Redeeming Value: Coupon Use Grows At A Steady Clip

According to a report from Nation’s Restaurant News, “ Douglas Wright, president of Upper Saddle River, N.J.-based U Gotta Try, launched the online-coupon service last month because, he said, hope is not a strategy.”

“’I’m a restaurant owner, I want somebody to refer me, and all I can do is provide great customer service and hope,’ Wright said. ‘I’m not a believer that hope does anything in a business environment like today.’”

“To remove hope from the marketing equation, Wright developed U Gotta Try, an online application for Facebook that lets fans of a restaurant recommend the eatery to friends by passing along a printable e-coupon. U Gotta Try’s restaurant clients then can track each time a coupon is redeemed, as well as who referred the new customer, allowing the operator to reward its most outspoken fans with special offers of their own.Several online outlets for coupons have expanded or proliferated this year, at a time when more customers are seeking ways to save on restaurant meals. Web-based tools are empowering both chains and independents to cost-effectively attract new guests, track redemptions and return on investment, and harness existing customers’ powers of referral.Putting coupons online simplifies the process, Wright said, and gives customers an informal way to recommend a restaurant in a more natural way.

“’People are more open on Facebook than in person, and it’s the same with a referral to a restaurant,’ he said. ‘As soon as I get home from a meal, I can go online and send a coupon to a friend. But in person, unless I see a friend tomorrow who asks me for [dining] suggestions, I’m probably not going to say anything about the restaurant.’”

“U Gotta Try’s first test client, Michael’s Pizza & Pasta in White Plains, N.Y., has benefited from the service, said co-owner Todd Magliato.”

“’The cost of this is very cheap,’ Magliato said of the $390 annual subscription. ‘To direct-mail coupons to 10,000 homes once costs about the same to do U Gotta Try for the whole year. I’m definitely going to stick with it, because I think it’s going to grow my business.’”