Do you remember those big thick dining out coupon books? New York had them (maybe still does) and Hong Kong used to have them. You’d buy the book and for a year you’d get all these “buy one, get one free” discount coupons for restaurants and other places around town.
Once in awhile I’d buy them. The potential savings almost always seemed to make them worthwhile. Except I’d never have the damned book with me when I passed some restaurant. And in Hong Kong, places come and go so fast that after a few months probably half the places you have coupons for have closed and there are no coupons for all the new places that sprang up to replace them.
Enter The Entertainer. (Yeah, okay, it was so obvious that I couldn’t resist.)
It’s a company that started with a coupon book in Dubai and has now spread the concept to the rest of the middle east, plus Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and London. The global stats on their web site claim 10,000+ global outlets (but you’d have to buy one subscription for each territory to get at all of those), 1 million redemptions per year, $1.3 billion in revenue “driven” to merchant partners.
They’ve got the traditional coupon book if that’s your thing, but they’ve also updated the concept by having a smartphone app. So now you don’t have to lug the book around or clip any coupons. Just load the app on your phone and you’re ready to go.
The Hong Kong app or book will run you HK$595 for one (calendar) year. There’s also a try-out version of the app, one month for HK$149. You can download the app for free and then choose a subscription via an in-app purchase or buy directly from their web site.
They say they’ve got 333 merchant partners in Hong Kong plus 126 hotel partners worldwide. The screen shot below – just 5 listings – already shows you 3 hotels, 1 restaurant and a Chinese medicine clinic – so that gives you some idea of their range.
Scrolling through their Hong Kong listings, I saw some places that I regularly go to and more than a few that I’ve been wanting to check out. Obviously they have good coverage for Central. (And, just as obviously, nothing in Tai Po, no big shock there.)
A very partial list of the restaurants they have in Central just to give you some idea of their range:
Al Forno, Alfies, Aqua Luna, Boqueria, Cafe de Paris, Cvche, French Window, Gold, Holly Brown, Pizza Express, Staunton’s
The deal is usually get one main course free when you buy one (the free one is the cheaper of the two). You get multiple coupons for most places, so you can go back to places you like more than once and still save. I’m sure that you can think of plenty of places that are not included, but the point is that there are plenty of good places in there.
They also have deals for various services – fitness places, salons, photo studios and others. The deals with the biggest potential for savings are the hotel deals – get one night free for each paid night. There’s a choice of hotels for places in Thailand, Malaysia, Bali and around the Indian Ocean. (Unfortunately no hotel discounts for the place I go most often, the Philippines.)
I’m looking at the “new” category right now and I see DiVino, Genie Juicery, Spasso, Carpaccio and a few others. So it appears this is continually being updated.
The app needs a bit of work. Every establishment, regardless of type, has a little fork-and-knife icon next to it. Restaurants, hotels, nail spas, kids activity centers all have a fork and knife next to their name. You can’t immediately tell the ice cream parlors from the nail spas.
Also, don’t click on that top center bit where it says “Hong Kong” with the “ALL” underneath. The choices that then pop up are “Near Me” and Alphabetically” and no matter what you do, all you’ll get is a pop up box telling you that you have to make a selection from a non-existent list of filters. Every time I hit that “ALL” by mistake, I have to kill the app and start over again.
My wife and I both work in Wanchai. So a couple of nights ago I figured I’d try out The Entertainer app for dinner for the two of us after work. You can easily search the app by district (also by name, shopping mall, hotel or cuisine), so I did a search on Wanchai.
Looking for the places closest to us, there were two – Doghouse and Trafalgar. (Lots more choices around Brim 28 and Star Street but we were both tired and not in a walking mood.) I chose Trafalgar, a British style pub) since they’ve got that 5th floor outdoor deck and it was a nice night for eating outside.
When we got to Trafalgar, we didn’t have to show any coupon or mention anything in advance. We simply ordered what we wanted – my wife was in a steak mood and got their $298 rib eye; I ordered the $158 chicken parmigiana since I don’t see that on too many menus here.
When we finished eating and it was time to ask for the bill, I showed the screen on my phone to the waitress. She brought the manager over, the manager entered the restaurant’s PIN into the app, and they brought the bill over with my chicken parm for free. So they’d knocked off the $158 (and also no 10% service charge for that, so my actual savings was closer to $175). It was simple and relatively hassle-free.
(One thing I should add – the portions at Trafalgar are big. My wife said that next time we should just get one main course and one starter or salad and split everything. I said that’s fine but I still have two more “coupons” for the place and they’re only good on the main courses, so we’ll just have to “suffer.”)
The app lets you combine multiple “books” – manage multiple subscriptions within one instance of the app. This is a nice touch for people who may travel frequently to the same destinations. I wouldn’t get this for Singapore, where I tend to eat in hawker centers anyway, but would definitely consider it for my next trip to London.
They’ll start selling their 2015 app and book in November with an early bird discount. I’ll be posting more info on that once it becomes available.
One thing I forgot to mention and it’s one thing that makes this different from other coupon books I tried – there’s nothing that says you can’t use this at “prime time” on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. The Rules of Use say, “All offers can be used at any time during regular opening hours unless specified.” The only blackout days are Hong Kong public holidays and Rugby Sevens and Chinese New Year weeks (at merchant’s discretion).
So $595 for a year and I saved $175 my first time. Clearly, even if I use it just once or twice a month (we don’t go out that often), I’ll end up saving far more than the $595 cost. And there’s no book to lug around or coupons to clip, so I always have it with me and will actually continue to use it. The Entertainer is an old concept brought up to date and well executed.
Full disclosure – I was given a free one year subscription to The Entertainer in Hong Kong in exchange for a review. But, here’s the deal – when they first approached me, I would not have agreed to this if I didn’t like what they were offering. And they made no specific requests for content in the post, merely that I try it out and report on my experience. I’m genuinely happy with this and plan to keep using it.
UPDATE: Oops! If you want the one month “try out” membership, you can only get it by following this link. (It’s not an affiliate link or anything like that.) And I’m told this is only good up until November 10th, after which just annual memberships are available.