For a street named Market Street, downtown Frederick’s main drag sure lacks supermarkets.
Restaurants, on the other hand, abound.
I have to say, Appetite Avenue or Culinary Court would be much more applicable.
With so many local restaurant options in downtown Frederick, it’s overwhelming at times. The question is always, “Where do we go to lunch?” What about happy hour? Fourth meal?
Two men with local ties saw these questions emerging in many small downtown areas across the region, including Frederick, so they thought up a fun solution.
Cherian Thomas and Brad Sayler created Spotluck, a cellphone app that is also a game. The app allows users to spin a wheel once a day. The wheel stops on a local restaurant, offering a discount of up to 35 percent off. If the user doesn’t feel like going to that restaurant, they can still get 10 percent off any restaurant on the list using the app.
The app launched in Frederick at the end of January, with 15 restaurant choices, all in downtown Frederick. There are also Spotluck hubs in Bethesda, Rockville, Silver Spring, and three more coming soon to the Kentlands in Gaithersburg, and Tenleytown and Cleveland Park in Washington, Thomas said.
As a business, Spotluck offers a full marketing package to restaurants that sign on, and also provides a great way for small, local restaurants to collaborate with one another, Thomas said.
Larger discounts are offered during slow hours and bad weather, which is one reason that Richard Belles, owner of The Cellar Door on East Church Street, was interested in adding his restaurant to the list.
“I think it will help drive business in off-peak hours and inclement weather,” he said.
The Cellar Door’s slowest time is during happy hour, between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Belles said.
“I’m trying to do everything I can with marketing to help out,” he said.
Belles said he is impressed with Spotluck as a product, as it is an innovative way to get the customer excited.
“It’s the most vibrant marketing piece I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s a real interactive, modern app.”
Market Street Fusion, downtown Frederick’s newest restaurant, signed up for Spotluck before it even opened its doors. The restaurant opened Wednesday on South Market Street.
“It’s something great and new,” said Amanda King, the restaurant’s manager. “Any way to get new people in.”
It’s a great way to connect with the younger crowd in Frederick, too, she said.
The app has already brought a few people into Döner Bistro on Carroll Creek, said bistro owner Timo Winkel.
The businesses along the creek struggle during the winter months, especially when there is bad weather, Winkel said. He was happy to have just a few customers in there when I stopped by Thursday afternoon.
Winkel said he likes the concept because it doesn’t have upfront costs. He only pays Spotluck $1 each time the app is used in a transaction, he said.
Sayler and Thomas both know Frederick well. Sayler grew up in Middletown, and Thomas got his MBA from Hood College. Thomas’ wife also grew up in Middletown.
If you’re walking through downtown Frederick, Thomas said, there are a lot of great, local restaurants, and the app makes choosing where to go fun.
Frederick is an up-and-coming foodie town, Sayler said, and people here care about food and about local businesses.
“Nothing says local more than the owner being in the front of the house or back in the kitchen,” Thomas said. “(We’re about) connecting them to the community.”