Groupon. Living Social. Deal Chicken. Voice Daily Deals. With so many online deal programs, you have to break down the massive list into categories to even tell them apart. Now, Miami restaurant lovers can join the money-saving club with a new program called Haute Dining, the brainchild of Buzzy Sklar, founder of Burger & Beer Joint and Automatic Slim's and creator of the app Epicurator.
Haute Dining is a membership program curated by Miami locals including Christopher Todd, who was involved in launching the old-school coupon-based membership program Entrainment Book, and Kevin Frija, who recently resigned as CEO at Vapor Corp. (one of the first e-cig companies) to concentrate on this project.
No stranger to the restaurant industry, Sklar is familiar with the lull in business this time of year. "Being in the restaurant industry for as many years as I've been in, I realized there was no outlet for restaurants to market their offbeat times," Sklar says. "So I thought, why not market their offbeat times while simultaneously incentivize people to come in and dine?"
That's exactly what he's doing with Haute Dining, except it's stretching year-round, not just for the off-season. An annual membership costs $200 and gets you a minimum of 20 percent off your final bill on every visit at participating restaurants. Haute Dining will launch with more than 40 Miami Beach restaurants alone and then expand organically into Wynwood, Brickell, the Design District, and the Upper Eastside.
Coral Gables and Coconut Grove will follow, along with Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach, and all the way up to Broward. That's just the first market of the dining program, according to Sklar. A total of seven markets (including Miami) are planned, the next being New York by year's end. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Dallas, and Austin are slated to follow suit. And good news for all you jet setters: Haute Dining membership will be good in every market.
"The nice thing about us is that, unlike any other dining offer programs and memberships, we're an absolutely free marketing tool for restaurants," Sklar says. "We take no price off anything the restaurant makes from the customers we send. The only thing we ask is that our customers are given a minimum of 20 percent the moment they walk through the door."
The other component to Haute Dining is exclusive events, which members will have access to at no additional charge. "Think Tuscany winetasting at Cafe Avanti," Sklar says about one of the participating restaurants. "Or something crazy as we bring Mario Batali down to host a cooking class at Quattro," another participating restaurant.
An app to support the program will launch no later than August and will feature geo-location, so you can be sitting on Lincoln Road and see pins of all the nearby participating restaurants. Push notifications for your favorite restaurants will notify you of specials, events, or happenings (restaurants can change their offerings weekly and debut them every Monday).
"We conducted a survey and found that most people spend a minimum of $5,000 a year on dining out," Sklar says. "Say they were dining out in our restaurants, they'd save a thousand dollars annually, and that doesn't even include the events."
With version two of Haute Dining, diners will get points for every dollar they spend, but that's to come later. For now, Haute Dining is promoting and educating diners on the new membership program with a tweetup at Red the Steakhouse tonight, which includes complimentary light bites (we're hoping for teriyaki-style beef jerky) by executive chef Peter Vauthy, along with gratis cocktails for an hour and 50 percent off from 7 to 8 p.m. Vauthy will talk about the importance of social media in the restaurant industry, and a member from the Haute Dining team will go more into detail about the membership that's soon to hit the Magic City. A few lucky winners will walk away with a free annual membership and a $50 gift card for Red.
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You must be at least 21 years old to attend. Start tweeting using the hashtag #REDHauteDining and tagging handles @REDSteakhouse and @HauteDining. Oh, and RSVP via Eventbrite -- there are a few seats left.
Can't make it? Don't fret -- Haute Dining will have a big launch come August or September. Stay tuned.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha