A mobile app that offers tailored discounts at restaurants based on the day, time, weather and other factors is launching in Baltimore on Friday.
Founded on the premise that diners shouldn't pay the same amount to eat out on a rainy Tuesday as a sunny Friday, Spotluck will make its Baltimore debut with at least 65 partner restaurants across five neighborhoods.
With the spin of a wheel on the mobile app, Spotluck guarantees users discounts at participating restaurants every day of the week. It also helps restaurants fill seats during otherwise slow periods.
"What we set out to do is solve a big-picture challenge in the dining space, which is bringing smart dining to restaurants," co-founder and CEO Cherian Thomas said. "We have these platforms in all these industries but nobody's really done it in the dining space... No one's ever gamified it to make it sexy, viral and fun."
Users can "spin" a wheel on the app once per day, and the software generates a discount offer at one of the participating restaurants based on a variety of factors including the day, time and weather. If the user decides not to go to that restaurant, he or she can receive 10 percent off at any of the other restaurants participating in the neighborhood instead.
"It's a smart discount," Thomas said. "If it's raining, the discounts go up; if it's beautiful out, the discounts go down."
Spearheaded by Thomas and co-founder and CFO Brad Sayler, Spotluck got its start in Rockville two years ago and already has a presence in Annapolis, Frederick, the Washington, D.C.-area, Virginia and Philadelphia.
When it launches in Baltimore, Spotluck will offer five neighborhoods, or "hubs," where people can use the app: Canton, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Hampden and Towson.
"Baltimore screams foodie, it screams local, it screams techie," Thomas said.
Available for both iPhone and Android users, Spotluck will also add New York before the end of the year.
The company works exclusively with local restaurants — not chains. Restaurants can join for a $150 sign-up fee, and they pay an additional charge for each diner Spotluck brings in.
Thomas said Spotluck has generated $4.6 million in business for restaurants since its inception.
The platform also shares aggregate data about diners with its restaurant partners, including information about how popular they are compared with other nearby restaurants on the app, the average age of diners that come through as a result of Spotluck, the average discount provided and how many times someone has landed on a discount at their restaurant but decided to eat elsewhere.
More than 600 restaurants are live on the app, and the company has 100 more that have signed up and are in the pipeline. Since its launch, Spotluck boasts a 4 percent attrition rate, Thomas said.
And it's looking to continue to grow.
"We want to establish a brand in the United States," Thomas said. "We feel like this problem is large enough — there are restaurants with unoccupied seats all over the place."