Young and Hungry

OpenTable Gets into the Groupon Business

opentable_logo_regBy and large, the groupon concept seems like a good idea: You get a steep discount to a particular good, service, or meal, and the business, if enough people buy into the deal, gets a guaranteed number of customers. Seems like a win-win, though some folks have already figured out how to scam the system.

It appears thinks groupons are a good idea, too. The reservations behemoth has quietly rolled out a "group buying discount program" called Spotlight, which is still in testing mode in seven cities, including the District, where the service just launched.

OpenTable has put its own twist on the groupon concept by turning it into an online parlor game first, then into a full-fledged discount program. A publicist for Spotlight explained how it works to me:

Each week’s restaurant starts out as a secret. OpenTable posts hints on the company blog and visitors can post their guesses. Once the secret is revealed (Tuesdays around midnight), visitors can buy into the deal and encourage friends to do the same. When the maximum number of spots has been filled, buyers will be alerted via email and will receive a coupon to bring to the restaurant. It’s a fun way to save big on great restaurants around DC – and an incentive to try out new places.

This week's D.C. groupon is still in "secret" mode on the Spotlight site. OpenTable offers this tease of the restaurant that's offering $50 worth of food for $25:

Located just off the open expanse of the National Mall, this restaurant is patriotic and proud. Dedicated to dishing out big, bold American flavors, the menu stars the very best American beef cuts and seafood classics.

Not to brag (OK, maybe a little), but I guessed it immediately. If I didn't have other places to dine at, I'd be tempted to purchase one of the groupons. It's a good deal, and your meal options don't appear to be limited, like they often are during Restaurant Week. If you sign up for the Spotlight service, be sure to let Y&H Nation know what you think of it.

  • J

    Do we really need another one of these couponing groups? Its kinda cheapens the product/establishment IMO

  • deangold

    Hey Tim: Re faking out the system: Just to let Max and his reader's know, there is this thing called pen and paper. It a really nifty technology even if it doesn't come from Apple {since I have never been to the Apple store maybe there are iPaper and iPens but I digress}. Well, anyhow, when you flash me your photo shopped coupon, I look up the number on the list I got from Living Social. Imagine how cool you will feel when we bring the book over to your table and ask you to explain how you need to call the company and let them know they forgot to list your coupon on our master list.

  • Nora

    Groupon and daily deal sites will continue to crop up as the trend to save money continues. Groupons and daily deals can help both consumers and companies, so it's no wonder everybody is trying to get in on the trend.

    Another great site is This site allows consumers to put in their local area and get the best deals and sales emailed to them daily, ensuring they don't miss out on a great buy.

  • Mike on H Street

    SHILL be comin' round the mountain when she comes...