OpenTable coupons follow Groupon’s lead

The Essex, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, offers creative cocktails, $1 oysters and its signature Colorado lamb chops over ricotta gnocchi. On weekday nights and during off-peak hours, it also features lots of empty tables.

To fill his 150-seat restaurant in an economy that can spoil anyone’s appetite, the Essex’s owner, David Perlman, has turned to Internet coupons. Last spring, he used one of the hottest startups on the Web, Groupon, to sell $30 coupons at $15 each to about 1,500 people on the site’s New York e-mail list.

In August, Perlman went the discount route again, this time with the just-launched coupon service of OpenTable, the online restaurant-reservation booker based in San Francisco. Slightly fewer than 1,000 people purchased that deal, a $50 coupon for $25. Still, Perlman says he favors OpenTable’s service because it brought in gourmet diners who were more likely to turn into repeat customers.

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