Update on Restaurant.com

February 10, 2010 at 6:37 pm (Being Frugal) ()

A year ago I bought a year’s worth of monthly coupons from Restaurant.com. Major deal, get a $25 gift certificate every month, for use at a selection of local restaurants, and I bought them at 80% off (I think it was less than $30 for them all). Well, I’m finally getting around to using them up and I have some words of wisdom for anyone that is thinking about buying them next time there’s a big offer. 

First, check out what restaurants are on the included list of participating restaurants. You may find the list a little limited. If you live in a smaller urban area, that could be a problem. It’s not a huge deal for me, there’s enough there in the Seattle area to choose from to make it worthwhile.

I did find quite a few issues with the searching algorithm on the website, so realize that you’ll have to try it a few different methods to find every location that you can visit. What I consider “downtown” seattle comprises the big urban area, with the museums and major businesses, and runs into 4 main zipcodes. However, of the restaurants that show up on the complete list of “downtown”, there is a single restaurant! In other words, quite a few are missing on the neighborhood list. I have found significant inconsistencies from the list of “all” restaurants in Seattle vs. the view by neighborhood. You can search for restaurants within 1 mile, 5 miles, 15 miles, etc, but there are some serious issues and problems with that as well. I tried searching for “5 miles” and ones that are a mile away are missing, yet others that are a 30-45 minute drive away (at highway speeds) are included. There is no map of included restaurants. That would be incredible if it existed, and probably not all that difficult to code, but it is not an option, unfortunately. I’ve found the best method is to browse the list of ALL restaurants, then write down the name and zipcode. If you search by letter, they will still be missing. Searching by a particular zipcode seems to be the best method of finding all included restaurants, but even them, some may be included in the zipcode list but missing from the “all” list. I really don’t get it. They must have gerbils coding their website. Very hungry gerbils that re fantasizing about their shredded lettuce mid-afternoon snack instead of working!

Whew, did you follow all of that? Me neither. But either way, it is still a good deal, regardless of how difficult it can be to navigate and then finally “check out” and get your coupon. I’ve printed a few up for some local neighborhood places that I can just go to when I don’t feel like cooking and don’t want to go through a huge bother to travel anywhere. The coupons are good for a full year from the date you purchase, and be careful to NOT lose them. Once it’s printed, it’s gone forever. I just printed a few up and have stashed them in my truck’s glove compartment. That way, if I’m in my vehicle, I know I have them. I did make a backup copy that I left at home, just in case.

I’ve used two so far (yes, I’m a bit behind! I’ve got 10 more to go) and have had a wonderful experience both times in redeeming them. It’s super easy, the restaurants don’t give any problems or caveats to using them, provided you follow their rules. They are pretty basic, 18% gratuity is supposed to be incluced (it hasn’t been so far, and I usually tip better than that anyway), it is often for a minimum $35, and it often doesn’t extend to holidays, special occasions, or happy hour. Some higher-end restaurants may require that you have a higher bill (say $45 instead of $35) for a $25 coupon, and may require or exclude alcohol and may require dinner only (and most of them are for dine-in only, no takeout!). Read the semi-fine print before you print the coupon (they make it very visible and clear, fyi) and you’ll be all set.

Even with the search issues, I still think it’s a great way to try a few restaurants without a major investment. In fact, I wrote this post because I’m going out tonight since I’m tired of scrounging for food at home!

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3 Comments

  1. mbhunter said,

    If it was 80% off it only cost you $24. Basically if you used only one of them (out of 12) you came out ahead. That’s the way to buy them!

  2. debtmaven said,

    I couldn’t remember how much I paid, but $24 sounds about right, thanks! Definitely a deal!

    Our $68 meal last night: Cheese artichoke dip, spicy habenero tiger prawns, seared steak skewers with poblano mashed potatoes and mole sauce, molten lava chocolate cake with a la mode mexican ice cream, a house margherita, and 2 bourbons was $38 after tax. I drank less alcohol so I only paid $16. You can’t beat that!

  3. jim said,

    These can be a good deal but it does depend on the restaurant. Making sure there are a good options for restaurants that take the coupons and reading the rules carefuly are the keys. One word of warning, restaurants might stop taking the coupons without warning. I bought a 6 months worth of $25 certificates for $24 but then the restaurant we liked stopped accepting them. I used 3-4 of them so we got my money’s worth pretty easily. After that restaurant stopped taking them they don’t have any other local restaurants that take them which I’d want to eat at.

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