I’m a big fan of restaurant.com, a website that allows you to buy “gift certificates” for local restaurants at deeply discounted prices. I’ve been using it for years, and so far I haven’t had any bad experiences. But there are some things you need to beware of:
– Price: $25 gift certificates usually cost $10, but some restaurants charge more. Some restaurants also offer $10 gift certificates for $5 and $50 gift certificates for $20. DO NOT PAY THOSE PRICES, however. You usually can find coupon codes for 70%-90% off those prices, so that that $25 gift certificate should cost you only $1-3. To find those codes do a search for restaurant.com codes , or go to couponcabin or retailmenot
– Minimum purchases: it’s usually $35-50 for a $25 gift certificate, and that may not include the price of drinks. For some restaurants you will need 3 people ordering to get to reach those minimums. If you end up ordering more food than you would otherwise to reach the minimum, you may end up spending more than you would in the first place.
– Day/time limitations: Often times you can only use the coupons during weekdays, though some restaurants may have other limitations. For example, The Englander doesn’t accept restaurant.com certificates on Sundays & Mondays. Most restaurants only accept them for dine-in meals, often for dinner only.
– Automatic tip: If you use a coupon, an 18% tip will be added to your pre-tax purchase. That’s less than my usual tip, so I don’t mind, but beware so you don’t end up double-tipping (unless you want to, of course 🙂
– Restaurants no-longer participating: Sometimes restaurants close down and sometimes they stop participating in the program. I’ve had the first happen to me, and restaurant.com gave me credit for another gift certificate. I don’t know what happens in the latter case. For that reason, and also so that you don’t end up buying coupons you don’t end up using (because you forget about them, lose them, etc.), I recommend that you only get the certificate right before you go to the restaurant.
– Limited number of coupons: some popular restaurants (like The Englander) only sell a limited number of gift certificates and sometimes they run out.
– One certificate a month: you’re only allowed to use one gift certificate a month.