Friday, March 16, 2012

Groupon On the Up in Spain

Nursing a beer yesterday at my neighborhood bar while the wait staff prepared for the dinner crowd, I casually eavesdropped to their typical machismo chit-chat about football and motorcycles. Then, my ears perked up at the mention of Groupon.

In the US, Groupon's growth has slowed. Vendors find it difficult to deal with the influx of new clients, and at the same time realize many are unlikely to develop into repeat patrons, which unfortunately influences how they treat Groupon holders. Customers, meanwhile, are frustrated by (among othe things) stringent, often confusing conditions that prevent them from using their Groupons.

But my neighborhood bar was still in the honeymoon phase with Groupon. In one day of Groupon sales in February for a 20€ / pax tapas or seafood menu, they had sold 2,000 Groupons. A month later, only 400 holders had redeemed their Groupon but the increase in traffic was still noticeable. Last night, a Thursday, the restaurant was booked. Same for the next night, and in fact for ever Thursday-Sunday in March. "We're taking bookings through May!" the Maitre-D exclaimed to one of the waiters. I listened in mild shock as he told a customer over the phone, "Nothing for next weekend, no. Yes, maybe there will be a cancellation. Call me Tuesday, 6-8. That's when I can take calls."

I have eaten at this restaurant and I can assure you it's nothing special. If the tapas or seafood prix-fix is anything like a recent meal I had there, diners will be disappointed. But Groupon's 1 million customers in Spain are, for the moment, all too eager to find out for themselves.

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