The friendly folks over at Hungry? LA recently contacted me about their new product, two decks of coupon cards offering discounts on food and drinks at establishments throughout Los Angeles. If you're familiar with the Cozmo deck, this is a similar concept. The decks cost $24.95 each and have 52 cards per deck. Much like Foodie Universe, Hungry? and Thirsty?'s focus is on providing "the lowdown on where the real people eat and drink."
I have three Hungry? decks and one Thirsty? deck to give away to my lucky readers. To enter the drawing, just leave a comment telling me one thing you like about Foodie Universe and one thing you think I could do to improve my site (I already know that the search box doesn't work. . .still working on figuring that out). Leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win. I won't publish the comments, so your email address is safe from the spamlords. I'll draw the winners at random on Wednesday, February 20. Four winners will each receive one deck.
For those of you who might be interested in buying this product, are my thoughts on the decks.
Hungry? Deck: First, the rules. Each coupon is for $10 off with a minimum purchase of $20. Each card is only redeemable once and can only be applied towards the food portion of the bill. Only one coupon can be used per table. You must dine in to use the coupon, and it expires December 31, 2008. Fair enough. Coupons always have stipulations like this to prevent people from abusing the system. Still, $10 off a $20 meal (if you can eat at a particular restaurant for that little) is 50% off--a great deal.
Each card has a paragraph of description about the restaurant, as well as its address, phone number, hours, and web address. The cards are attractively designed, easy to read, and made of sturdy, slick cardstock.
My complaint about the deck is that it contains restaurants from all over the city. I know that this won't bother everyone--some people regularly find themselves all over the city or like to drive out of their way to try new places. I would prefer that Hungry? offer several different decks tailored to the different geographic regions of LA: one for the Westside, one for the San Fernando Valley, one for the Eastside, and so on. I think most people will probably only find that a few of the coupons in the deck are useful to them, since someone living in Santa Monica is not terrible likely to drive to Glendale to try Mario's Italian Deli and Market, and someone living in Studio City is probably not going to trek to Manhattan Beach to try Ebizo's Skewer. If every restaurant in the deck were a destination restaurant, like Melisse or Lucques, driving across town to try the place might make sense, but of course, $10 doesn't go far at most destination restaurants. The deck advertises on the outside that the coupons inside are "a $500 value," but I think the average person will probably only get about $50 worth of savings out of this deck, which isn't too hot considering the $25 retail price (note that you can save $5 by purchasing directly through their website). If you live in Hollywood and work Downtown, or vice versa, you might manage to save around $120, since a lot of the restaurants in the deck are in one of these areas. To see the full list of restaurants included in the coupon deck, visit Hungry?'s website.
Thirsty? Deck: The rules for the Thirsty? cards are similar, except that the amount of discount varies depending on the establishment. For example, there are cards for 10% off a purchase at a wine store, cards fo buy two drinks, get one free at coffee and smoothie shops, and cards for $10 off at restaurants. The buy two, get one free coupons I find annoying because they aren't likely to be useful if you're dining alone or even as a duo. Another issue is that it isn't clear from either the cards or the website whether the drink cards can also be used on food, which I imagine could lead to some confusion and frustration when it comes time to pay the restaurant bill.
There is a bit of overlap between the two decks--a few of the cards in the restaurant stack are also in the drink stack. I also found two cards for the same restaurant in my Thirsty? deck, but perhaps that was just an accident. See the complete list of Thirsty? establishments here.
Overall, I think the decks are a good idea, but I think they could be improved by being targeted to a more localized part of Los Angeles and, in the case of the Thirsty? deck, having clearer rules and switching the buy two, get one free cards to something more useful.
The nice thing about the decks is that they generally have fewer stipulations than Restaurant.com coupons (for example, you don't have to spend as much money to use them, and there is no requirement to have a certain number of people in your party). Also, since they look nice and more closely resemble gift cards than coupons, they are likely to have an appeal that extends beyond the usual coupon-clipping crowd and reaches out to those who might otherwise be embarrassed to use a coupon.