching eating establishments suffer, like an embryonic sociopath enjoys watchings worms squirm or ants shrivel under a magnifying glass.
As tyhe Chinese say: Death by a thousand cuts of the voucher

Anonymous said...

Insider; You are indeed right that the money, or percieved profits in this game are perhaps a lot less than the general public may assume. Its a tough business, and overheads absorbed to bring the product to the table are often overlooked.
There is a lot more to being successful, or at least making a living in an industry that has a higher casualty rate than the taliban.
I don't think that the public watch in glee over an industry fighting it out, I just think that an oversupply of any product will cause a glut, forcing prices down, simple economics that we are caught up in. The consumer is merely taking advantage of this situation, right or wrong.
If I am in a fight, then I at least like to choose the turf on which I fight, stack the odds a little in my favour and not let the numbers factor count. In other words I choose the fights I can win.
If you are suffering at the moment and you are a business owner then If you will with Rita's consent contact her through this site then I am sure she can contact me and I would be more than happy to talk to you via E-mail and see if I can help.
I do not pretend to have all of the answers, but I have been at this a long time. There may be some value in it. If on the other hand you find me a patronising twat, then fair enough.

Not the customers fault, we need them, no matter what.

Cartouche

Anon2 said...

An Insider - you sound like just the type of whinging hospitality industry person who comes with ready made "attitude" to the very people who are potentially their sources of income. Any person can hang out a shingle in the market place and offer a product to the public. The onus is on you to provide a service and product that is attractive to the potential customer. Yes, it is very difficult at present due to recession fears, but the fact remains that you are in competition with all the others who are trying to make a quid while hopefully maintaining as high a standard as possible. Many employers seem to deeply resent ordinary people trying to find value for money in these difficult times by labelling them tight arsed, unwilling to open their wallets etc. I must say that I find it difficult to sympathise with such business people. Some people are working in the wrong industry if they really believe that they can succeed when they basically do not like people and are constantly focusing on that minority of the population who are always "difficult". Without an open, interested and basically cheery disposition, you are really at a disadvantage in the hospitality industry. The customer has the advantage of choice. Ignore it at your peril!

Anonymous said...

Keeping it short and sweet -
1) Love the Entertainment book and the business it brings through the doors
BUT
2) You can always differentiate the tables that will use the card and the others that wont!
That's all.

~The Person who wont lap Rita when she comes in for dinner :)~

Rita said...

Message to Anon above - bugger!

Anonymous said...

The entertainment book brings people in to my workplace that might not usually come. We have had return business from the card as well. I think that the offers work better for some places that others (especially high end places where the $30-40 off makes it more accessable to many people without costing the establishment half of the bill)

Industry worker

stickyfingers said...

Invariably there will be different types of customers taking advantage of vouchers.

In marketing terms, employing psychological tactics is vital to these tougher times. Perceived value is a key driver, becoming increasingly important as people are losing their jobs. Whether this is done with vouchers or promotions is no different to the clientele. The most important thing is not to alienate your core customer, and to ensure you employ tactics that inspire people to return.

We've been buying the Melbourne Entertainment Book for years, first through Mr Sticky's Work Social Club, later to support our favourite charity and friends buy them to support their footy team.

Most of us probably wouldn't even use a third of the vouchers offered and that covers everthing from accommodation to drycleaning. It's cumbersome and laborious to look through, not what you'd use for a spontaneous purchase. I think it's under utilised because that is not our primary motivation in purchasing the book in the first place.

The flat two for one offers are generally found offered by franchises. The better venues cap the price of the 'free' second meal. By far the offers are 25% off, to a maximum of one third of the value of the meal.

We have friends who would not dine out at decent venues but for these vouchers. For us it means that when we see them, it's a group of up to 10 who eat three courses and consume a fair whack of grog. The discount per voucher can be up to $50 on these occasions(say $250 off a $1500+ bil), and the perception to the punters is that they have value for money. It's a simple equation.

The best course to restaurants is that if you enter into a discounting scheme or are drawing up a promotional offer, set reasonable parameters and conditions that your business can sustain. This way it is manageable and not a loss leader that goes awry.

Bri said...

I just bought one of these, and I am really really pleased with it. There are some great deals and I am very excited about going to restaurants that I would not otherwise go to, in the near future.

Something that I don't think has been mentioned above is that the book itself, right at the start, encourages:
- booking ahead
- midweek instead of weekends
- returning again after you've used your voucher
- buying entrees/drinks/desserts

People won't always follow these guidelines, I certainly intend to though. The business may lose money on the people that don't, but if they are a good restaurant with good food and service then word-of-mouth will potentially bring in a lot more customers to make up for it.

It also states very clearly that you don't have to disclose that you are using a voucher until you pay.

It's not just restaurants either - there are plenty of tourist attraction deals. Tahune, Dismal Swamp, ZooDoo, etc.

With the way things are at the moment, financially, I wouldn't spend the money on these sorts of frivolties. But perhaps my patronage may help to keep some staff employed, reduced profits and all.

I'm curious to know if the restaurants that said they won't do it again are in this year's book...