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So, what's the deal?

The story with collective buying goes well beyond today's daily offerings from Groupon or LivingSocial. There's Groupon's troubled IPO filing, Google's emergence into the online coupon market, and the consumer-driven, seemingly unstoppable mania at large.

If you've caught even a fraction of recent articles, you know there's no shortage of controversy surrounding the phenomenon. Amid the dialogue, naysayers have gone as far as to call Groupon a Ponzi scheme and a loan sharking business. (Ouch.)

We could have gone in any number of directions with our own look into collective buying, but we opted to narrow our focus to our local restaurateurs' experiences with it (starting here). After all, as much as any other group, they've dealt directly with the aforementioned companies and the subscribers who've subsequently come their way.

Anecdotes can only begin to paint a picture of success versus remorse, and casual record-keeping offers only a bit more assistance by the numbers. Nonetheless, we try to get a grasp on it all through the central query: Are collective-buying sites good for restaurants?

Put another way: You might be enjoying your deeply discounted dinner, but will the restaurant that deeply discounted it ultimately enjoy, or rue, its promotion?

Our conclusion actually hinges on innumerable complexities. Read on, and you'll see the real deal.

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