Looking for a smarter way to participate in—and profit from—the group coupon craze? Check out what Portland, OR, restaurant owner Adam Milne has done. He’s put up ZapHour.com, an operator-friendly coupon deal site that gives restaurant owners greater control of the process. You can bet his much-larger competitors—Groupon and LivingSocial—are paying close attention.
Milne says he thought about trying a Groupon deal for his two Old Town Pizza restaurants, but eventually passed on the opportunity because he was worried about some of the ramifications for his business. Instead, he was inspired to come up with a site that gave restaurant owners a greater deal of control over the timing of the deals.
“In this economy, consumers are looking for offers and restaurants are looking to make offers,” he told website OregonLive.com. “But you need something that is good for both of them. We wanted to provide something that restaurant owners can rely on day in and day out, something that is sustainable.”
That something is Zaphour.com. Milne describes the service this way:
“ZapHour was created by a restaurant owner who knew there had to be a better way to provide diners with great offers without giving up discounted tables during peak business days or hours (like dinner rush). For restaurant owners, ZapHour provides you the high-value customers that you need, during the time that you want them, without taking a huge bite out of your profit.”
The keys from the operators; perspective is that they get a high level control over the timing and quantity of deals. A restaurant can specify the number of offers available per day, pinpoint the times during which the offers will be valid, can change the nature of the offer from day to day and, best of all, edit these setting in real time.
Here’s an example of an offer made by fine dining restaurant Autentica on Dec. 21st. The deal was 25 percent off, but only off the first $40 the customer spent. It was valid only on the 21st from 5-9 p.m., and was only good for food, not beverages. On the same day, Milne was offering 50 percent off food at both his Old Town Pizza locations. Again, this offer was for food only.
The service is free to customers, and they pay for their meal at the restaurant, not through the website. They don’t have to give their credit card information to an outside service, only to the restaurant where they actually eat. Customers access the service through Facebook or email.
A three-month trial is free to operators, but Milne plans to charge $1 per deal after these trials are complete. A dozen or so restaurants have signed up so far, and there’s a patent pending on the ZapHour concept. The way the online coupon deals are going, you may wish to get the local rights to ZapHour for your town. That may be your best deal of all.