Dining At a Discount

Discount mobile app Spotluck is bringing savings to diners in Wilmington and now Newark—and it’s generating major business for local restaurants

Hotel and airline prices vary from day to day, so why shouldn’t the same be said for restaurant meals during off-peak times?

That’s the thinking behind discount mobile app Spotluck, helmed by Bethesda, Md.-based entrepreneurs Cherian Thomas and Bradford Sayler. The app launched in 15 Wilmington restaurants like Ernest & Scott, Del Pez and FireStone in July and since late August is now available at a handful of Newark locations, including Home Grown Café, Caffè Gelato, Klondike Kate’s, La Casa Pasta, Margherita’s Pizza, Catherine Rooney’s, Arena’s Deli & Bar and more.

Spotluck is a free app available for iPhone and Android users that solves the perpetual “where should we eat” dilemma in a fun way, with algorithms that fluctuate depending on the day, weather and time. For example, the founders don’t believe it makes sense to pay as much at a restaurant on a rainy Tuesday as on a pleasant Friday night, so the former would have a bigger discount. In the app, users can spin a wheel once per day to receive 15-35 percent off to dine at one restaurant randomly chosen by the software—and a 10 percent loyalty discount to all of the app’s other local restaurants.

“It’s a dining adventure, a dining experience—and encourages you to live a little,” says Thomas. “Wilmington is destroying it. It’s doing incredible.”

Between mid-July and mid-August, 5,000 new users signed up in the Wilmington area, and so far, this growth has been mostly through word-of-mouth. Thomas expects that number to double and triple soon, especially when Newark stats start coming in.

The app launched on the East Coast in 2014 and now services neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Maryland, D.C., New York and more.

“We created this two-sided market place that’s a win-win,” says Thomas. “A lot of times the business wins or the customer wins. But with Spotluck, the restaurants win, incentive is smart, and it reaches the masses facing the dining dilemma—whether it’s a husband and wife, coworker, or roommate, everybody argues about where to eat.” Spotluck solves that recurring problem by picking a place at random, he says.

No restaurant chains can participate in the app, and Thomas celebrates the individuality of each participating restaurant. He says the app is very neighborhood-centric, and he wants to highlight the uniqueness of each establishment and its individual story and atmosphere.

David Dietz, owner of BBC Tavern and Grill, is all in. “Spotluck is different from most platforms. To me it’s built with the restaurant in mind,” Dietz says. “Obviously, business is slower on Monday than on Friday. With Spotluck the discounts change based on the day of the week and even the weather. The customer is going to get a bigger discount on a rainy Monday when people are more inclined to stay in than on a sunny Friday when people go out with friends.”

Dietz says the Spotluck owner dashboard also provides insights into guests’ demographics. It shows him how many people have used their Spotluck discount at BBC—250 from July to August—the average age of these guests (42), and what Zip codes they’re coming from.

“Diners have come from 32 different Zip codes already,” Dietz says. 

Joe Van Horn, proprietor of Chelsea Tavern and Ernest & Scott Taproom, has seen similar results, with 220 Spotluck diners between July 14 and mid-August. “It’s free for the consumer and they don’t pay anything out of pocket, like with Groupon, so for some reason, review-wise people aren’t as vicious,” says Van Horn. “And it’s fun.”

For more, visit spotluck.com.

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