Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ways to dine out and still get a deal

Right now, a lot of restaurants are offering coupons and lower prices to encourage customers to come in during this economic downturn. I know that even though I work in a restaurant, I have cut back drastically how often I go out to eat. And, when we do go out, I do not hesitate to use a coupon. For some reason, I find that even my coupon clipping cohorts seem to be less inclined to use a coupon at a restaurant than they would at the grocery store. Frankly, I think this is silly. I know as a server, I am going to give you the same quality service. I would just expect an appropriate tip. And, there are tons of places to find restaurant coupons these days. I seem to get mailers on an almost daily basis with restaurant coupons. Additionally, many restaurants have downloadable coupons available on their websites or offer valuable coupons just for signing up for their customer appreciation email list. One such restaurant is UNO's. I signed up for UNO's Insider's program a couple of years ago. Since signing up, I've been invited to a complimentary new menu tasting with a guest as well as receiving via email coupons on a quite regular basis usually for $5 off a $15 purchase. The tasting really was more than enough to fill us up for a meal and all we had to pay for was any alcoholic beverages that were not samples they passed out(sodas or water were complimentary as well). They also send me information via email about special offers such as free appetizer nights that they have with purchase of a beverage. This is something that I've noticed a lot of bars/restaurants are doing currently to get customers in the door. I'll admit that I've definitely enjoyed some quality time with friends and got the equivalent of a meal at a few of these events.

Restaurant.com offers gift cards to numerous restaurants at vastly discounted prices such as $25 gift cards for $10. They make it easy as you can pay online and print out the certificate from your own printer the day you want to use it. They do often require minimum purchases so be sure to read to see if any restrictions apply.

Even when dining, you can get more bang for your buck. I'm infamous for filing up on the items which don't reheat the best(or bread as I am a bit of a carbaholic) and saving the rest of my meal for lunch or dinner the next day. I've even found that some restaurants towards the end of the night will box up some extra bread that would otherwise be thrown away for me too. This is certainly not true everywhere though as leftover bread is often considered a bonus of closing a restaurant for employees. Some restaurants will be more than happy to send you home with a carry out nonalcoholic beverage if your beverage comes with free refills. I know the restaurant I work at does this as a general policy upon request(and frankly many of us simply offer it to customers as well just as a matter of good service to make what will hopefully be better tips.). I rarely have taken advantage of it myself. But, recently when dining out, I had a server just automatically bring me a to go diet coke to me when she brought our boxes.

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