A couple of weeks ago, Money Talks News’ deals expert Karla Bowsher clued you in on how to cut your restaurant bill in half by using Restaurant.com – a deal that most people dismiss as too good to be true. I’ve used hundreds of their certificates over the last five years and have saved thousands of dollars, so I can attest this program is legit.
Nevertheless, there are several tips I’ve learned to ensure that you receive the greatest value from your certificates. I ran these by Karla just to make sure they’re good ones…
1. Get them while they’re hot
New certificates are available the first of the month, but the best restaurants can sell out in days. Log in on the first of the month and purchase the best certificates while they ‘re available. Also, you’ll see that restrictions on the certificates, such as minimum spending, often grow each month that a restaurant participates in this program.
2. Verify the restaurant will take the coupon before going out
Just because you bought the certificate doesn’t mean the restaurant is still accepting them. Some businesses sign up for the program but then grow sour on it. On multiple occasions, I’ve seen signs posted on the entrance saying that this restaurant is no longer accepting these certificates. According to Restaurant.com, they’re not supposed to do this, but it happens.
3. Present before dining at your own risk
Restaurant.com asks that you present the certificate before dining, but I rarely do. Since most certificates have a mandatory gratuity of 18 to 20 percent, I’ve seen servers neglect diners using these certificates – because they know they’ll get a good tip regardless.
4. Don’t count on saving the full amount
These certificates are a great deal, but purchasing a $25 coupon won’t save you that amount, since most certificates require a mandatory gratuity that might be more than you’d otherwise have offered. Furthermore, participating restaurants have a habit of unnecessarily taxing the value of the coupon and including the inflated tax in calculating the tip. This typically adds a few more dollars to your bill, which I accept instead of having a discussion as to why sales tax doesn’t apply to coupons. Finally, I have found myself purchasing additional food to meet the minimum spending amount.
5. Double dip with other programs
You can’t use other coupons or promotions along with these certificates when paying for your meal, but it’s possible to save additional money in other ways. For example, you can use OpenTable for your reservations and earn up to $10 in credit per dine. Another trick is to buy Restaurant.com certificates through an airline’s shopping portal in order to earn frequent flier miles.
6. Exchange unused certificates
While these certificates are nonrefundable, they can be easily exchanged for credit toward another restaurant. I frequently purchase these certificates for use when I travel, knowing that if my plans change, I can later get credit toward a different certificate.
Restaurant.com has been offering diners some great deals since long before anyone ever heard of Groupon. If you want even more deals, check out Karla’s deals page.