American Express Small Business Saturday 2014 in Encinitas and Del Mar

American Express Small Business Saturday 2014 in Encinitas and Del Mar

Today was the American Express Small Business Saturday. Our family decided to use the 10 American Express cards we have between us to get $30 credit per card for a total of $300 spend for Small Business Saturday.

The night before we made a rough plan of the restaurants and shops we wanted to visit, we had about 13 possible locations on the list with 10 cards we had 30 x $10 swipes we wanted to use. We limited it mostly to food items and wine, as we knew everyone in the family would enjoy it. While we stuck mostly to places we visit often we tried a couple of new places as well and ordered food off the menu we would not otherwise have ordered.

Our plan for the family this Saturday was to spend a fun day going out to eat at local eateries around Encinitas and Del Mar in Northern San Diego County. The Southern California weather cooperated, as it was a nice sunny day in the low 70s and high 60s.

Stop 1 and 2 - Take out food from KC Tandoor and La Especial Del Norte

We started late as we slept in to enjoy the holiday weekend. At around 1:00 p.m. we called our local Indian restaurant KC Tandoor and Mexican restaurant La Especial Del Norte to place to go orders. We knew we could get at least six orders from KC Tandoor as everyone in our family likes it and two orders from La Especial del Norte. These two businesses are within a 5 and 10-minute drive from our home so it was easy to go pick up the food to go.

At KC Tandoor everyone decided to order the same thing as it was much easier to order the same for everyone and get 6 orders right, so each order was Chicken Tikka Masala and 1 piece of Chicken Tandoori. When we went to pick up the food about 20 minutes later there was no problem in running each of the 6 transactions separately.

At La Especial del Norte, the food was still not ready when we arrived about 30 minutes later even if they had mentioned on the phone that the food would be ready in about 10 minutes. We ran the two dishes we purchased separately. One was Chicken Milanesa and the other one was Camarones a La Diabla (very spicy shrimp). We then decided to drop off our take out orders at home before heading south to Del Mar. We now had used 8 of our 30 transactions and we still had 22 more to go!

Stop 3 and 4 - Sushi at Del Mar Highlands Town Center

We drove about 20 minutes south on the 5 Freeway to Del Mar and the Del Mar Highlands Town Center. There were about 5 businesses at the shopping center that we wanted to go to.

First we went to our usual sushi place, Katana Sushi. We decided to order something we usually do not get so we got a Tuna Sashimi Plate and a Salmon Sashimi Plate (each is usually 6 pieces but our known sushi chef gave use about 8 pieces for each one). The bill came out to $30 plus tip so we ran 3 separate transactions.

We then decided to go to another sushi place in the same shopping center, Sushiya, which we had not tried before. We were a little hesitant to try a sushi place, which we had not visited in the past and our hesitation was justified. The fish was not as fresh or well presented as Katana’s (we would not go back to eat there). We ordered 2 rainbow rolls and 1 sushi sashimi plate. The sashimi plate was very poor compared to Katana's and about half the price for 3 pieces of sashimi but certainly not comparable. It was okay to try it for Small Business Saturday. We split the bill in half and paid just over $10 for each transaction. So now we had used 13 of our transactions and had 17 more to go.

We knew that splitting the bill is somehow not allowed or discouraged so we made sure to ask what the restaurant's policy was before we ordered. We wanted to make sure that – the small business accepted American Express and that they would be willing to split the bill or run separate items in different cards. For sit down meals we tried to only use 2 cards at a time because it could get confusing for the server. We were surprised that the hosts and servers at the small businesses, while aware of Small Business Saturday, were not sure if their business was participating or how the Amex promotion worked.

Stop 5 through 8 - Continuing to eat at Del Mar Highlands Town Center

After sushi, we then walked over to the Chuao Chocolatiers to see what they had, I wanted some gelato but unfortunately they did not have any of the flavors we like. We then walked over to Champagne French Bakery & Café. We wanted to get 1 large “Princess Cake” for $35 for the whole family but the counter attendant indicated he could only run 1 credit card per transaction. We then decided to split our transactions and instead got 8 slices of cake, 4 Princess Cakes and 4 Triple Chocolate Mousse. We divided the purchases into 4 credit card transactions of 2 slices of cake each. We now had used 17 transactions and had 13 more to go.

We wanted to go to a Greek restaurant in the same shopping complex but they close from 2:30 to 4:30 (very inconvenient time to close) so we decided we would visit the next place on our list which was a wine shop called Del Mar Wines. This shop was actually 1 mile away in another shopping center across the 5 Freeway, so we got in the car and drove over; this place was not what we expected. We were looking for a nice wine shop, this place was more of a liquor store with overpriced items and nothing seemed appealing, the shop was worn down and old and the man behind the counter seemed surly. We looked around quickly and decided to head back to the Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

We got back and took some photos of the Champagne Bakery, which we had forgotten to take. We then went into the local Cinepolis (Luxury Cinemas) to see what movies are coming out. Certainly we did not have time to see a movie today but we wanted to see what is coming up. We saw that the Battle of the Five Armies (the last of the Hobbit Trilogy Movies) is already on sale so we certainly are buying our tickets early for December 16th! Anyway I digress and we were just buying time (and spending precious time in our shopping adventure) waiting for Taverna Blu to open.

The Taverna Blu opened at 4:30 p.m. (at this point we had been out 3 hours, eaten sushi twice and were already feeling a little bit full and we still had 17 transactions to go!). We sat down and it was happy hour from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm. We ordered 1 item from the happy hour menu – Tiger Shrimp with crostini bread and pesto and 1 regular item Lamb Kebobs with rice and Feta Fries as the one side dish. The service was a little slow but we ate quickly and asked to split the bill, the server split it right in half and we made up the difference in each transaction with the tip. We now has used 2 more transactions and were ready to move on and use our last 11 transactions back closer to home.

Stop 9 - 3rd Street Corner Wine and more Wine in Encinitas!!!

We decided to head to 3rd Street Corner that has a happy hour from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, and it was already 5:00 pm and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss it. We had planned to order their chicken and pesto sandwiches to go and perhaps buy one or two bottles of wine. We got there and ordered our sandwiches and paid for each one with a card (the total was about $12.00 per sandwich). We then looked at the wines and signed up for their Wine Club, which gives you an additional 15% discount on the retail price. La Bebli chose 4 bottles of white wine from different places around the world each bottle was about $15.00 and we ran each of the 4 transactions separately. At this point the hostess that was ringing us up mentioned that she had noticed other people had come in doing something similar to what we were doing. They had come in and actually bought $10 gift cards or were buying separate items and ringing them up separately. She was happy to have someone explain to her why people were engaging in this behavior! We decided to run 4 more transactions there for a total of 10 transactions. We now only had 1 transaction left to run but we were a little confused as we though that perhaps the transaction we had run at Katana where the same card was run for 2 transactions at the same establishment might not have worked so we were not sure if we would get the statement credit for that one so perhaps we still had 2 more transactions to run.

Stop 10 and 11 - Gelato and the Final Stop

I still wanted that gelato so we walked over to the Encinitas Chuao Chocolatier and they had flavors I liked. I got a large 3-gelato cup chocolate hazelnut, chocolate chip and spicy maya chocolate (they never have the waffle cone I like). There we met kindred spirits a woman mentioned she was doing exactly what we were doing and then another couple walked up and asked if we were similar to them, meaning did we also gather points and miles! I said yes, he only had one American Express Card and we had 10 between us, he was happy to meet someone that was into points and miles as I am. Here we did not meet our minimum spend as I only wanted my gelato and no one wanted anything else so my $5 transaction did not qualify.

We then had one final destination on our list the Le Papagayo restaurant in Leucadia. This was one place we had never been to but the menu looked promising on their website. It might not have been the smartest move to go to an unknown place as the last one on our list but we decided to experiment. We got in right before 6:30 pm, which is the end of their happy hour so we rushed to order and ordered 3 plates (probably one too many) – we had the Lobster Bisque, Double Lamb Chops and Chicken Satay. The food came quite quickly; the presentation was ok but not great. The food tasted good, the chicken satay had a nice peanut sauce and came with coconut rice, the lobster bisque was just okay as it had no discernible lobster pieces (it was just soup with flavor) and the lamb was tasty but there were 2 small lamb chops which seemed quite pricy for $11. In any event we enjoyed the food but would probably not be back, especially since parking is not easy on the 101 Highway and their lot is very small.

La Bebli had not had anything sweet to eat the whole day so she ordered the Cheesecake with Acai sorbet. She liked the combination but while the cheesecake was good it was probably store bought. We spent over $40 and only had 2 transactions left to run (maybe only 1 if we counted the earlier transaction at Katana). So we spent more that we needed. We split the bill, the waitress mentioned she could not split it in half but had to divide items, we told her to divide it however she wanted to as long as both bills were above $10 which was not hard for her to do. This was the end of our eating spree just 6 hours after we started.

Small Business Saturday Recap #SmallBizSat #ShopSmall

We were done 30 transactions in 6 hours. $300 American Express statement credit (we hope will post soon!) I will update you as to how the credits post. We received confirmation emails for each one of the cards with a message that said something like: Thank you for participating and expect your balance credit for qualifying purchases. We hope all our purchases qualify but I don’t see why not.

Overall it was a fun family outing and worth doing it for $300. We also have left over food for the family to eat for a few days as well as wine so it worked out well. Since some transactions were over the $10 mark and we spent more at some businesses our total spend was closer to $400. The small businesses certainly benefitted and having spent $100 for $400 worth of food and wine is certainly worth it for us. Both businesses and American Express should make more of an effort to identify which businesses are participating and the servers at the restaurants should be made aware so they are ready to deal with the influx of new customers. From our experience quite a few people in our neighborhood were involved and some of the businesses were surprised by the high volume of traffic. Overall Small Business Saturday from American Express was a worthwhile experience.