What’s the Catch With Restaurant.com?

by Jason on September 7, 2010

Eat.  Drink.  Save Money.

Sounds good right?  This is the tagline of the increasingly popular Restaurant.com.

Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about this site or have seen some advertisements on the web and wondered – what exactly is this and is it really a good deal?

I decided to take a look at this site for myself and offer my two cents on whether it’s worth signing up for.

The premise

Restaurant.com has two basic premises.

  • It’s a way for local restaurants to offer some deals to build a customer base and get their name out in the community and
  • It gives customers an opportunity to save money at these restaurants.

As much as I love marketing and small business, I’ll focus on the savings aspect for the customer.

How does it work?

You can search for restaurants in your zip code, by state or by popular cities.  If you’re going on vacation to Chicago, you can type the zip code where your hotel is located and search a few mile radius for some deals.

Once the restaurants come up you can scroll through to find out which restaurants are offering the best deals or scroll to find your favorites restaurants.Restaurant.com

What kind of deals are there?

Deals on the site range depending on the restaurant, but the most common deals are usually around 60% off ($25 gift certificate for $10 or a $10 gift certificate for $4).

If you subscribe to their mailing list, you’ll get emailed even more promotional offers and savings.

They recently ran a 90% off campaign, which I took advantage of to buy a $25 gift certificate to a newer local restaurant for $2.50!

What’s the catch?

The only catch that I see is that they have minimum purchase rules.   So for example, on my certificate I bought for $2.50, it can only be used with a minimum purchase of $35.

So you spend $37.50 ($2.50 for certificate plus $35 for dinner) and you get $25 off the price leaving you with a net of $12.50 out of pocket.  Throw in tax and gratuity and you’re looking walking out of there for about $20 out of pocket.

Not a bad deal, but certainly not the deal you thought you were getting.

The last time we used this we were short of our $35 limit by about $9, so we had to order 2 desserts, which we normally don’t order just to make the limit!

Other features

  • “Give a Gift” - This section allows you to buy a gift card for others.
  • Online reservations/Delivery orders - This allows you to secure reservations or order take-out.
  • Dinner of the Month Club - For a monthly fee you can sign up for or give a gift of this club, which gives you a $25 gift certificate each month redeemable on restaurant.com.

Final Thoughts

Restaurant.com is a great way to eat, drink and save some money at your favorite restaurants.  It makes even more sense if you get emailed great offers like the one I received above.

Give it a shot, I think you’ll be pleased.  But be careful.  Read the fine print and realize that you’re still generally going to drop a 20 spot for dinner.

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Tell us in the comments below:

  1. Have you used restaurant.com?
  2. What’s been your experience?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Great point! It sure looks great to think that you are getting a night out for $2…until you read the fine print. It can still be a very good deal, but just not as great as advertised.

Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Exactly. It’s not like it’s a bad deal. Just not as good as you might’ve thought!

Mike September 7, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Thx for the love dude.

Cindysu September 7, 2010 at 8:01 pm

To make up to the $35 limit, we got appetizers and deserts and along with the salads that came with the entree, basically boxed up our dinners to go. So we really got 2 meals from the one. What’s bad in our area, they don’t really offer too many places to go.

Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Good idea Cindy, at least make the most of it right!?

Mysti September 9, 2010 at 12:36 pm

We have very few restaurants that participate in our area….so not worth it to us.

Stevek28 September 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm

If you didn;t present the coupon the total including taxes and tip would have been $47.75, a 59% reduction. What’s the problem?

Anonymous September 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm

No problem, just not as good of a deal as I was anticipating. Still some substantial savings.

Soffie316 October 1, 2010 at 3:44 pm

i’m going to L.A. in march – the restaurant i’m looking at says this- “Minimum purchase of $100. 18% Gratuity added prior to discount. Not valid for Sunday Brunch.” looks like there is no limit to the gift certs you can use as well no disclaimer on “no drinks”. so does that mean that if my bill comes to exactly $100 i can hand the two gift certs & walk away paying only the tip & cost of cert?

Dr. Elizabeth June 30, 2012 at 2:41 am

So you buy a cert for $10.00. You have to order up to $35.00 worth of food (even if you are ALONE at the table). The tip at 20% (required at MANY of the restaurants) is $7.00. Your bill is now $42.00 minus the $25.00 cert SO you still are shelling out $17.00 PLUS DON’T FORGET THE $10.00 YOU PAID FOR THE CERT so your REAL total cost for this meal experience is $27.00!! HOW IS THIS REALLY A DEAL???? YOU ARE SPENDING $27.00 FOR A RESTAURANT YOU MOST LIKELY NEVER HEARD OF (an experimental meal deal is what I call it) and you saved what????????? You saved $15.00 (remember $7.00 was for the tip) so you actually ate only $8.00 of “free food”. GIVE ME A BREAK RESTAURANT.com. This is no bargain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a waste of time!!!!!!!!!!!!

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