A mobile dining app, which launched in Bethlehem on Friday, may not solve all of the world's problems, but it aims to solve some issues for its two target audiences – restaurants and those who visit them.
SpotLuck, founded in Bethesda, Md., in 2014, operates in more than 120 metropolitan areas along the East Coast. It wants to help couples find “a good place to eat tonight” while filling up restaurants on the days and times they could use the extra customers.
SpotLuck Inc. founder Cherian Thomas said it’s a question couples have been asking since the dawn of restaurant dining.
“Where do you want to go for dinner tonight?”
SpotLuck helps by making a game of the process with a spinning wheel that offers discounts to some of the couple’s favorite nearby restaurants.
“I like to say ‘SpotLuck – saving relationships since 2014,’ ” Thomas quipped.
Thomas said the app is different from other couponing promotions because it has an algorithm that tracks when a participating restaurant could most use the extra customers.
For example, if a restaurant is generally slow for dinner on Tuesday nights, the app might offer a deeper discount for dining that night.
If it’s raining or the weather makes leaving the house less attractive, it sends out bigger discounts to local restaurants to give people the incentive to dine out.
“It’s not just a coupon floating out there,” Thomas said. “What we wanted to do is bring dynamic pricing to the restaurant industry, let them change prices to maximize their profitability.”
CONTROLLING THE OFFERS
The ability to control when and how discounts are offered was a big selling point to Chaz Patrick, owner of Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Pub, one of the 13 Bethlehem restaurants participating in the SpotLuck app.
“I told them I didn’t want to be giving away 20 or 30 percent discounts on a busy Friday or Saturday night, but they guaranteed that wouldn’t happen with this. It’s the way it’s designed,” Patrick said.
He also said that having the promotion app-based appeals to his core customers, which tend to be younger people and college students.
“Everything for them is mobile,” Patrick said. “That’s how I reach them.”
CUSTOMIZED TO THE MARKET
Thomas said one of the things that sets apart SpotLuck is the way it works in each individual market.
The hiring of Michael DeCrosta as SpotLuck’s local partner in Bethlehem is one example of the different way the company is going about growing its footprint.
Rather than sales or marketing, DeCrosta’s background is in urban planning and economic development.
That’s because the company is looking to build up an overall restaurant scene in a community, rather than just filling a lot of seats in one restaurant on one night. The goal is to get people to try new things and build long-term customer relationships.
EASTON, ALLENTOWN ARE NEXT
DeCrosta said getting to work for SpotLuck seemed like a great opportunity.
“It’s a fun way to do what I was already doing, which is working with small businesses and trying to help them,” he said.
Meanwhile, he and SpotLuck aren’t done growing in the region.
Already available in Doylestown, the company has its eye set on Easton, with a rollout tentatively planned for next month. Allentown then would be next, DeCrosta said.
Thomas said he expects to find success in the Lehigh Valley. He noted that the most recent Pennsylvania area he launched the app in is already quite successful. Since the app began operations in State College in January, it has signed up more than 14,000 users.
Bethlehem restaurants participating in the SpotLuck dining app:
<Corked Bar, Grill & Nightclub.
<Molly’s Irish Grille & Sports Pub.
<Nawab Indian Restaurant.
<Talavera Mexican Grill.
<The Bayou Southern Kitchen and Bar.
<The Broadway Social.
<Tocci’s Tailgater’s Pub and Grill.
<Sal’s Brick Oven Pizza.
<Villa Vita Brick Oven Pizza.