We had a customer call us late on a Friday afternoon 2 weeks ago.  He was very upset because he had just received a large invoice from Dimmi, over $100.  He looked at his website and he found that his Book A Table button was not working, but the Dimmi booking button was.  His customers had been trying to book with Book A Table, but because Book A Table was not working, they were booking from Dimmi and he was getting charged for it.  The Restaurant owner was very upset about it and was asking us for compensation for the large invoice he had incurred.


Whilst we think that it is fantastic that restaurants are now a lot more comfortable with the fact that there is no need to pay to take bookings on their own website, obviously we can’t be responsible for fees and charges that are incurred from Dimmi.  I told the restaurant owner that we would look into it.  It may have been a bug, but it is unlikely – with the huge volume of bookings that we take every night, we find out pretty quickly when there is an issue.


Our team found that the button had been disabled.  The restaurant owner said that he didn’t do it, so he said he would call Dimmi.  The Restaurant owner called us back and stated that Dimmi had disabled his Book A Table button because, “we want to make sure you get more bookings,” Or words to that effect.  The Restaurant owner told Dimmi how unhappy he was with this and that he was removing the Dimmi icon from his website.  Another customer lost to Dimmi.


We have a few concerns about the rights of restaurant owners.  Firstly, obviously, Dimmi doesn’t like people using our Free Online Restaurant Booking System, because it means lost revenue to them and lost customers details, but we have always thought that restaurant owners should take online bookings for free and that they should never share their customer details with someone who will send those customers 50% off deals from their competitors.  Dimmi should never be switching off the Restaurants Book A Table icon without the authorization of the restaurant owner.


Secondly, it isn’t fair that the Restaurant incurs fees and charges because Dimmi decided to turn off the customers Book A Table. Obviously Dimmi gets a lot of money from all of the bookings that are made, but Restaurants should have a choice about whether or not they pay to take bookings on their own website and whether or not they share their customers contact details with Dimmi.  If the booking is made on a restaurants website, it is unlikely that Dimmi had much to do with the process.  Of all of the websites in our network, less than .1% of that traffic comes from Dimmi. In fact only a handful of restaurants received more than 4 visits in total last month from Dimmi.  Most traffic was from customers running flash deals, so for the ordinary restaurant, Dimmi is unable to generate any meaningful website traffic.


Lastly, Dimmi should not be able to just decide that they want access to a restaurants customers contact details.  And this is the most important issue, in my eyes, the theft of customer details.  Dimmi received customer contact details that it would not have received had they not disabled Book A Table.  Restaurant owners are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of their own database and of not sharing it with others, especially Dimmi.  The Dimmi Flash Deals which are sent out to a database of diners built partly from customers details from bookings on the restaurants own website.  These flash deals create an expectation with customers that they should be paying 50% off.  It decreases the average spend of customers and turns a customer happy to spend $150 for a table of 4 into a customer happy to spend $75 for a table of four.  This is diabolical for the long term interests of the restaurant industry, particularly with the high wage costs we have in Australia.


The Flash Deals does make Dimmi look a little like Groupon by stealth and can’t be good for the industry.  Dimmi has always been great for customers looking for a cheap deal for a meal, and some restaurants are big fans of Dimmi.  These are generally the new restaurants without an established based of customers or restaurants that are struggling.  We think that Dimmi offers them the opportunity to ‘rent’ a group of customers while they are getting established.  This is great for them, but it is important to wonder about where these customers are coming from and why they are going to the new restaurant.  They are lured by the 50% off offer and they are coming from restaurants where they are regulars, and some will have shared their contact details with Dimmi by making a booking on the restaurants website.


Dimmi a couple of weeks ago came out after their PR issues about restaurants using their online diary system to keep tabs on who tips and who doesn’t and claimed the “we are a small business” defence.  They have received millions of dollars of investment from Telstra and Village Roadshow, and have a very high calibre board.  I don’t really think that they are your average small business.  Their play is to build a database of where all of the diners in Australia eat and clip the ticket on the way through as they make their bookings.  With all of the big data information, they can then target 50% off coupons with a high degree of certainty.  This is a scary prospect for restaurants in Australia.


Remember – there is no need to pay to take bookings on your own website and you should never share your customer details with another company who will send your customers 50% off offers.


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