Spotluck, a DC-based startup, is expanding to Harrisonburg, bringing with it an innovative way to connect local restaurants to the community. Spotluck is a free mobile app that helps market neighborhood restaurants to the hungry diners in the area. Users can win discounts to local restaurants, but there’s a catch. That incentive will only be good for the day, and will vary based on factors like day, time, and weather (i.e. higher incentives when restaurants need to fill more tables).  

The app began as a capstone project on yield management in the restaurant industry (think what Uber, Priceline, and Amazon do to fluctuate prices when they need to sell more; then apply that to restaurants). The theory that prices on a rainy Tuesday shouldn’t be the same as prices on a beautiful Friday forms the basis of the discounts you’ll see in the app. It’s a concept that’s helping restaurants fill seats when they need it most, and giving users a fun way to save money. 

In 2014, Co-Founders Cherian Thomas and Brad Sayler launched Spotluck from their basement with 8 local restaurants in Rockville, MD. In two years, the app has spread to neighborhoods from Philadelphia to the far-reaching suburbs of DC, partnering with over 500 local restaurants (no chains) and gathering a loyal user base who spins the app almost 100,000 times per month. 

The team behind the app also includes ’14 JMU graduate, Lauren DiRuggiero, Spotluck’s Community Manager. DiRuggiero noted how eager the team is to launch in Harrisonburg. “I couldn’t be more excited to bring the startup I helped create back home to Harrisonburg. The city’s quaint downtown of great, local restaurants and engaged citizens, paired with JMU’s large student population, is the perfect mix for Spotluck.” 

Harrisonburg joins Georgetown, University of Maryland, Drexel, UPENN, Hood College, George Mason University, Virginia Tech (coming soon) and American University as major Spotluck Hubs that also boast a college campus. But college campuses aren’t enough to draw this DC-based company on their own; the startup is adamant that its partner restaurants are high-quality, locally-owned joints that are an important part of the fabric of the community. 

“Spotluck really encapsulates the idea of a collaborative community: restaurants market together, and users come together from both the local community and the university community,” says CEO, Cherian Thomas. “We’re thrilled to branch out of our major cities and share restaurants in Virginia’s first culinary district with our userbase.” 

How does it work?

When you open the app, you’ll pick a neighborhood where you’d like to eat, and a wheel of eight restaurants pops up. With a quick and simple spin, the app selects one restaurant to give a higher discount for that day and that day only. Want to try somewhere else instead? You’ll still get 10% off any of the other restaurants just for being a Spotlucker. Download the free app and stop by to support these tasty local restaurants:

Downtown Restaurants

Artful Dodger Coffeehouse & Lounge
Beyond Restaurant & Lounge
The Golden Pony
Heritage Bakery & Café
Joshua Wilton House Restaurant
Pure Eats

Uptown Restaurants

Taj of India
O’Neill's Grill
Jalapeno Southwest Grill
Taste of India
Cinnamon Bear Bakery & Deli