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April 24, 2012
Yes, those are cannons. AC/DC doesn't mess around.

Yes, those are cannons. AC/DC doesn't mess around.

Here at Vanee Central, things are quickly gearing up for the impending NRA show (please note that my suggestion of having a dude inside a dunk tank filled with chili was sadly rejected), so things around here have been a little crazy.

Originally, this paragraph was about trying to get on a weekly schedule for this blog. That’s still my goal, but in the interest of full disclosure I started writing this weeks ago, only to find that hey, like a month has gone by. I did say that things around here have been crazy, right?

Moving along, let’s talk a bit more about Groupon. Today we’re going to discuss about some best practices for operators interested in taking the proverbial plunge.


When we last talked about Groupon, I (basically) told you to expect to lose money. Maybe even lots! If you do decide to run a Groupon, view it as the marketing expense it is, instead of the money maker that it isn’t.

With that in mind, the biggest key for successfully executing a Groupon without running yourself out of business is two-fold:

  • Plan ahead for the increase in volume, and
  • Plan ahead for converting the influx of new customers into repeat customers.


The first point is pretty straight forward, though it’s actual execution will vary depending on the type of operation you run. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. SCHEDULING. Will you have enough people on hand to deal with customers? You don’t want people to think you’re bush league because they have to wait an inordinate amount of time.
  2. PROCESS. You need a process in place to deal with the increase in volume. How will you handle potential line overflow? How do you expedite order taking and order prep to keep your turn times manageable? How will you process and track redemption? Make sure your process is honed to a razor’s edge, then hone it some more.
  3. TRAINING. Training is critical. Your people need to understand your processes, they need to understand the deal you’re offering, they need to be able to deal with any problems that inevitably arise with said deal, and they need to do so with poise.

Again, the idea here is to be welcoming, efficient and at least look like you know what you’re doing. This is a potentially big opportunity for you to grow your business, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not properly preparing and subsequently coming off as unprofessional.


This part is a little trickier. Here are a few basic things to keep in mind.

  • GET THEIR EMAIL ADDRESS. I’ve heard of restaurants who use getting the email address as a requirement of using the Groupon, but I’m not sure it’s worth the headache trying to shake people down who already spent money. Regardless, getting their email address in a non-pushy way should be among your top priorities. Incentivize them by offering them a better deal outside the confines of Groupon. If your deal is, say, $10 for $20 worth of food, offer them 60% off for signing up for your email list/loyalty program. It’s a better deal for them and you make more money on it since you’re not cutting in Groupon.
  • KILL ‘EM WITH KINDNESS. A lot of people who have Groupons complain about being treated like second-class citizens when using them at a restaurant. Don’t give any of your customers discount service. Remember, you’re trying to earn their repeat business. Show a little respect.
  • ENGAGE. Engage new customers in what makes your business special. Give them a card with your social media information on it and encourage them to follow you on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Resist the urge to publicize your Groupon to your social media circles. Those people are already on board. Groupons should be about getting new customers. That being said, don’t be shy about throwing a sweet deal to your existing crew.
  • TRACK REDEMPTION. Seriously. Put a system in place. Learn it. Live it.
  • Make sure your existing customer base is taken care of as well. This could be the aforementioned sweet deal, or making sure you have enough space to accommodate them.
  • Limits and restrictions. They’re your friends. Don’t be afraid to limit the number of available deals to something you can manage. Don’t be afraid to restrict the deal to not be valid with other offers.
  • Insist that customers tip off of the base amount of the check, not the difference. Your servers will thank you.
  • Upsell, upsell, upsell. Desserts. Drinks. Sides. These people are getting their food for a song, so don’t be afraid to assume the sale!
  • Take responsibility. Don’t forget that you and your staff are the most important part of this equation. Groupon is going to give you a ton of traffic. What happens with that traffic is entirely up to you.


That’s it for today, I suppose. I’ve kind of fizzled out for the day, so this post is ending with a whimper, not a bang. Sorry about that.

As of right now, I’m hoping to give people an inside look of the 2012 Restaurant Show next week. My partner-in-crime Boland and I are both inexperienced in the ways of NRA shows, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Of course, it would be more interesting with a dude inside a dunk tank filled with chili, but you can’t win them all.

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