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Pizzeria Eschews Groupon, Offers Own Half-Off Deal

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) These days when a restaurant runs a half-off deal, many people expect it to come in the form of a Groupon.

But Pete’s New Haven Apizza (3017 Clarendon Blvd) in Clarendon is trying something a bit old-fashioned. In the age of Groupon and Living Social, Pete’s is deliberately skipping the daily deal websites and offering its own 50-percent-off promotion.

Starting today, Pete’s in Clarendon is offering dine-in customers half-off pizza on Mondays. All day. No coupon required.

Co-owner Joel Mehr says the restaurant has been packed on weekends and on particularly nice days, but now that winter is approaching it has to drive more regular weekday business to justify its expensive rent. The major daily deal websites, however, don’t allow him to accept coupons only on certain days, and have a less-than-stellar track record of attracting regular customers.

“The biggest thing about Groupon is that we have no control of when [customers] come,” he said. “We are seeing people come in one time only, on a Friday night, they’re not coming back, and we’re giving them a discount when we could be filling that seat with a full-paying customer… If we are giving discounts when we don’t need to be giving discounts, that doesn’t benefit us.”

“Groupon only works if it gets people to come out, check us out, like us and come back after they used the deal,” Mehr continued. “It doesn’t work if it’s just people out there that are looking to get the Groupon deals. There are so many Groupon deals or Living Social deals that it’s sort of a flavor of the week. If you’re one of those people, you only have to go and eat where you get the deal.”

Despite selling more than 5,600 Groupons for its three restaurants earlier this year, Pete’s still doesn’t have sufficient name recognition at its six-month-old Clarendon location, Mehr said. He hopes that offering half off on Mondays can help build recognition with neighbors while creating more regular customers.

“We feel like the word is not out there,” Mehr said. “We’re just trying to create a buzz.”

Plus, by offering its own deal, Pete’s won’t have to cough up the reported 40-50 percent of coupon sales that goes straight to the deal company.

Mehr admitted that while he has doubts about Groupon being able to drive weekday business, it did drive overall business. Sales dropped significantly, he said, after the Groupon deal expired in September. But Mehr’s concerns echo those of other small business owners in a weekend New York Times article that called daily deals a “fad” that attracts a disproportionate number of bargain hunters.

If half-off pizza Mondays prove successful, Mehr says he may expand the promotion to the two Pete’s locations in D.C. And, he said, other promotions — like a Tuesday deal on lasagna — might follow.

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