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(14 votes, average 4.57 out of 5)
Food - Restaurants
Written by Cheapo Momma   
Friday, 02 October 2009 12:59
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The Bad
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The Bad:

It's a Coupon, Not Gift Certificate markets the discounts as “Gift Certificates” which they certainly are not. A true gift certificate has a value associated with it and that value is taken off the top of the bill. When you use a $25 coupon your bill is being reduced by $25. Although that may seem the same to you, it’s not. Pay with a gift certificate and your server could care less. Pay with a “gift certificate” and the waiter will instantly identify you as one of the dreaded "coupon people."

Unless a “gift certificate” specifically requires a tip based on the undiscounted amount, the waiter may assume that they will get a much lower tip. The waiter also know that client is the “person who paid $2 for that $25 coupon.” Which means he's bracing himself for a tip from a cheapster. Of course, in this economy, they should just be happy that you showed up, but you might get less than attentive service.

Minimum Purchase Amounts

With a real gift certificate, the total amount is taken off your bill. Not so with a certificate. requires a minimum purchase for each gift coupon. So, you need to pay attention to that. If you find one of their $25.00 coupons comes with a $35 minimum, that's as good as it gets. Of course, The Restaurants are banking on the hope that you will end up spending a lot more than the $35.00. But a $35 minimum with a $25 certificate is pretty reasonable.

There are a few other things you need to be aware of. Alcohol is often excluded. When you get to the high denomination coupons, the minimums get pretty high. For instance, a $100 certificate might come with a $200 minimum. So if you hit the magic $200, you might end up paying about $170 with taxes and tips out the door. But if you only manage to order $170 worth of goodies, you'll end up needing to get more dessers to hit the minimum. So always do the math and make sure you eat enough to target that minimum. A good strategy is to have a couple certificates of varying values and then use the minimum amount one that would be appropriate.

Maximum Amounts are Low: Even if you order tap water, you'd be hard pressed to keep your order under $50 at many of the restaurants that only offer $25 certificates. Go with a party of four and your $25 gift certificate effectively has a $100 minimum. Your certificate therefore ends up shaving off 25% of the bill and you may have paid $10 for that. Not much savings when you factor in the 18% tip. Best to order the blue plate special. Again, look for restaurants that have both the $25 and at least a $50 certificate.

Can’t Combine: Real gift certificates can be combined to pay your bill in full. Not so with’s certificates. You can’t take two $25 coupons and use them together to get $50 off a $70 meal. In addition, you can’t take advantage of many specials that the restaurant has. For instance, those $2 happy hour appetizers are $6 for you if you use your coupon.

Only Certain Days: Some restaurants have limitations on the days that they allow for the certificates. The better ones exclude Friday and Saturday nights. Some just allow 1 day a week. Many of these restaurants already have happy hour or 2 for 1 specials midweek anyways. So you could pay $10 for something that you might have gotten for free. In addition you can only use one coupon per restaurant per month. So if you want to pay frequent visits to you favorite bistro, won’t help you much. For me, this isn’t that big of a problem because we don’t eat out that much. Additionally, it seems that fewer restaurants are limiting the days in these tough times.

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cluescookies |2011-08-03 18:23:09
Not impressed when an 18% gratuity is added at a restaurant that does not have table service. Do you tip at a sub shop? Not a deal.
jambajojo  - Great Idea |2009-10-21 10:55:34
For my birthday I just received a gift certificate from a friend. I thought it was a great gift idea. (And btw, it wasn't to that pizzeria I had mentioned in my earlier posting!)
Omiewon  - Very Good Experience |2009-10-14 14:34:31
I used one of the $25 certificates for a place called the Kitchen we really like last night. $35 minimum and we spent about $46. We walked out the door for $33 which was pretty darn good for 3 entrees an appetizer and 3 drinks. Our service was very good and worth the 18% tip on the full amount. Giving the certificate at the beginning was no big deal and considering how few people were in the restaurant on a Tuesday night, I think they were more than happy to have us. The waitresses shouldn't care from their end, they get the 18% instead of nothing which is exactly how much they would have gotten if we didn't have the certificate.

Very good experience, I would recommend.
Omiewon  - Tip even in places where there's no tip |2009-10-11 07:51:36
The 15%/18% tip differential is not that big, but there are a couple places that serve food without any tip that with get the automatic 18% anyway. That I just don't get. Having said that, there are a couple places that we normally go where they only have $35 minimum and we usually spend almost exactly that.
The 80% off is pretty good but you have to act quickly otherwise all the good restaurants only have the $10 certificate which isn't any better than a coupon.
Also, I looked to see if there were restaurants where I grew up and there are very few. Major cities there are tons of restaurants, small towns, there are few options.
Tim  - Restaurant Owner |2012-01-14 10:56:58
The reason these Restaurants add the 18% is to recoup some of their loses when cheap asses come in there, buy 2 waters, a shrimp dinner and just barely make it to $35. Then want to take stuff ToGo if they don't meet the minimum in the dining area. The restaurants get NOTHING in return for the redemption of these "Gift Certs." In most cases the only way the person would come back is if they could use another coupon. And they can, in a month. In the in between time, they will go to the other restaurants in the area that participate in
elle  - Cheap asses? |2012-02-05 13:38:04
Perhaps you should have listed your restaurant name here as we wouldnt want to do that to you...whats crazy is that my husband and I have done this "shrimp dinner and water" thing, told our friends about the place and now they go more than us and guess what??? They dont use certificates...if your servers and if your +menu is on top of their games this sounds like really good word of mouth advertising for a cheap ass..
jambajojo  - Minimum Food Purchase |2009-10-10 21:57:49
When has their 80% discount, we'll usually take advantage of it. I just couldn't believe that one local pizzeria had a minimum food purchase of $50. Considering it was a chain restaurant (yes, chain) where the most expensive LARGE specialty pizza is about $20, I thought the only way I would buy this certificate would be when I had to feed a small army. But for my young family of five, it just wouldn't make sense. I like leftover pizza... but not that much.
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