How much is a local drinker’s business worth to Ken Vedrinski? Fifty cents.
The longtime Charleston area chef and restaurateur last week announced his plan for a standing locals’ discount at Binky’s Seaside Oyster and Liquor Bar, which he’s opening in the former Banana Cabana on Isle of Palms. “Every good bartender pours heavy for regulars and locals, so I might as well empower them to do it at their discretion,” Vedrinski told The Post and Courier when asked about his rationale.
Vedrinski (Trattoria Lucca, Coda del Pesce) believes the scheme to reward year-round patrons will be the source of “loose, fun banter ... especially here on the beach.” But a scholar of pricing strategies warns the goodwill that Vedrinski hopes to buy, two quarters at a time, could be eclipsed by hostility toward a “tourist tax.”
“Depending upon the prevailing attitude, it sounds like it could easily backfire,” says Robert Phillips, Amazon’s director of pricing research. Prior to working for Amazon, Phillips was director of marketplace optimization sciences for Uber, another company which has vast experience with customers’ price sensitivity.
According to Phillips, locals’ discounts are legal under federal law, so long as they don’t precisely overlap with a protected class. For instance, if a restaurant was located in a predominantly white area, it couldn’t reserve its “locals’ discount” for white customers.
But that’s the simplest aspect of implementing a locals’ discount, he adds. Deciding who’s a local is considerably more complex, especially in a region where come-yahs can go for decades without being granted local’s status by bin-yahs.
In Hawaii, where residents can transition from malihinis (newcomers) to kama’ainas (locals), a state ID card is usually all that’s required to claim a kama’aina discount. Yet as Phillips points out, an ID card doesn’t indicate if a person’s family lived in Charleston County for eight generations before he or she moved away. Nor does it settle the geographic boundaries of localdom.
Ultimately, Phillips says, “It sounds like a publicity gimmick.” You read it here first.
Binky’s is projected to open this summer.