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Transforming the restaurant experience, one app at a time

Some of restaurants’ best marketing opportunities come via smartphone apps. The best of these apps enable chefs and restaurateurs to engage with customers in a low-cost discussion that can greatly boost sales. Or they can allow restaurants to fill tables that would have otherwise gone empty. Hundreds of apps for our industry are available, and the number is steadily climbing. Leloca is a relatively new app that tries to match deal-hunting customers with restaurants looking to fill their seats right at that moment.

Officially launched in June, the Leloca free app for the iPhone or Android gives up-to-the minute deals to customers in New York City, connecting them to 200 participating restaurants looking to fill empty tables at a discount. Currently available only for Manhattan venues, the plan is to roll out the app to other cities—Boston, San Francisco and Chicago—beginning later this year.

The way it works is simple enough: Leloca users are shown offers—users can sign up for “alerts” from participating restaurants or just check the app when their stomach starts growling. After selecting the offer, the user has 45 minutes to arrive at the restaurant. Deals are typically 30-50% off menu prices and totally free for customers. Users are not charged anything up-front and do not provide any credit card information; they pay at the restaurant when they finish the meal.

Participating restaurants include Mas (la grillade), The Bourgeois Pig, Aroma Wine & Kitchen and Pera Mediterranean Brasserie.

Leloca is the brainchild of Douglas Krone, a veteran tech entrepreneur (CEO of Dynamism.com and Gizmine.com) who believes that smartphones will do for restaurants what Priceline.com did for airlines. Needless to say, he is hoping that Leloca is the app that will lead the way.

“If a table is sitting open from 1:00-5:00 p.m., restaurants aren’t getting any revenue, but they are still paying rent, wages, utilities, food bills,” say Krone. “Leloca gives them a way to fill tables in off-peak hours. It gives them total control; they can change the terms of the deal, adjusting the percentage, for example, of the discount. Restaurants can still make money, and don’t have to have it on when they are busy.“

What’s different about Leloca from online deal sites, says Krone, is that his app gives restaurants complete control over when they want to enact the deal. Say it’s Thursday at 1:00 p.m. and there are several empty tables; the participating restaurant can turn on the deal. Come 5:00 p.m the tables are filling up; the restaurateur has the option to turn off the deal. Deals can be triggered manually, or by a timer.

The restaurateur also has control over where the deal is offered. Alerts are sent to customers within a geographic range, specified by the restaurant. “We don’t do mass exposure; it’s all very local,” says Krone.

 It’s also a low cost of entry for restaurants, says Krone. The cost is $1.99 per table, whether it’s a group of 2 or 20. To get the word out, Leloca is offering a free three-month trial period for restaurants. 

(For more info on apps for restaurateurs, check out this blog: 6 Mobile Apps Restaurant Owners Should Know About).

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