The number of apps that allow hungry Richmonders to have food delivered, or to reserve a table to eat out, are a dime a dozen these days. But a relatively unknown app that’s making its debut in the Richmond market today is bringing something fresh to the table.
Spotluck, a smartphone app that allows, diners to spin a virtual wheel, earning them up to 35% off at one lucky “hotspot.” While users can’t choose the heavily-discounted restaurant they land on, setting preferences and parameters within the app will narrow down the selection of the options shown. The remainder of participating restaurants will provide diners with at least a 10% discount.
In short, if you’re willing to roll the dice and perhaps try a new spot you don’t normally frequent, this app could be a fun way to save some dough, and could certainly help solve the “what should we eat tonight” dilemma that many couples and families face on a daily basis.
Communications Director David Klotz says Spotluck was founded on the premise that restaurant prices should fluctuate to increase traffic when business is slow. The provided incentives are based on a variety of factors that impact restaurant occupancy, including day, time, and local weather.
“Our incentives are calculated based on proprietary software that takes all the aforementioned factors and more into account,” Klotz said in an email to RVAHub. While restaurants don’t control the discounts themselves, they have access to a support team that can make changes to the incentives on the fly if need be, if, say, a certain restaurant was getting packed out due to the discounts offered.
“[T]he algorithm takes into account historical data for that specific day/time of year, so it’s extremely rare that a restaurant requires a tweak to their discounts,” he continued.
As of today, 31 locally-owned restaurants in Richmond have signed onto the Bethesda, Maryland-based company’s platform. Launch partners in the program include The Savory Grain, Southern Railway Taphouse, Kitchen on Cary, District 5, and The Pig & The Pearl, with more to come. So far, 1,300 restaurants nationwide have signed on and the company is enjoying a ride as the current number one app in Apple’s App Store’s Dining category.
“Richmond’s downtown area is bolstered by a booming dining scene,” Spotluck CEO Cherian Thomas said. “We’re looking forward to helping the city leverage the emphasis on local dining.” He says he hopes the app will help to continue to grow the area’s small businesses.
If you’ve ever redeemed a Groupon or LivingSocial deal at a restaurant, you know it can sometimes be a pain, or maybe the staff didn’t know how to key it in. Klotz says the company is training all launch partners on the app and its use this week to avoid problems such as those.
“We train all our restaurant staff on the app upon launch, which our team is doing today and tomorrow,” he said. “Confusion is hard to come by, as discounts are redeemed simply by showing your server the coupon page after checking-in (through GPS verification).”
Plus, unlike deal sites, Spotluck partners have contracts with the company, so he says management is always available.
Want to know how to score the best deal? Klotz gave us a peek behind the curtain at how some of the discounts are calculated:
- Weather – When it is raining/snowing, discounts will increase by 5%, but once it stops they will fall again
- Time of day – Discounts are higher between 3:00 – 5:00 PM than the rest of the day (early bird specials)
- Day of the week – Discounts on a Monday are higher than a Saturday (because…Monday)
- Day of the year – If a certain day, say Labor Day, drew a high volume of diners in 2017, the Labor Day 2018 discount will be lower
- Popularity score – Restaurants are rated on their popularity to determine their maximum “hotspot” discount
Per Virginia ABC laws, drinks can’t be discounted–only dine-in food. The discounts can’t be combined with happy hour prices, and discounts on food are capped at $50. Still, it’s a great way to save a few bucks when eating out. Just be sure to tip your server on the pre-discount amount. They’ll thank you for it.
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