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Tips for Using Coupons when Dining Out

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Published July 15th 2015
Extreme couponing with minimum embarrassment
Group buying deals on websites such as Groupon, Spreets, Cudo and many more give you the chance to try out a restaurant at a hefty discount. Half-price deals abound on coupon websites, and you may find even better deals such as the coveted 90% discount. Coupons also tend to package together an entire meal, which is a good enough excuse to treat yourself to dessert or wine when dining out.

groupon group buying deal
Getting a Groupon discount is exciting. Image: Groupon.


Tell them you have a coupon
Whether you are booking ahead or just walking in, you should advise the venue that you are using a coupon. It is polite to let them know before you order, and it will also help you get the most value out of your coupon. A typical restaurant coupon will entitle you to an entrée, a main, a drink and maybe a dessert per person; so you will want to make sure you order from each of these categories. Your coupon may be for a set menu or a limited menu, which is important to know before you get carried away ordering dishes that your coupon does not entitle you to.

Print off your coupon
Not all group buying sites were created equal. In my experience, Groupon is the only site where you do not (usually) have to print off the coupon. Usually, it will say in the terms of use that you have to print off the coupon. Even if you are able to show the coupon on your mobile device, it is best to have it printed just in case. You never know when your battery is going to die or your internet will cut out.

Read the fine print
Reputable sites such as Groupon actually have a prominent section in which they inform you of what you should know before buying. This includes any restrictions, for example some coupons are only valid on weekdays. A dinner coupon is rarely valid during lunch service, and vice versa. Note any booking details, such as how far in advance you are required to book. Most importantly, check the expiry date, and book well ahead of that date just in case they cannot accommodate you as the expiry date draws closer. There is no point getting a fantastic deal if you are just going to let it lapse before you can use it.

Most 'fine print' is fairly standard and applies to when you may use the coupon, but some deals have strange terms. For example, I have seen insanely cheap all-you-can-eat taco deals on offer in several cities. However, you have to eat all the tacos they bring you, and you will be charged full price for any plates you fail to clear, and you don't get a new plate until the old one is finished. In other words, if one type of taco is disgusting you either eat it or pay for it. I almost purchased one of these deals thinking it would be taco heaven, but upon reading the details, it sounds more like taco hell.



Check the value
Before you purchase your coupon, find out how much you are actually saving. Look at the online version of the menu if possible, and tally up how much you think you would spend without the discount. The saving is calculated on the presumption that you are ordering the most expensive dish on the menu; if you are more inclined towards salad than steak, you may not be saving enough to justify purchasing the coupon.

As an aside, beauty deals such as spray tanning and eyelash extensions tend to be the worst culprits when it comes to over-stating the original value.

Booking before you buy
If you have decided to dine out on a whim, and wish to find a coupon for use that same day, it is best to call the desired restaurant before you purchase the coupon. Otherwise, you may end up salivating over a deal you just paid for, only to find that they cannot take your booking for the next week.

Leave your dignity at the door
The point of group buying deals is to drum up repeat business for the restaurant. You get to try a new restaurant on the cheap, and if you like it, no doubt you will be back. Despite the importance of providing good service to first-time customers, some restaurants seem to resent you for having the audacity to use a coupon. Sometimes you have no way of knowing that this will be the case, but often you can sniff out such venues ahead of time by taking a look at their online reviews. If there is a flurry of recent unfavourable reviews from coupon users, skip out on that one and find a restaurant that will treat you respectfully despite your frugal ways.
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Why? To try places you have never been to while getting a huge discount.
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