Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Austin >
Nov 19, 2011 08:07 AM

Groupon Restaurants to Avoid

Mandola's southwest location sold over 5,000, $20 Groupons yesterday. They are good for 90 days. Now assuming that that number is just over 5,000 and not something ridiculous like 9,999(*), and if the coupons are used _equally_ over a period of 90 days, that means about 60 coupons will be honored each day. If each coupon holder brings along an average of 1.75 people, then that's an extra 165 patrons a day. And of course many of those patrons will shift to the weekends and evenings. THIS weekend to be exact. Is any restaurant really set up to handle an extra 35-60% increase in patronage overnight? And how would you prepare for the uneven distribution of coupon redeemers during the lifespan of the coupon? (These are mostly rhetorical questions). I've been to that Mandolas and it's never very busy.

So guess where I'm *not* going to dine until March :-)

Will Mondolas make any money in the next 3 months? Groupon typically takes 50% of the sales for themselves. So that was a cool $25,000 they just made in one day. And Mondolas is now committed to serving $100,000 worth of food for a mere 1/4 of it's usual price. Will the quality and care suffer? Probably.

Sometimes I wonder about the effectiveness of the coupon-type outfits.


(*) They had sold "Over 1,000" by 6:30am with the first 50 being bought (tipped) around 3:30am. I didn't even GET the email until 5:10am. So I'm thinking that number could possibly be MUCH higher than 5,000. They probably limit the display of that number for several reasons, one of which is the reason for this post.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Do you actually have experience dining at a restaurant that's done a Groupon? I've been to Groupon restaurants that have sold out of their vouchers, the day after the voucher was sold, and have never experienced dissatisfaction with food or service.

    4 Replies
    1. re: brattpowered

      I have bought (and used) at least 20 groupon-type coupons. But I've never been one of 5,000+ purchasers. Looking at my stash, this is probably the first time I'm out of paid-for coupons (still have a couple scoutmobs) . And I haven't felt like returning to most of them and paying full price. There are a few exceptions. But I have never experienced mobs.

      I didn't read that thread, but ironically the first groupon-type coupon I bought and used was the very first one El Greco offered. They subsequently offered probably close to a dozen more of them (plus certs). Then Gordon Ramsey to the rescue! (while many of the coupons were still valid and unused).

      But 5,000+ to be used in 90 days? I don't think I've sever seen Groupon sell 5000 vouchers to a restaurant. And I doubt they'd want to after some previous incidents, but I suppose Mandolas has the credit worthyness to sell that many. But all to be used on food only? I'm sure they can withstand the the loss of profit for a mere 90 days, but I just wonder how they'll take to adjusting their service and quality. What I'm saying (or rather, putting out there for speculation), is how a restaurant can sell $100,000 worth of food for only $25,000 and not be questionable.

      Has the El Greco episode even aired yet? I suppose they have to air them pretty quickly before the restaurants go under for good ;-)

      1. re: brattpowered

        it varies wildly.
        some restaurants cannot handle the increase at all, especially if it's a high number sold.
        some restaurants (and other merchants) do just fine.

        there are a lot of articles out there about the consequences, as sqwertz mentions.

        i tend to like deal sites, especially if it's a low dollar amount.
        if it's something like $25 for $50, then i usually avoid it.
        and, i almost never go right away.
        sometimes i go right before expiration, because i forgot or just didn't get over there yet.

        as for keeping it austin specific, here are some places i've used deals for:
        noble pig
        stuffed cajun meat market
        thai cuisine
        yummi's tacos
        french quarter cafe
        in the buns

        ...and that's all i can think of at the moment, but i'm sure there are more.

        1. re: brattpowered

          Absolutely! I had a horrible experience at Jeffries. They have a small menu to begin with and we had 8:30 reservations. They were out of most of the entrees and 2 of the bottles of wine I ordered. We literally had almost nothing we wanted to order and it was near the end of the Groupon (that they blamed). They ended up comping our wine and giving each person at the table a $25 gift certificate. Truthfully I still don't understand how they managed to plan so poorly, they knew how many reservations they had. Needless to say we cost them a lot and none of us has returned.

          1. re: mkfoodie

            Unrelated to the thread, but related to your post...
            Jeffrey's was recently purchased by the Lamberts/Perlas/Elizabeth St Cafe team. They anticipate closing for a while to revamp, but will reopen soon as Jeffrey's 2.0.

            As for the Groupon debate, I also almost mistakenly purchased the Mandola's deal, thinking I could use it for the retail shop. I bet a lot of people did that as well and just didn't read the fine print. Or they, like Lake LBJ here, bought it without realizing they would have to travel SW to redeem it. Fine print is a bitch.

        2. I bet 25% never even get used.

          I bought mine and then realized its only good for the south location. Reading comprehension fail.

          3 Replies
          1. re: LakeLBJ

            you can request a refund. they are pretty good about it.

            1. re: LakeLBJ

              I always look at the location(s) first because it seems 80% of those restaurant coupons are for north of the river. If it's North, that decreases my chances of buying it by 75%. Then I look at reviews, fine print, and consider all the other factors. I buy ~75% of the ones south of the river excluding coffee, yogurt, snowcones, bakeries, etc... I'm a meat man.

              1. re: sqwertz

                i live far nw so i'm the opposite with my purchases, geographically.

                but, yes, i make sure to read the fine print.
                plus i only get ones for places i will actually go (or have been meaning to try).
                the certs can be a great deal if they are on the $2 for $25 sale.
                right now, i have a few for some downtown places i want to check out (piranha sushi, etc.).

                the stuffed cajun meat market deal has been the best so far.
                i'm making a bunch of their stuff on thanksgiving.

            2. I'm a groupon and Living Social vet. First I never feel "sorry" for the restaurant. They are in business and entered into a contract. The groupon should be priced for them to make money. Any place I've been to via groupon and liked I've been back to, like Austin Land and Cattle. Restaurants like this because it's probably more productive than buying an ad and some people never redeem so it's full profit. I don't like Mandola's food very much but the way the serve it they can easily handle 5k people. Groupon offers a money back guarantee so if you don't like it return it.

              1. I think I have only bought one Groupon for a restaurant and it was a total failure for me and my wife (gf at the time). It was to the Emerald Restaurant and I had heard really good things about it from a co-worker, but our tastes obviously differ quite a lot as I found out. That restaurant is extremely expensive, and even the Groupon deal was not cheap, and as others mentioned it is very far south and we live north. Whatever they spend the money on it is certainly not the ambience; everything was dingy and the lace curtains had probably not been washed in at least 50 years. The food may be authentic Irish (I wouldn't know) and I don't know if perhaps the food suffered due to the deal, but everything was so sweet neither of us could finish anything. At least we laughed all through the meal and anytime either of us thinks about it to this day. There was a harpist playing mostly modern tunes, which did not go at all with the setting, and he talked a t high volume to other patrons many times during our meal. Needless to say we will not be going back.

                3 Replies
                1. re: danny_w

                  My girlfriend ate there with a co-worker and liked it a lot. She really liked the beef she had. According to yelp the reviews are all over the place. She went a couple of weeks ago, they may have gotten their act together since your visit. She agreed it was overpriced but I checked out the prices before she bought it. You could have easily called or emailed groupon and got your money back. I did that during their Valentine's Day fiasco.

                  1. re: danny_w

                    The Emerald is where Gordon Ramsay should have gone. It's amazing to me how that place is still in business.

                    1. re: addlepated

                      From what people say it seems like it's a part-time business. Ramsay goes to places on the verge of closing. This seems more like a hobby.

                  2. The key is to avoid these restaurants in the last week or two before the Groupons expire. If you happen to purchase one of these in demand Groupons, use them up early, because this place will be packed in the last few weeks.

                    At least Mandolas is pretty large so they can probably deal with the crowds.

                    I remember that there were big issues at the sadly departed El Arbol where they couldn't accomodate all the people who wanted to use their Groupons in the week before expiration. I wonder if their over-Grouponing was an early sign of the problems to come?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Mike B

                      I loved El Arbol and we used our groupon on a Saturday afternoon and the place was empty. i was sorry to see them go but the location wasn't great and it was a little pricey. Never had an issue redeeming a groupon yet but I do get an eyeroll sometimes. Like the waitress expects not to be tipped accordingly.