I rarely, if ever, buy local email deals from Groupon, Living Social, or others for dining out. This isn’t because I don’t enjoy dining out, it is because I can get a very similar deal without committing my money in advance. With the local email deals, you usually pay half price, but you have to give them the money at the time you buy the deal, even though you may not use the deal for months. I much prefer the way Restaurant.com works. You buy a certificate for 10, 25, 50 dollars, or more off a meal, but only pay a few dollars up front. Don’t pay full price for the gift certificate, which is usually $10 for a $25 dollar gift certificate; there is always a discount code. You’ll have access to these discount codes if you sign up and are receiving the Restaurant.com emails. I rarely pay more than $2 for a $25 gift certificate. The catch is that you have to order more than the value of the gift certificate, usually a minimum of $35 for a $25 dollar gift certificate, and you have to pay 18% gratuity on the full bill. If you stick to the minimums the savings are better than Groupon, or the other daily meal deals. I rarely stick exactly to the minimums, but still love saving around $23 or more off my bill. There are frequently other restrictions for each restaurant for example they may not include alcohol, or they may not accept the gift certificates on the weekends, but every restaurant is different.
I’m not sure which cities Restaurant.com works for, but just type in your zip code and search to see if there are any participating restaurants in your area. I live in San Diego and as of today there are 36 restaurants within 5 miles of my zip code and 169 within 15 miles. Restaurant.com is a great way to find and try out new places. My favorite new places so far have been KNB wine Cellars in Del Cerro and Wine Cabana in Old Town San Diego.
When you make your reservations be sure to ask if they are still honoring the Restaurant.com gift certificates and let your server know when you order so you are sure to avoid a conflict with any restrictions. If a restaurant drops out of the program you will get a credit so you can trade your certificate for another one. It is very low risk to try this out. If you don’t know a restaurant I still recommend checking on Yelp to be sure it is a good place to try out. You are saving money, but some restaurants are not worth eating at, regardless of how much you save.
There are other ways to save when dining out besides restaurant.com that are also better the local email deals. These are generally not as widely available as Restaurant.com. I’ll work on a future post for San Diego locals. But there are new nationally available offerings cropping up so I may look at those too in a future post. If you know of a good way to save money dining out, let me know in a comment. I’d love to hear of other ways to be able to dine out without breaking the banks. Of course never forget the old faithful… happy hour. However, if Restaurant.com is available for your area I definitely recommend trying it out.