Omnivore - Scoutmob: Does it work for restaurants?

Over 13,000 claim discount at Murphy's

Image I've mentioned Scoutmob here numerous times. It is a free service that usually offers subscribers a 50-percent discount (with a designated maximum) on restaurant meals. If you've ever shown up at a restaurant during the first few days it is featured on Scoutmob, you know how wildly popular the service is.

It's a great deal for consumers. But how does it work for the restaurants themselves? Apparently, it can be quite costly, with fees assessed for each request for the discount. Those, added to the 50-percent discount itself, must add up substantially.

The Scoutmob iPhone application and its website keep track of the number of people who claim the discount for each advertised restaurant (see image). Let's say the fee is $2 per claim. That would be a staggering amount of money in the case of Murphy's, where 13,635 discounts have been claimed.

Businesses can get some idea of what the service will cost them by employing a return-on-investment calculator described by and linked to Community Cultivator. Note that fees accrue at different stages of the redemption process. For a critique weighing the good and bad of the service for restaurateurs, check out Chelsie Rohlen's excellent story in the Georgia State University Signal.

None of this is to suggest that the service isn't quite worthwhile, but I'm guessing its principal value to restaurants is in attracting new customers who will hopefully return.

Chris Lopez posted the image shown here on Facebook, where servers added their own additional complaints that customers tend not to tip appropriately after a Scoutmob meal. They typically tip on the basis of the discounted charge whereas they should, of course, tip on the cost before discount. The server does not work less because the food is discounted.