Daily Deals for Dining: Groupon and its many imitators


Everyone loves a bargain.

Just 21 months old, the online social shopping service Groupon has signed up 12 million subscribers, adding nearly two million more each month. It’s grown to more than 1,000 employees, has been profitable since June 2009, and recently attracted a $135 million dollar round of investment from the venture capital group behind Facebook. (Gigabiting first looked at the Groupon phenomenon when it reached the one million subscriber mark)

A brief explanation (in case you’ve been missing out):

Each day Groupon sends out an offer to its subscribers. The deal is usually a discount of 50% or more off of products or services, heavily skewed toward dining and lifestyle categories, activated only if Groupon delivers a specified number of customers to the vendor. The sales target has to be reached by midnight or the deal expires. Members are encouraged to spread the word through Twitter and Facebook to help reach the goal.

Groupon’s success has spawned an entire industry of ‘deal-of-the-day’ clones. Some are hoping to stand out from the pack by putting their own spin on the Groupon business model.

Blackboard Eats has expanded beyond city-specific restaurant offerings with its Everywhere e-newsletter. Every Wednesday it sends out a list of discounted mail order offerings of specialty foods and kitchenware. Subscribers have 24 hours to grab a passcode, then another 48 to use it before the special expires.

If the discount isn’t enough incentive, Living Social encourages link-sharing by making the daily special free to any subscriber that can snag three new customers.

UForce works backwards from the Groupon model. Instead of offering a deal and trolling for customers, it assembles a group of buyers seeking the same deal and then shops for a supplier.

The discount goes up and the price goes down as more customers sign up for Twongo’s daily deal. A meter tracks the pricing action in real time.


Yelp is dipping a toe into the daily deal pool with a pilot program currently running in Sacramento. When it goes national, Yelp could potentially overwhelm the other entries with itsĀ  considerable authority and presence in local dining markets.

Snack Square, Check In Deals, and 4SqOffers all tap into FourSquare’s geo-tracking service plus your cell phone’s GPS to alert you to specials at nearby venues.

The Open Table reservation service has just launched Open Table Spotlight. Currently available only in New York and Boston, it bands together reservations to offer a weekly half-priced deal in each city.

Even Groupon is cloning itself with a new service called Personalized Deals that sends a tailored stream of discount offers based on customer preferences.

The deal-a-day phenomenon has grown so big it has its given rise to its own support services industry.

Offer EX is a discount offer clearinghouse, matching merchants with the online outlets. It provides a distribution platform for vendors, andĀ  helps to level the playing field by pooling the buying power of the small, fledgling deal services. And with the growing number of online resellers, Yipit and 8 Coupons can help keep your mailbox unclogged by aggregating all the offers in your local area and sending a single, consolidated daily email.


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2 Responses to Daily Deals for Dining: Groupon and its many imitators

  1. Pingback: Recession Dining: My Life as a Foodie Carpetbagger | Gigabiting

  2. I totally love a bargain but it is unlikely that the places I like to eat at will ever show up on a Groupon deal- never know though. On the other hand, my favorite nail salon has been on there, my favorite yoga place, and even my favorite flower shop. Yep- I bought those deals and was HAPPY about it!

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