Discovering restaurants through "free sampling"

Are you guys familiar with the term “amuse bouche?”

It’s a bite-sized treat offered to the diners for free. And you can’t find these on the menu either.

If there’s a restaurant app (e.g. Yelp) that showcases only restaurants that offer amuse bouche, would that be an app you guys might be excited about using?

Thanks! =)

Not really. Most high end places will throw an amuse at you. But whether a restaurant does or not has no effect on my wanting to eat there.

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I see.

I was wondering this because these days we tend to choose where to eat based on reviews/ratings.

So I thought maybe if people could choose a restaurant based on the “freebies” offered as opposed to judging it by its reviews/rating, it could give less popular restaurants a more-or-less equal playing field.

Thank you for your input! =)

Well, an amuse bouche is one little bite of food. And the rest of the meal will likely have a pretty high price tag. So the fact that this one little bite of food is free doesn’t really move the needle. If you want to tell people where to get “freebies,” maybe concentrate on free food at happy hour or something like that (those sites already exist, but they’re often outdated).

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Nice question. For me, no. But I love the entrepreneurial vigor! Best of luck in the development!

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Yeah…good point.

Maybe the focus should be on “freebie” and not just a bite-sized sample.

Thanks again! =)

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Aww darn.

Thank you for the kind words! =)

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Oh, by the way small_h.

Would you mind taking a quick peek at my web page?

My idea of “amuse bouche” for my app is more like the sago soup you’d get at the end of a meal at some Chinese restaurants.

They’re not exactly a bite-sized treat, but something the restaurant would award its patrons without breaking the bank (e.g. small bowl of soup).

Because you’re right, a little bite of food is not really going to “move the needle.”

No.

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A new-ish delivery service called Chowbus has a section for the restaurants on its platform that offer discounts or a free item with your order. But your site doesn’t seem connected to a delivery service. Nor does it look as if it will host user reviews, like Yelp. So what is its purpose, exactly? What I saw was a restaurant that offers a free cherry soup. To anyone, or just to someone who’s read the site?

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Not in the slightest bit interested in the proposed app. It’s a single mouthful at the beginning of a meal. That is not going to have any influence on whether or not I eat there. By the by, I think it’s fairly easy to work out which restaurants are likely to serve an amuse (or “snack” as an increasing number of chefs where I am are calling them - why use a French term when there’s a perfectly good one in English). They will be at a certain level of cuisine - my local Michelin 1* is likely to offer one , the nearby pizza/pasta place probably won’t.

Let’s not forget that the snack is not free. The bread is not free. The salt & pepper are not free. There are no freebies. Nothing in a restaurant is free. It is all there wrapped up in the menu pricing - and all contributing to the owner’s profit.

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Thanks for your reply

Oh yeah, I have heard of Chowbus! But they seem to cater only Asian cuisines right?

Yeah you’re right on both occasions about having no delivery and review/rating.

And that’s actually intentional because:

  1. Delivery orders not only generates a lot of plastic waste, but the commission fees imposed on the restaurants are actually hurting businesses instead of helping them.

  2. I personally believe we rely too much on review to make a decision when considering which restaurant to go to. I’m trying to revert that trend so every restaurant has an even playing field and consumers will judge restaurants by their contents as opposed to user reviews.

Yeah, so I’m trying to create a platform to encourage customers to dine-in instead of takeout/delivery. So I thought the concept of offering amuse bouche would do just that (apparently not anymore…).

Yes, so going back to what you said yesterday about how amuse bouche are too small to be bothered, the free cherry soup (slightly bigger in portion) is an “amuse bouche” that would entice customers to eat in.

For restaurant owners, we try to provide features (such as a subscription button) that would allow them to keep in touch with their customers so they wouldn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars simply on marketing.

Here is an example of a restaurant page:

I really appreciate all the feedback you’re offering me, small_h! =)

You’re right…just a single bite is probably more enough to incentivize anyone to eat there.

Yeah I was thinking about how the concept of amuse bouche (originally found in high-end restaurants) could be “normalized” so any restaurant business could employ it to draw customers in, and elevate the entire dining experience into something fun. Because no 2 restaurants will offer the same snack.

Yes, it’s true that these snacks are not free and are already factored in to the menu pricing. But with the current trend to off-premise dining (even before the pandemic), serving these snacks to encourage customers to dine in would still beat the 25-30% commission imposed by 3rd party delivery platforms.

Wouldn’t you agree, John?

May I ask what change I should make to render this concept more appealing so customers would feel motivated to dine in?

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For the time being at least, a description of what makes it feel safe and better than a take out experience.

I do miss the dine in experience, which for us tends to be high end and expensive when we do it, which is usually several times a year. We might do take out as often as weekly, but for an entirely different experience, and we almost always pick it up.

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I feel like this app is a solution in search of a problem.

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I really don’t know, I’m afraid. In normal times, we eat out once a week - a mix of local bistro places and higher end ones. During the pandmic, we’ve swapped that night for a weekly “restaurant home delivery” meal. These have not generally been from restaurants we’d visit in real life (they havent been doing delivery). There’s a really big difference for us. Eating out isnt a matter of getting fed. It’s the whole experience of having amenu choice, of having someone cook and serve the food, of having someone else load the dishwasher. So, if folk are going to need to be encouraged back into dinign out, then it has to be sold on the whole ambiance, the whole experience. I don’t know how that ties in to your concept.

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Any amuse bouche I’ve had are also at high end restaurants that either want to give you a small taste of what’s to come, or it’s a palette cleanser. I’ve never seen a place that just provide an amuse bouche to draw someone in. At the high end restaurant, it’s not really free (IMO)…you’re paying a pretty penny for the meal and drinks already. Amuse bouche are also meant to be bite-sized (any Top Chef fan knows the dangers of too big amuse bouche!), so how long do you have to hang out to get your fill or to make it worth it?

I’ve never seen the free thing the reason why I go somewhere either for drinks or food. We used to have a lunch place (salad, sandwich, pita place) that would make the fried pita chips with a cinnamon sugar coating. This was free on a giant tray for the taking as you waited. Squeamishness about other hands aside, this stuff was addicting, but I wouldn’t order lunch there just to eat a few pieces of pita chips. Same with the Cosi sandwich shops…I like the free strips of their warm bread too, but not going to eat there for it. If it’s free, it’s likely going to have to be something cheap (like bread) or it’ll be built into the cost of drinks other items.

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I don’t get the point of the proposed app. I would never go to a restaurant for the sole purpose of trying an amuse. As others have noted, amuse are typically served at higher end restaurants. I’ve had a single bite of something to the never ending stream that precedes the meal at some place like Eleven Madison. But typically you have no idea what you are going to get and if you have been to a place on a regular basis, the amuses change so that you’re not likely to see the same thing.

You write about leveling the playing field for restaurants but don’t want to rely upon reviews to draw people in. How would an offering of a free sample make a difference? If anything, such a strategy would likely make me avoid going to a restaurant. If they have to give stuff away to make people come, it can’t be great is the thought that crosses my mind. Sort of reminds me of groupon strategy. Any place that is giving discounts isn’t generally a place I want to go as I am not a “value” driven diner.

How do you make people come after the pandemic? Same things that made people come before. Serve good food with responsive service in a comfortable setting. All the places that we went pre-pandemic that drew lots of patrons are not having problems getting people to come now that they have reopened.

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Well, best of luck. I don’t see what service your site will provide that’s not already available a myriad of other places. It’s easy enough to find online menus and pictures of restaurant food. Restaurants can keep in touch with customers via Instagram, Facebook and email lists. And as others have said, I’m unlikely to go to a restaurant simply because they give me a small dish of food for free.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold