It's not easy being a foodie in the Great Recession. The cost for a night out at an interesting restaurant has gone up, but your income has gone down. What to do?

Check out BlackboardEats.com, a new player in gastronomic circles that will help you dine out in the manner to which you were accustomed -- and at a 20% to 30% discount.

Here's how it works. Subscribe to the weekly e-mail -- you'll only get two a week, promise! -- for either Los Angeles or New York City (more cities added soon). Each week you'll get an e-mail offering you a code to get 30% off a meal, or a free appetizer, or a free bottle of wine at a certain featured restaurant.

You have 24 hours to claim your passcode, and one month to redeem it. Coolest of all, you don't need to flash a paper coupon at the end of your meal (that would just be tacky). Simply tell your server your code number and he or she will take the appropriate action. Don't forget to tip!

But these are not coupons for pedestrian restaurants like Olive Garden or Red Lobster. BlackboardEats partners with more upscale, of-the-moment eateries. Past deals include 30% off your bill at chef Akasha Richmond's all organic Akasha in Los Angeles, and a free cheese plate from Artisanal in New York City.

"We're catering to a crowd that's really passionate about food," founder Maggie Nemser told WalletPop in a phone interview.
Nemser, who edited Yahoo!'s food space and later its Shine property before quitting last year to launch BlackboardEats, said she always wondered why the restaurant coupons she got were to places she didn't want to go.

"I wondered how I could make deals cool," she said. She did it by creating a "deal" site that relies on clean, hip design, great editorial (she's hired a passel of top food writers to pen restaurant reviews) and only the best restaurants -- the new hot spot, the experimental, and the old namesake.

In doing so, she's managed to retain the exclusivity factor both foodies and restauranteurs love. "We wanted to create a space where great brands would feel safe," she said.

It's paying off. After at first having to convince restauranteurs to work with them, now the tables have turned. Celebrity hang-out Nobu has recently approached her to inquire about offering deals through her site.

Little wonder. A restaurant can see up to $20,000 in revenue with a promotion through BlackboardEats.

For example, a recent offering from the take-out and delivery outlet of L.A. hotspot Mozza (Mozza2Go) saw 2,699 subscribers requesting a passcode offering 30% off the bill. Of those requested, 500 were redeemed at the restaurant and the owners reaped some $10,800 on this one offering.

It's a business model that somehow manages to save money (for you) and make money (for the restaurant) at the same time. That's a model people want to sink their teeth into. The site, which only just launched in L.A. in September (January in NYC), will be expanding this year into related areas, such as cookbooks, wine and cooking gear. Much like your waistline is going to expand now that you get to start going out to restaurants again.

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