Maggie Nemser founded BlackBoardEats last year and New York quickly ate up the exclusive restaurant deals available in their weekly email blast. The company has since added BlackBoard Everywhere, offering national product and travel deals, and expanded to Los Angeles and San Francisco, where participating restaurants have been inundated with business from the discount-hungry populace, all of whom have only a month to use their discount code. Grub Street grabbed a minute with Nemser — who formerly was the editor at Yahoo! Food — to see how the response has been different in the three cities, and to find out which restaurants spent those 30 days totally in the weeds.
What’s been different so far between the launches in different cities?
The difference has been vast. New York grew faster than the others as it is an interactive city to the highest degree, where word travels fast. Subscribers in S.F. and N.Y. are less likely to get a special unless they are sure they will use it, whereas L.A. subscribers are more spontaneous in their approach, grabbing most of the twice-weekly deals. Subscribers in L.A. are also more likely to travel outside of their neighborhood for a featured special than diners in S.F. and N.Y.
What’s the one deal in particular that’s gotten the hugest response, in any of the three cities?
Jar in Los Angeles made $100,000 from the blast and had almost 6,000 requested passcodes. In San Francisco, the first blast with the 30% off deal at SPQR had over 1,500 passcode requests. [Ed. Note: Grub Street has heard from chef Matt Accarrino that the impact was palpable for the month following the blast, and that in general tables using the discount ordered way more food than they normally would have.]
Has there been any negative reaction from chefs or restaurateurs – like from too many people using the service in a month and inundating them with business?
Nope, we work VERY closely with the restaurants to ensure that the traffic is manageable. If they are up for every night being as busy as New Year’s Eve…we don’t cap. But if they would rather have people trickle in and want more of a steady stream, we offer the option to cap or extend for two months.
Will you limit yourself to certain types of restaurants/certain price points?
We always focus on food first so we welcome dives and fancy joints alike as long as the food sings and we are confident that people will leave singing the restaurant’s praises. Price points vary.
How many cities do you foresee bringing BlackBoardEats to?
We aren’t looking to dilute the quality and be in every city overnight. We can offer great deals on artisanal foods and cookware on everywhere but the restaurant component of BBE is a very specialized boutique editorial service, so we only plan to enter markets where it makes sense.
Earlier: Blackboard Eats, a New Restaurant Deal Tracker, Launches In S.F. [Grub Street]