Are Restaurant.Com Gift Certificates Worth It?
Times are tough and many restaurants are doing whatever they can to bring in diners to their establishment. One of the programs that many restaurants participate in is the discount dining program run by Restaurant.com. Basically, you the consumer buys these gift certificates from their website and use them at a participating restaurant to save a certain amount of money off your check. Now I've been using restaurant.com certificates for awhile now and you do save money but it can also cause you to spend more money. How? Because having the certificates encourages me to order more than I normally do because I think I'm saving so much money. Perhaps the way one should look at these dining certificates from restaurant.com is not so much that you save money but that you get more for your bucks.
The Total Cost
To illustrate, I bought a $10 gift certificate from Restaurant.com for $2 for Butterfield 8, a nice pub just off Fifth Avenue. Once the sale went through, you can immediately access your dine-in gift certificate and print it out. According to the certificate, I am required to spend a minimum of $20. In addition, the restaurant will add an 18% tip based on the check before the discount was taken off and before any taxes incurred. My order was a skirt steak with mashed potatoes and crunchy onion rings which costs $20 and a $2 diet coke, I've already met the required minimum. So the restaurant gives me the discount of $10 and includes the tax on the discounted price, then adds the tip. In total my bill came up to $17.03. Without the discount my total including tax and tip would have cost me $30 so I saved approximately 43%. But wait, don't forget that the price of the certificate was $2, so in reality my total savings was 36%. All in all, using the restaurant.com certificate saved me 1/3 of the cost. That's not a bad deal.
Be Careful and Read the Fine Print
But you do have to be careful with restaurant.com. Don't be so enamored by the deal that you think you're getting that you end up ordering more than you usually do and therefore erasing whatever savings you would have had. You still got the deal because you got more for your money but you ended up spending more than your normally would.
In addition, don't forget that it will cost you money to buy the gift certificate. You are better off buying them when restaurant.com declares an 80% off sale. Normally restaurant.com will charge you $5 for a $10 gift certificate and $10 for a $25 certificate and so forth. At those prices you are not really getting the best deal. If you sign up with restaurant.com they will entice you to buy by giving you codes so that you can buy these gift certificates for much less. Wait until they offer you an 80% sale on the gift certificates. For example a $25 gift certificate will only cost you $5 and a $10 certificate will only cost you $2, as you can see, if you wait until there is a sale you get a lot more savings. Sometimes they have a 90% off sale but that's only once or twice a year.
The gift certificates can only be used for dine-in service not take-out. Normally, the gift certificates never expire but you should check the fine print to make sure that there is no expiration date. Also, check if the gift certificate has any conditions. For example, a restaurant may require that the gift certificate only be used only for dinner or for the hours of 2-4pm or not on Saturdays. It may say that the discount applies only to food and non-alcoholic beverages. Make sure that you understand what you are buying before you click and pay for it on the website.
In addition, you can give these gift certificates to anyone and they can take advantage of the deal. When you sign up on restaurant.com, you will be able to track your certificates, reprint any lost certificates, and make notes on the certificates that you give away. When you use a certificate, the website will automatically take that certificate out of your list and only leave the certificates that are still available.
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