Several weeks ago, I gave you some sources for where to find discounts for sustainable restaurants. I’ve been noticing an increase in discounts for many of the small, independent restaurants in my region since then, and I’ll admit that those discounts have been a factor in where I’ve been eating lately.

Take, for example, the Living Social deal that I got for one of my favorite, small, bring-your-own-bottle restaurants in the next town. The deal was $30 of food for $15. My husband and I eat there frequently, so I bought the deal. Once I bought it, I was given an exclusive URL that I could use when I shared the deal with others on twitter or Facebook. If three other people bought the deal from my URL, I would get the deal for free. Sure enough, three other people did, and I got the Living Social deal for free.

Couple that deal with one I got a few days later on Living Social for two movie tickets for $9 on Fandango, and my husband I had one great, inexpensive date night. (We saw “The King’s Speech.” Colin Firth absolutely deserved that Oscar).

Excited about my deals, I bought another deal a few days later at a different local restaurant that I know supports local producers in a big way. I also know my husband isn’t interested in that particular restaurant, but I thought that with my huge network of locavores, I’d have no problem sending out my exclusive URL and ending up getting the deal for free. He could certainly find something he liked there for free, right? No such luck with others buying the deal the second time. Now I’m locked into going to this restaurant at some point (totally my own fault) or losing my $15.

Today, I saw a headline on CNN, Groupon’s ambitious plan to change how and when we eat, and I thought, haven’t they, and other sites like Living Social, already done that? Groupon is planning a mobile app called Groupon Now that will offer several deals that are meant to be used right then and there.

The application, known as Groupon Now, is remarkably and elegantly simple, yet it's a radical departure from Groupon's current deal-a-day business model. When a user opens up the smartphone app, he or she will be presented with just two buttons: "I'm hungry" and "I'm bored."
 

Clicking either button will open up a list of time-specific daily deals, based on his or her location.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, on those rare occasions when my husband and I are both working from home and have the time to go to lunch, I’ll be able to open up Groupon Now on my iPhone, hit “I’m hungry” and find a restaurant that is offering a deal at that very moment. Yes, I suppose that does (further) change how and when we may eat.

I realize that I need to be careful about allowing these deal sites to completely dictate where I eat. I have some favorite restaurants with owners and chefs that have been wonderful to my family and me, and I don’t want to neglect them because I didn’t get a $15-off deal. I’ll need to find a balance between a desire to save a few bucks and my desire to support the wonderful restaurants that support the local producers in my region.

Have you found yourself choosing your restaurants based on daily deals? How do you feel about that?

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