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Jan 7, 2013 04:13 PM

Via Matta discounted on LivingSocial

never a good sign. I haven't been for quite a well (a bit too spendy for me given that there are some fine less fancy italian options) but I always respected the kitchen here. hope they aren't signalling trouble.

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  1. I went for NYE. Wife wanted to go. We won't be back. As you said, there are many better options at a lower price point. They've definitely toned down the formality of the place since my last visit (waiters now wear jeans). They have not however toned down the prices. I think part of our disappointment was that two nights prior we had our best meal of the year (Mikayke in Portland) for 1/2 of what we spent on a far inferior meal at Via Matta.

      1. re: treb

        These "discount" and "coupon" sites may as well re-brand themselves as

        Not sure how they sell their deals to these failing business - I assume, it is with the promise of a) greater visibility and b) that a certain percentage of coupon buyers will be return customers. If that's the case, I don't buy it.

        I think it just attracts people who cannot normally afford to buy what the businesses are selling.

        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          "I think it just attracts people who cannot normally afford to buy what the businesses are selling."


          it's just like restaurant week patrons. if they can't afford $100 pp, they can't afford it, no matter how grand of an evening they had at $30pp. it does not bring repeat biz. period.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Re: Restaurant Week-
            What about people who CAN afford to spend that money and don't because they think it's a waste? Maybe they start to see the value and it turns them into "foodies" for lack of a better word. So, instead of getting them back to one restaurant for 3 or 4 more visits it actually turns them into the people who eat out two or three times a week.

            It would seem to me that things like restaurant week may be responsible for an entirely new crop young people interested in food. People who may not have been willing to shell out $250 for great meal had they not enjoyed a firsthand experience. Sometimes promotions like RW provide that first firsthand experience.

            Have you actually done research or can you cite something to backup your opinion?

            1. re: Beachowolfe

              lol anything is possible. ^o^.

              and, yes, i have checked opentable records on many, many rw patrons. it's the only time they come. often it's year after year, which does mean they enjoy themselves and, yes, i suppose they may return with friends under another name, but that is never a conversation i have had. it's always "we come ever year at rw... etc."

              please don't get me wrong. i am sensitive to the fact that not everybody can afford to dine extravagantly often, if ever. for places with a high check average they simply suck up the losses as marketing. hopefully people who do enjoy themselves will tell their friends, blahblahblah.

              i have never worked anyplace that has done groupon type discounts though. rw has always been painful enough.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                (hijacking thread)
                Interesting Open Table angle. What percentage of RW reservations would you say come from people who never (or rarely) make another open table reservation in the same year? Or are you saying that they just don't return to the place where you work?

                Also- I think you've mentioned working at a national chain steakhouse. You think that has anything to do with it? I think that lots of people, even the posters here, only eat at those places for RW or for business.

                1. re: Beachowolfe

                  i have worked at other fine dining restaurants that are privately and locally owned as well. the pattern is consistent regardless of concept or cuisine. it's a price point issue.

                  people are smart enough to make reservations for restaurant week otherwise they will never get into the spendier places which fill up very quickly. whether they make their own arrangements on the web, or directly with us, they get booked into opentable.

                  i have no idea what those patrons do in other restaurants. you can't access opentable info from other places.

          2. re: Bob Dobalina

            "I think it just attracts people who cannot normally afford to buy what the businesses are selling."

            That's exactly it. And chances are people who do buy into it won't be back after the offer ends because they can't afford it on an everyday basis.

          3. re: treb

            I think it's hard to assume it's the beginning of the end until you know more. Places like Tremont 647 and Toro, that by all accounts seem to be running a profitable business, have used these sites in the past (in this example, both have used Gilt).

            1. re: mkfisher

              You're completely correct that not every coupon offering signals the end. But if business is booming, you do not need a coupon.

              I really just despise this business model - I would be interested to see the data, but my gut tells me that the promises of improved business are misleading at best.

          4. Wow, I am surprised Schlow would allow one of his places to go this route. I think this just speaks to the increasing competition in Boston and the restaurant design not fitting in line with current trends. That space should get a shake up, the casual dining nook, then bar area and then wide open dining room are just cold, and too formal. I never liked that square dining room, feels like a museum or something.

            I did dine a few times in 2012 but always in the bar area, still enjoyed the service, crudo's, chicken liver crostini and some of the pastas. Also had Wild Boar Gnocchi there a few years ago a few times and it's still one of the best pastas I have ever tasted. I do think the Bolognese which they are also known for is now being bested by Sportello.

            I like Schlow and have usually enjoyed food at all of his restaurants, even the short lived Great Bay. I hope they change their formula so it's still an option in Back Bay.

            14 Replies
            1. re: YoChief23

              Schlow's Happys was also on coupon special recently.

              1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                and closed this sunday. it's being rebranded as another "mexican" place for him.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Which raises an interesting possibility of legal action against the coupon companies for failing to perform due diligence before offering these coupons. I could see a creative sort filing a breach of consumer protection law claim for either intentionally or negligently selling a coupon to the public for a business that is on the skids and, more likely than not, is going to fail before such coupon can be redeemed.

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    schlow will remain the owner, so if he has half a brain will honor the deal, but i agree, the deal was for a very different sort of food.

                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                      These coupon/deal companies almost always give refunds for otherwise valid coupons to restaurants that have suddenly closed. Which means any such legal action wouldn't be worth pursuing as any potential plaintiffs have not suffered any real damages.

                      1. re: Gordough

                        The couple times this has happened to me, the company refunded immediately with no questions.

                        As far as Via Matta, they have offered deals through the Phoenix off and on so this didn't strike me as odd until learning about Happy's demise.

                      2. re: Bob Dobalina

                        they all offer refunds if the restaurant goes under, so I'm not sure what the "injury/damages" would be that would require legal recourse.

                        1. re: keith

                          There could be an argument that selling a coupon for a soon-to-be defunct business is a violation of consumer protection law. You can't sell a widget that is knowingly defective and escape liability simply because you attach a money-back guarantee. There are still warranties that attach that the product will perform.

                          I'm not saying I am marching over to the courthouse, but it bears watching.

                          1. re: Bob Dobalina

                            Wouldn't the knowledge pertaining to the impending defunct state of a restaurant/business exist within the restaurant not the coupon site? I don't think Groupon et al are checking the books at the businesses - I would think the burden would fall on the business.

                            1. re: owen_meany

                              This is probably straying from chow guidelines, so will keep it brief. The business selling a product (coupons) implicitly warrants that they have value by placing them into the stream of commerce and representing the value, i.e., pay me $20 for $40 of services, etc. and the coupon is good for six months.

                              However, if an iota of diligence would have discovered that the business was about to go under, could be a negligent misrepresentation. So you can get a refund...but you still can't just place products willy-nilly into the stream of commerce that you knew or should have known were defective.

                              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                I imagine that if I were a salesman for Groupon or one of its many knockoffs, it would be easier to prospect among restaurants that are struggling than obviously successful ones. I've been advancing the notion that participation in coupon programs is often a bad sign for a restaurant for a while now.


                                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  Considering we always hear that the employees of restaurants (or other businesses) that close suddenly "had no idea", I really doubt that groupon, et al, is going to be able to do the kind of diligence necessary to suss out that eventuality. I'm sure the owners won't share financial data with the coupon people -- everything else is just heresay

                                  1. re: L2k

                                    this. if the owners were public about the place going under, business would dry up entirely and the staff more often than not would be stealing the place blind.

                                    one place last year, the gm arrived while a crew was removing the sign. the lock had already been changed. this was at 6:00 am -- he was showing up to do inventory on the 1st of the month!

                      3. re: 5thAndNowhere

                        If you bought a LivingSocial coupon for Happy's, I believe you can log onto the site and request a refund.