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Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 20, 2011 07:45 AM

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What if there was such a thing as a stealth coupon — a discount you could cash in without waving some scrap of paper at your waiter? How helpful would that be on a first date or at an important business lunch?

A New York start-up called Savored, one of the newer entrants in the increasingly crowded business of offering deals on meals, says it has created just such a thing. The company launches in Boston this week, with offers at local eateries like Petit Robert Bistro, Sibling Rivalry, Sandrine's, and Central Kitchen. (Prior to today, Savored was known as VillageVines.)

I caught up with co-founder Ben McKean, a Concord native, last week to find out how it works.

Most people are by now familiar with Groupon, which offers half-off discounts at restaurants — $50 worth of food for $25, for instance, as long as you're willing to pay in advance. Those offers, McKean says, may bring in hordes of new diners, but there's little incentive to consumer more than $50 worth of food, and they can overwhelm a restaurant at already busy times, like Friday and Saturday nights. (Not to mention the two or three days before the Groupon coupon expires at a given restaurant.)

With Savored, you pay $10 for a restaurant reservation at a specific time. (Say, 7 PM on a Sunday night.) That gets you a 40 percent discount on your entire bill (not including booze, which cannot legally be discounted in Massachusetts.) "You can save a huge amount of money if you want to splurge," McKean says. "We had someone save $1300 at Delmonico's in New York." And the discount is linked to your reservation, so there's no coupon to cough up at the end of the meal. "With coupons," McKean says, "the people at the next table feel slighted because they didn't know about the discount, and it definitely sends a certain impression if you're at a business dinner or lunch." (In other cities, Savored offers a 30 percent discount, but that applies to the bar tab, too.)

Savored pockets the $10 reservation fee, and the restaurants with which it works are happy, McKean contends, to fill tables that would've otherwise sat empty. "Ninety percent of the restaurants we work with have never put offers on a deals site" like Groupon or LivingSocial, McKean says. Most give Savored between 6 and 10 reservations a night. He estimates that the company will help restaurants generate as much as $25 million in additional revenue this year.

Among the venture capital firms that invested $3 million in Savored earlier this year was Grand Banks Capital in Wellesley.

In addition to Boston, Savored operates in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

(Note: I corrected this blog post, which earlier had included bad info about booze being covered by the discount — which is illegal in our fine state.)

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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