Restaurant discount coupons are all the rage. But are they good value? If you’re a subscriber to deal websites such as LivingSocial, Scoopon, or Jump On It, emails land in your inbox daily offering huge discounts on various goods and services and there is only a 24-hour window to snap them up. Facials, hair cuts and holidays all put in an appearance, but when you’re a foodie it’s the restaurant deals that catch your eye.
There’s always a tempting line-up: an Indian banquet for half the going rate or a seafood platter for two, plus desserts, plus wine at a discount of 65 percent.
More often than not the deal is for a restaurant I haven’t heard of, or the venue is located in a suburb far from where I live, or it’s for a cuisine that I’m just not into. But occasionally somewhere recognisable crops up – a restaurant I’d like to try. It might be walking distance from my home and the thought of redeeming the voucher on a work night when I’m too tired to cook is difficult to pass up.
My partner and I have bought three vouchers in the past few months. One is for an ethnic restaurant that I’ve wanted to dine at for some time. We actually made a booking some weeks earlier but reluctantly cancelled when we were too tired to go. I’m intrigued by the menu, which offers an insight into a cuisine I haven’t previously tried. The deal is $110 worth of food and drink from the menu for $39 for two. Considering we planned to go and pay full price, I feel like I’ve got a good deal.
The second voucher is for a wine bar in our neighbourhood where we can choose six tapas plates from the menu, plus a bottle of wine (or two beers) for $39 – saving 58 percent. We’ve eaten there previously and enjoyed the food and atmosphere in the small, cosy venue. On a cold night when we can’t be bothered to cook it will be an easy dinner and just a short stroll there and back.
The last voucher is more questionable. It’s for an Italian restaurant in our suburb – supposedly Sydney’s Little Italy, but lacking a good reputation as such in recent years. My partner emailed me the offer from his work and asked what I thought. For $49 we could choose $149 worth of food and drinks from the menu – a discount of 65 percent. “Check the menu,” he said, sending me the link. I did and frankly wasn’t that impressed. I said as much in my return email. “Too late,” he replied. “I’ve bought it.”
Good deal or dud?
When we reconvened at home that evening he said that for $49 he figured it was a good deal. “But is it good deal if the menu doesn’t really appeal in the first place?” I asked. In short, is it a bargain if we spend money on something we normally wouldn’t buy? It’s a bit like when you buy things in the retail sales that you never use or wear.
Do the vouchers we’ve bought represent good value? I can’t say for certain. We haven’t redeemed them yet. They’re sitting on a shelf waiting for a night when we can’t be bothered to cook, but can be bothered to go out.
Maybe the Italian restaurant with the unimpressive menu will come up trumps. On the other hand, the other two deals could turn out to be duds. And at the back of my mind is the saying “you get what you pay for”.
Past the use-by date
First though, we’ve got to actually use them. I’ve been told that one-third of these coupons aren’t redeemed by the use-by date. Maybe customers forget about them or they’re received as un-wanted gifts. When that happens, the coupon company keeps the full amount that the customer paid for the coupon. The participating restaurant doesn’t receive anything.
If a voucher is redeemed, the participating restaurant receives about half of the amount the customer paid. So if they offer a deal for $39 – which is perhaps already half the true cost – they receive just $20 or so from the coupon company.
The deals are mostly loss-makers for restaurants – they just hope they’ll impress you enough so that you come back again and pay full price. Or trade up when you come in for your special deal – ordering wine or desserts or coffee that are not included in the offer. Given that many customers just chase coupons and never plan to pay full price, success on that front is debatable.
So are restaurant vouchers good value? As far as coupon companies are concerned, yes.
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