I’m a huge fan of Restaurant.com. The general premise is that you can buy discounted gift certificates for restaurants (not every restaurant is available, but they do have a lot of local, independently-owned restaurants). The restaurant gets people in the door who might not otherwise have tried or have known about their restaurant, the web site gets a cut, and I get to try out a ton of new restaurants for cheap. It’s multi-win. :)
And even better than the normal discount (which I think is $10 for a $25 gift certificate), I signed up for their mailing list and get sale alerts for 70% or 80% off of $25 restaurant gift certificates (I always wait for the 80% days.) So, I spend $2 to get a $25 restaurant gift card that doesn’t expire. Very full of win. They do have other gift certificate amounts available, but the sales are normally for the $25 gift certificates.
Obviously with a deal this great, there’s got to be some sort of caveat or limitation, right? But these aren’t too bad. Though each location can have their own limitations, the following are the normal ones:
- You can’t use the gift card to pay for alcohol (fairly standard, and not unexpected)
- Dine-in only (again, fairly standard)
- Some places have the gratuity automatically added (standard)
- Cannot be combined with any other coupons or specials (standard)
- Your bill total (excluding alcohol) needs to be at least $35, when you’re using a $25 gift certificate.
Some people balk at the last one, but look at it this way — you’re spending $12 (the original $2 and $10 you have spend at the restaurant) to get $35 worth of food. A savings of almost 66%. I think that’s pretty awesome. :)
Possible downsides: You have no printer (not sure if they have an iPod Touch or Droid app that renders printing moot) or, even if you do have a printer, you’re the type that will never remember to take the gift certificate to the restaurant with you.
Thus far, I have went to the following restaurants with Restaurant.com gift certificates: Caper’s (Pizza & more), Ferdos Mediterranean Restaurant, PizzaPapalis, Ya Halla (Middle Eastern), and Fifi’s (fancy French restaurant). and I have a file folder full of gift certificates for a whole bunch of other restaurants.
Honestly, I don’t really see much, if any, downside to this, especially for someone like me, who loves to eat out, try new restaurants, and support local, independently owned companies (there are some chains on the site, but I tend to steer clear of chains) but who doesn’t have a lot of extra cash to blow on luxuries like fun dinners out with my honey or friends.
Verdict: highly recommended. :)
Side note: Nobody (no business, person, collective, spambot, whatever) asked me to do this review. The reviews on my blog are here because I either A) want to let people know about something awesome or B) want to warn people against something terrible. Also, I want to do a lot of local reviews (this one’s not local, but it’s a gateway to local things) and reviews of things relevant to what this blog covers (photography, belly dance, costuming, dyeing, etc.) just to let people know about things they might not otherwise know about.
According to a friend, Lauren Nieman, her mom had a bad incident with Restaurant.com. Apparently, the restaurant in question asked to be taken off the website, but the website neglected to do so, so they refused to accept the gift certificate. She says that the website stopped sending the restaurant money, so they refused to accept the gift certificates. The website did refund Lauren’s mom her money, but she found the process to be a hassle. This is the only case where I’ve heard of that happening, but in fairness, I wanted to pass along the information. Lauren suggests that you call the restaurant to make sure they accept the gift certificates before you buy one. I’ve never had this issue, but calling ahead is a good idea if you’d like to be cautious.