Spotluck’s demand-driven dining deals expand to Baltimore

The Bethesda-based startup launched on Friday in Baltimore. Take it for a spin — literally.

Spotluck marketing director Tom Nguyen and CEO Cherian Thomas.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Spin the wheel, and land on a restaurant deal.
That’s one of the ways Spotluck is enticing people looking to eat out. The Bethesda-based startup launched in Baltimore on Friday, and has about 70 restaurants signed up in areas including Hampden, Federal Hill, Canton, Fells Point and Towson.

Spotluck's wheel of chance. (Courtesy image)

Spotluck’s wheel of chance. (Courtesy image)

With the Spotluck app, diners can seek out deals, and leave reviews for the restaurants. The wheel is a way to leave both where to eat (within a specific neighborhood) and the discount they receive fully up to chance. It’s not the only way to get a discount, but offers the promise of the most rewards.
The prices of discounts themselves are ever-changing. Sitting at the Ropewalk Tavern in Federal Hill wearing a Spotluck T-shirt under a blazer, CEO Cherian Thomas explained how the app’s algorithm fluctuates the discounts based on the time of day, weather and other factors.
Thomas, who founded the startup with Brad Sayler after initial work on a capstone at Georgetown, calls it a “smart discount.” It’s one that the restaurants pay Spotluck per diner to offer because it helps them get business in addition to letting the customers save money.
Underlying the shifting discounts and game of chance is the concept of yield management. The idea is that adjusting the price based on demand or other factors can help move more product, or, in the case of restaurants, more people into seats. Perhaps not for the first time, Thomas offered the comparison of 2 p.m. on a rainy Tuesday versus 5 p.m. on a sunny Friday. The demand is different at those times, so Spotluck believes the prices offered should be, as well.
The app, which Spotluck limits to local restaurants, is already available around D.C. and Philly. Baltimore’s growing food and tech communities put the city on the startup’s expansion list. Proximity didn’t hurt, either.
“Since we have such a huge presence in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, this made so much sense,” Thomas said, adding that they’re looking to sign more restaurants in Baltimore.


Companies: Spotluck
People: Cherian Thomas
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