Two-for-one Discounts and the Solo Traveler

by Gray Cargill on April 26, 2009

Two-for-one discounts are widely available in the hospitality industry, from your favorite neighborhood restaurant to hotels and resorts.  In Vegas, they’re everywhere.  The trouble with two-for-one discounts is that the solo traveler can’t use them, since there’s only one of us (the exceptions being things like hotel room nights and drinks).  And most establishments that offer them do not have an alternative discount for solos.  I’ve asked more than once, believe me. The only place I have found to be truly fair about it was the Orleans Casino and Hotel’s French Market Buffet in Las Vegas.  Their two-for-one buffet coupon actually said in print that it was good for 50% off if dining alone.  I used it, and they were as good as their word.  That one little gesture makes me very fond of the Orleans.  (I have heard the Gold Coast’s buffet does this, too.)

So why don’t more restaurants and hotels do that?  It’s a numbers thing.  If two people walk into a restaurant with a two-for-one coupon and each order $20 entrees, one is free, but the restaurant has at least made $20 off them; more if they also ordered drinks, appetizers and dessert.  If a solo walks in and orders a $20 entree at 50% off, the restaurant has only made $10 off her; more if she’s ordered drinks, appetizers and dessert–but certainly not as much as if there had been two in her party.

I don’t know what the profit margin is for a hospitality business offering two-for-ones.  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt:  Maybe expecting 50% off for solos is too high; maybe it eliminates all profit for that business.  Maybe that’s why they don’t do it. Why not then drop it to 20% off for solos?  Or “One free appetizer with purchase of an entree” for solos?

Basically, I’d be happy with anything that shows that a business is even thinking about solo diners and solo travelers, and that they value our business as much as that of couples, families, and groups of friends. Any business that shows that kind of consideration for me, as a solo traveler, will earn my loyalty–and that of countless other solo travelers and diners, I’m sure. How many people is that? Let me quote some statistics from my very first post on this blog, dated February 18, 2008:

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are nearly 90 million single people in the U.S.

According to a 2007 report by the Travel Industry Association, 11% of all leisure travelers in the U.S. travel alone–that’s 34.8 million people.

That doesn’t even count people who travel alone for business.

Do I think the hospitality industry is going to suddenly have an epiphany about solos as an untapped market and offer us discounts that are equal to those they offer couples?   Only if solos bring it to their attention–repeatedly and often.  (Sometimes it takes awhile for things to sink in.)

So here’s my challenge to you:  If you ever eat alone at a restaurant and see a two-for-one deal, ask what the discount is for someone dining alone. If you are planning a trip and see a “two-for-one” admission to an attaction or some two-for-one perks that come with a hotel package, call and ask what the discount is for one person.  Don’t ask IF there’s one, ask WHAT it is.  This shows that the expectation is that there should be one.  The more we do this, the more we educate those in the hospitality industry.  I still don’t think change will happen overnight, but if they hear the message often enough, maybe eventually they’ll listen.  And if not, at least we’ll know we didn’t take it lying down.

SoloFriendly April 27, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Hi, JoAnna – Thanks for the comment. I saw your article at Bootsnall, and was glad to see someone else writing about solo travel. In regards to sharing a discount with another solo, I actually had that happen to me on my trip to New Orleans last December. A woman had a “2 free buffets” coupon for Harrahs buffet and was looking for someone to share it with. Since I was dining alone, too, she shared with me. So those sorts of things can absolutely happen, and when they do, it's wonderful. And as far as 2-for-1s for attractions, you don't even really have to wait for another solo traveler. You can approach anyone to share it with. I'm sure a couple would be happy to only have to pay 1/2 price admission for one of them if they don't already have their own coupon. Good tip.

JoAnna April 27, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I actually just wrote an article that touched on this very topic (http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-04/solo-tr…). While the 2-for-1 deals at restaurants can be tough to navigate, if solo travelers have 2-for-1 coupons for sites or similar, there are enough solo travelers out there that, if you linger long enough, you can probably find someone with whom to share your coupon. It might take a little more effort, but if solo travelers help each other out, everyone can travel a lot further on less cash.

SoloFriendly April 27, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Hi, JoAnna – Thanks for the comment. I saw your article at Bootsnall, and was glad to see someone else writing about solo travel. In regards to sharing a discount with another solo, I actually had that happen to me on my trip to New Orleans last December. A woman had a “2 free buffets” coupon for Harrahs buffet and was looking for someone to share it with. Since I was dining alone, too, she shared with me. So those sorts of things can absolutely happen, and when they do, it's wonderful. And as far as 2-for-1s for attractions, you don't even really have to wait for another solo traveler. You can approach anyone to share it with. I'm sure a couple would be happy to only have to pay 1/2 price admission for one of them if they don't already have their own coupon. Good tip.

JoAnna April 27, 2009 at 10:34 am

I actually just wrote an article that touched on this very topic (http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-04/solo-tr…). While the 2-for-1 deals at restaurants can be tough to navigate, if solo travelers have 2-for-1 coupons for sites or similar, there are enough solo travelers out there that, if you linger long enough, you can probably find someone with whom to share your coupon. It might take a little more effort, but if solo travelers help each other out, everyone can travel a lot further on less cash.

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