When I read my first Restaurant.com reviews, I thought it was a scam. It couldn’t possibly be legit. Why on earth would anyone sell a $25 restaurant gift certificate for only $4 – $10?
Restaurant.com: Scam or Legit?
However, I decided to give it a try. I logged on to the website and searched for participating restaurants near where I live. I searched through the restaurant listings until I found a restaurant that appealed to me: a Brazilian steakhouse! If you like all you can eat meat and fried pineapple, there’s nowhere better to go than a Brazilian steakhouse.
I read the terms and restrictions, checked out the menu, and looked through the various options for this restaurant. I decided to select an offer that would cost me $6, but then give me $25 off my meal when I spent at least $35 before taxes and tip. I printed off the certificate right then and there and a friend and I went to the restaurant that very evening.
The food ended up being great, the service was good, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We ended up ordering about $40 worth of food, our tip was approximately $7, and I believe taxes were about $3 or so.
All together, we ended up spending about $31 out of pocket, summarized as follows:
Certificate Purchase: $6
Total Before Certificate: $56
Less $25 Certificate: $25
Total Out of Pocket Cost: $31
Without the certificate, we would have spent about $50, calculated as follows:
Total Out of Pocket Cost: $50
Our meal was by no means free, but we ended up discovering a great restaurant and saving about 40% on our meal. Since my friend and I split the cost, we each ended up paying only about $15, which is a real steal for a nice dinner at a decent Brazilian steakhouse.
Since then I’ve used Restaurant.com certificates many times and have been very satisfied each time. I’m a thrifty guy and don’t eat out a ton, but when I do, I always try and use a Restaurant.com certificate if possible. It seems silly to me to pay full price when I could be getting a 40% or so discount.
How Restaurant.com Works
Restaurant.com is a website that offers over 50,000 restaurant deals nationwide. Its purpose is to allow people to discover and try new restaurants at a discounted price.
Using Restaurant.com involves the following steps:
- Go to Restaurant.com
- Scan through participating restaurants in a geographical area of your choosing.
- Select a restaurant
- Choose a deal offered by the restaurant
- Pay for the offer/certificate (in my example above, I paid $6)
- Print the restaurant certificate. Certificates are emailed to you after you make a purchase and are also stored in your online account so you can access and print at any time.
- Take the certificate with you to the restaurant and save big.
In addition to certificates, Restaurant.com also offers Gift Cards and eGift cards, which are basically credits and can be redeemed later for restaurant-specific certificates on the website.
Gift Cards are plastic cards mailed to recipients, while eGift Cards are emailed to recipients. The recipient simply goes online and redeems the gift card for a specific restaurant offer.
What Restaurant.com Receives
Restaurant.com keeps what you pay for the certificate. In my example above, Restaurant.com kept the $6 I paid up front for the certificate. This money is obviously used to pay for their website, marketing, finding restaurants to participate, and other expenses.
What Consumers Receive
Many consumers like Restaurant.com since they get to try out new restaurants at a significant discount. I normally save about 40% or so off my meal when I use Restaurant.com. What’s not to love about that?
What Restaurants Receive
You might be wondering why restaurants would sign up with restaurant.com. After all, what could they possibly stand to gain by offering heavily discounted food and not even receiving a portion of the certificate purchase price?
Restaurant.com certificates help restaurants advertise and promote their restaurant and attract new customers. They’re willing to accept a lower profit margin in exchange for bringing in new customers who they hope to convert to loyal customers.
I probably never would have discovered many of the restaurants I have tried had they not participated with Restaurant.com.
Also keep in mind that restaurant.com generally requires that a minimum amount be spent at the restaurant in order to use the certificate. This generally allows the restaurant to make some money on the deal, albeit less than they normally would if there were no discount.
Benefits of Using Restaurant.com
There are a lot of things I love about Restaurant.com. Here are some of them:
- Certificates and gift cards have no expiration dates. Occasionally I wait several months to use a certificate after purchasing it.
- Restaurant.com partners include over 50,000 restaurants nationwide, representing a large variety of venues, price ranges, and types of food.
- You can search for participating restaurants by city, state, or zip code, so it is really easy to find some that are close to you.
- Who doesn’t love trying out new restaurants at a huge discount?
- It’s free to join
- The program is easy to understand and the website is easy to use.
- Various denominations are generally available.
- Restaurant locations, pictures, contact information, and menus are available to see
- You can print out the certificates immediately after purchasing, or access and print them later from your account at your leisure. The certificates are also emailed to you.
- If you purchase a certificate but later want to exchange it for that of another restaurant (similar denomination), you can.
Cons of Using Restaurant.com
There are a few limitations or cons of using Restaurant.com:
- Not all restaurants participate and some areas of the country may not have a huge selection
- There may be restrictions on a certificate, such as day of the week or time of day it may be used or a minimum spending amount.
- I’ve heard that some restaurants stop honouring restaurant.com certificates. To avoid this, simply call the restaurant before making the purchase and ask. Alternatively, you can always exchange one certificate to that of another restaurant.
- Your tax and tip are calculated based on the gross, pre-discount amount. An 18% tip may be added automatically.
- You can generally only use one certificate at a time.
- There is generally a minimum amount you must spend at the restaurant in order for the certificate to be accepted. This minimum purchase amount is always higher than the value of the certificate but amounts vary by the amount of the certificate and the participating restaurant.
Suggestions for Using Restaurant.com
- Try and find deals where you don’t have to spend much more than you normally would in order to reach the minimum purchase amount.
- Make sure you read, understand, and follow all terms and restrictions of using the certificate, such as the minimum purchase amount. Terms and restrictions will vary by restaurant and certificate amount. Make sure you understand these before you purchase the certificate and also review them before going to the restaurant to ensure compliance. These are shown prominently on the website as well as on the certificate for easy reference.
- Before purchasing a certificate, call the restaurant and ensure they are still accepting the certificate.
- Make sure you read and understand all applicable terms and restrictions before purchasing a certificate.
- Sign up for restaurant.com emails so you can find out when they have special deals and promotions.
Negative Restaurant.com Reviews
I personally have only had good experiences with Restaurant.com. The few bad Restaurant.com reviews I’ve read are usually a result of a restaurant refusing to accept a certificate.
This can be easily avoided by simply calling the restaurant before making a purchase. Alternatively, you can always swap your certificate to one restaurant for a comparable one to another restaurant.
Additional Tips on How to Save Money
For additional tips on how to save money, you might try the following books:
- Clark Howard’s Living Large in Lean Times: 250+ Ways to Buy Smarter, Spend Smarter, and Save Money
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette
- The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches: A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less
Are Restaurant.com reviews that call it a scam accurate, or do you think it is legit? How has your experience been? Leave a comment below!