Mrs. Lwil and I don't eat out often. When we go out, there's usually some discount involved. We love Restaurant.com. My mother, who's never met a discount she didn't like, introduced us to Restaurant.com. She was frugal before anyone knew what that meant. Having always cooked for 6+, she's not very good at cooking for just herself. I think on a given week, she goes to dinner with a different person 5 times, and has her leftovers for lunch 4 times. Whenever we hear about a new place, she's already been there. She does not use the computer at all so it was a little surprising that she knew about Restaurant.com.
Restaurant.com sells restaurant coupons. Typical coupon values run from $10 to $100, but cost between $5 and $40. The site often sweetens this deal with discount codes of 50-90% off. That means you could get a $10 off coupon, for $0.50 or, an even better deal, $100 off a restaurant bill for only $4.00 out of pocket! Most coupons have restrictions like valid times, minimum orders, or amounts spent. They can make for a very frugal way to dine. It just takes some thought.
Read the fine print. Most of the deals come with some catch. Most require that you agree to add a 20% tip to the Pre-discounted value regardless of service (some will add this into the bill). Many places exclude the cost of alcoholic beverages. I've found that presenting the coupon at the beginning, when you are seated, is the best practice. Once, when I did not do this, and found out after we had eaten that they no longer accepted coupons. This week, I got an email about one coupon I ordered. They dropped out of the program, and I have to exchange it. I had given this one as a gift, and had to take it back from my mom to exchange it. Regardless, there's a frugal way, and a not so frugal way to use it. Here's how!
If Mrs. Lwil and I go out with a $25 coupon (we bought with an 80% off code, our cost, $2…I splurge for her, I know!) we have to spend $35 to be able to use the coupon, excluding Alcohol. Let's say the restaurant averages $10/entrée, and we each order a drink ($5 each). The total for our two meals is $20($37 with drinks, tax and tip), we've yet to meet the food minimum. This makes the coupons such a good deal for restaurants, not only do they encourage you to try new places, but to order courses you might not otherwise order. We would be happy with our meals alone; we might even have leftovers. Because we went specifically to use the coupon though, we need more food! Let's add an appetizer at $8 ($28 food, $49 Total) and a dessert for $7 ($35 Food, $57.24 Total). If we drank Water, the cost would change to $44.50.
How did we make out in this deal?
No Coupon W/O Alcohol: $25.50
No Coupon W/Alcohol: $37.00
Coupon W/O Alcohol: $44.50 - $23 = $21.50 (16% Savings)
Coupon W/Alcohol: $57.24 – 23 = $34.24 (7% Savings)
This coupon was put to good use! We got far more food in each example when using the coupon, and still saved over just two entrees.
What if the food minimum was $50?
Coupon W/O Alcohol: $63.6 - $23 = 40.6
Coupon W/Alcohol: $76.32 – 23 = 53.32
This coupon is NOT a good deal if the minimum spend is $50 on food. Also, we would need to order $50 in Food. That's a Lot of Food!
We go out with a Group of 6 (three couples) to the same restaurant with the same coupon. So Entrees immediately become $60. For the with Drink example, we'll assume 1 drink each @ $5 (30 total) We do not need to order Anything additional to meet the minimum food order. For the Final number here, we'll assume that I eat the $2 coupon cost when it's used.
How did we make out in this deal?
No Coupon W/O Alcohol: $25.50 each (76.5 Total)
No Coupon W/Alcohol: $38.16 each (114.48 Total)
Coupon W/O Alcohol: $76.5 - $25 = $51.50/3 = $17.16 (33% Savings) (With my Additional $2, the savings is 25%)
Coupon W/Alcohol: $114.5 - $25 = $89.50/3 = $29.88 (22% savings) (with my additional $2, the savings is 16%)
Suddenly, this has worked out to be a much better deal. , and the minimum order amount of $35 or $50 doesn't factor in. Also, you could technically use the coupon to pay your part. If, like in the example above W/O alcohol, each coupled owed 25.50 – you could give them the $25 coupon, and then your final cost would be $2.50, and the other two couples would still pick up their full amounts. I think, if you do this often, you'll end up dining out under example 1 more often, because I see this as a very tacky move.
My final advice is, before pulling the trigger on Restaurant.com, have an occasion in mind. This helps for two reasons, first, it's surprising how long you hold them, and they do expire(Thank you to a response Restaurant.com on Twitter, I learned something new. the certs don't expire according to Restaurant.com they can be reprinted if you haven't used them!) if you don't have a purpose in mind when you order. Don't jump just because of the offer code; those come around quite often. Second, take the time to figure out who is going to go, and estimate what the bill will be to figure out which coupon gives you the best value. In my second example, it's easy to see an appetizer or two, and dessert orders, which would quickly inflate the food and final cost. Maybe a $50 or $100 coupon would be a better value. As long as you take these things into account, the site can be a wonderful resource to dine out at incredible restaurants and keep your budget and frugal habits in mind!