Thursday, February 17, 2011

Restaurant.Com Review

Most of you have probably heard of Restaurant.Com and are probably wondering if the hype lives up to the reality. In a simple word: Yes! However, there are certain things you must be aware of to properly use your Restaurant.Com gift certificates...

The basic way that Restaurant.Com works is that you buy a gift certificate ($25, $50, $75, and $100) which you can use to apply toward paying your total restaurant bill. Officially a $25 gift certificate costs $10 but The Coupon Whisperer is telling you to NEVER pay that amount. Why? Because several times a month, Restaurant.Com certificates sell for an 80% (sometimes 90%) discount which means that a $25 gift will sell for only $2 after you apply the coupon code they supply you. The higher denomination gift certificates also can be purchased for these same steep discounts.

There are a few simple rules that must be observed in order to use these gift certificates. In the case of the $25 gift certificates you usually have to have a total bill of at least $35 and leave a tip of at least 18% of the total undiscounted bill. No big deal for The Coupon Whisperer since he always leaves a tip of at least 20% (easier to calculate).

So how does this work in a real life application? Well, I have used Restaurant.Com certificates at the nearby Cannoli Kitchen which serves excellent oven baked pizzas. My last bill for a couple of extra large pizzas came to about $37. After applying my $25 Restaurant.Com gift certificate, that was reduced down to just $12. The tip brought my cost up to $20 so with the $2 cost of that gift certificate the total cost came to just $22. Had I not used the Restaurant.Com certificate, my bill would have been $37 plus $8 tip for a total cost of $45. Therefore my net savings were $23 or more than half.

The best deals you get with Restaurant.Com are for $25 where the total bill must be at least $35. For some reason the $50 gift certificates and higher have to be used on total bills of double or more of the certificate face value.

So what are the pitfalls of using Restaurant.Com? The biggest problem is that while the certificates themselves don't expire, the restaurants often do. In October I bought a bunch of Restaurant.Com certificates including for a Japanese sushi restaurant and a Chinese restaurant. Guess what? Both are now closed. So my advice to you would be to CALL the restaurants for which you are planning to buy gift certificates to make sure they are still in business plus don't wait too long before using your gift certificates to avoid any restaurants that might expire before you can visit them.

It is FREE to join Restaurant.com and you can search via your zip code to see what restaurants are available to use the certificates at in your area. You can even take a look at their menus online.

Once you decide on restaurants for which you want to buy certificates, simply enter the discount code (remember, NEVER pay the full amount) and pay via credit card. You can either print out the certificates from online immediately or print them out later from your account to avoid losing them.

Remember, the 80% discounts are offered several times a month so no need to panic and think the deal won't come around again. Restaurant.Com will notify you via e-mail of these discounts.

Bottom line is that with this service available, you would be crazy to pay full price for your restaurant meals. Just follow the simple rules (regarding total bill and tips) and you will save BIG by using Restaurant.Com.

Happy dining, Couponeers!

6 comments:

  1. I am a merchant who had signed up for restaurant.com though one of their field agents. The agent came to my pizza shop in Swansea, SC and presented the program to me. It seemed legitimate. We discussed possible issues upfront. She assured me that customers could only buy one certificate to my place and the program was designed to bring new customers to our restaurant. A few month in, I had a customer that was able to purchase $400 worth of $25 certificates for only $16. Restaurant.com was offering $25 certificates at Christmas for $1 and their was no limit on how many a person could buy. This totally defeats the purpose of the program from a merchants point of view! When I contacted restaurant.com, they quickly informed me that in the fine print of the documents we signed, it states that we are obligated to the program for a one year period. We waited our year out and then was told their was a 90 day waiting period. 90 days after providing written notice that we wanted out of the program, we are still on the site! It is very frustrating to me because we have no choice but to disappoint and frustrate our customers by not honoring the certificates. Restaurant.com now says that we must conduct a exit interview, which they are unable to schedule with me as of today. It is a terribly flawed system where restaurant.com does not disclose the terms of the agreement and then "forces" merchants to cooperate or be faced with a $1000 fine for breaching the contract! Just wanted to make you aware as to why so many merchants are turning and running from restaurant.com. I plan to post my story on as many review sites as I can in hope of keeping a merchant like me from doing business with restaurant.com. Just to clarify, restaurant.com keeps 100% of the money they sell the certificate for. Restaurants eat that cost as a way to bring in NEW business. That's the way the program is presented to the merchant. There is a minimum order that is supposed to cover food costs for the restaurant but in today's economy, restaurants are selling items with a 40% food cost. Its a horrible program and I hope that they will remove us soon!

    Michael Brown
    Paparonis Grill, LLC

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Michael. I think customers don't understand the indentured relationship that restaurant.com tries to impose on its "partner" restaurants. Restaurants receive NO money from RDC. As you say, there is a trade off: discounted prices for marketing. When no NEW customers are produced from this process, then there is little point. And RDC's policy of preventing satisfactory opt outs just creates a negative experience for customers, restaurants, and if I have my way, RDC.

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    2. Hi Michael, I understand your point but you should know that a customer CANNOT use more than 1 certificate at a particular restaurant and of course there are not limit that customer could buy but with $100 gift certificate they HAVE TO buy at least $200 worth of food. HOW CAN YOU LET A CUSTOMER USE $400 GIFT CARD IN YOUR RESTAURANT WITHOUT ANY RESTRICTION ANYWAY? It doesn't matter how many they buy from restaurant.com but they can only use 1 gift card per 1 restaurant per month and it's a promotion program for local restaurants to introduce business to new customer.

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