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Website lets couples register for restaurant meals

A website allowing engaged couples and other people to register for restaurant gift cards in Chicago is expanding to other cities.

FoodieRegistry.com launched in Chicago in February 2010, and last week expanded to include restaurants in San Francisco. Within the next two months, the service will be in Denver and New York, said Ben Reid, who founded the registry with his wife Jennifer Reid.

The online registry allows couples to register for gift certificates from a selection of participating local restaurants.

In Chicago, for example, the registry has grown to include 65 restaurants, from N9NE Steakhouse to Spiaggia, with more than $200,000 in gift cards purchased so far. San Francisco is starting out with eight, but Reid said he expects that number to grow.

The registry offers restaurants to share in the estimated $19 billion Americans spend on wedding gifts every year, Reid said.

It’s an idea that came from the Reids’ own experience after their wedding more than two years ago. At the time, friends and family were begging them to register for wedding gifts, though the couple already lived together.

“We went to a department store and registered, but we felt it was wasteful,” he said. “We already had our spatulas and toasters.”

What they really loved to do was eat out, though at the time money was tight because they were paying for a wedding. So they made a list of restaurants they wanted to try and asked friends to give them gift cards, which inspired the creation of the online registry.

The Foodie Registry is part of a growing online marketplace for restaurant gift cards and coupons, including Groupon and DealOn. Many restaurant chains also sell their own gift cards online.

Reid notes that his site is not a discount provider. Restaurant partners that sign on agree to allow the registry to be third-party sellers of their gift cards or certificates, a relationship they can opt out of at any time, he said.

There are no fees for participating restaurants, but the registry takes 18 percent on each gift sale, an amount that includes the 3 percent credit card fee the restaurant would have had to pay, Reid said, as well as 15 percent that covers the marketing costs and their margin.

Restaurants get paid the day the purchase is made. So if a gift-giver buys a $100 card, the restaurant is paid $82 that day, regardless of when or whether the gift card is used.

The gift certificates are printed on folded card stock with the restaurant’s logo on the front and the opportunity for the giver to include a short message. Restaurants can also offer swipe cards. The Foodie Registry does not allow restaurants to limit the gift cards to certain days or include expiration dates.

Reid said the registry is focusing on building the site’s offerings with high-end restaurants, which would make for good “date night” opportunities for food lovers.

Gift buyers have the option of contributing a portion of the amount for which the couple has registered. If the couple requests a $300 gift to an expensive fine-dining restaurant, for example, guests can purchase as little as $25 toward the goal, and the restaurant is paid with each installment. A “progress bar” indicates how much has been contributed.

Once the gift amount is reached, the registry “grays out” the gift option, so guests don’t all contribute toward the same concept.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
 

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