We’ve heard multiple stories of restaurants feeling more than a little abused by their own Groupon promotions. Enter Treatful, a new start-up web service founded by a couple of Stanford Business School grads, which is billing itself as “the anti-Groupon.”
The concept is simple: Treatful provides an easy-to-use, attractive web interface for selling virtual gift cards, and restaurants sign up with them with no annual or up-front fees. If a customer then wants to give their mom a $100 meal at Maialino in New York or Nopa in San Francisco, all they pay is $100, and the restaurant then pays a commission back to Treatful. There’s no painful discount to endure, and no one gets hurt.
It was the customer, according to co-founder Brent Looney and Hoon Kim, who first told them, “You’re the anti-Groupon company,” after finding out that they don’t charge fees or force discounts. They do offer occasional deals, like a current promotion offering $25 off a third purchase if you buy two “treats.” But because their service is specific — gift certificates — they don’t have to compete in the already crowded flash-sale and deal-site market.
Treatful is now in four cities (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago), and they’re still in their infancy, with just over $1 million in venture capital funding. They’ve currently got just over 700 restaurants signed up, including almost 300 in New York City alone. And unlike another Bay Area-born Groupon competitor who shall not be named, it seems they’re actually asking the restaurants ahead of time whether they want to participate. Smart move.