Restaurant.com: What It Is and How It Works

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$25 Restaurant Gift Certificates for only $10!

I’ve come to learn that readers love Restaurant.com, but often question what it is and how it works. I jumped, then, when Laura offered to write an article introducing and explaining Restaurant.com.

Eating out at restaurants can be a big budget breaker, especially if you go out to eat often. One way to cut down on this expense is to buy deeply discounted dining certificates at Restaurant.com.

How It Works

To get started, you can search by zip code, state, or popular city nationwide. (As of this writing, there were 74 available restaurants in the Twin Cities area, where I live.) If you’d like, you can further refine your results to include only restaurants with a particular cuisine, average entrée price, or other features.

Once you’ve found a restaurant you like, you can choose to purchase a $10, $25, or higher value dining certificate, depending on the restaurant. The regular price of $10 gift certificates is $4 and $25 is $10. Keep in mind that these “gift certificates” are really coupons that have a minimum purchase requirement and other stipulations. For example, the $25 gift certificate requires you to make a $35 minimum purchase, and 18% gratuity is added before the discount.

Still, this is a great way to make your regular restaurant outing less expensive or try a new one. The restaurants that offer these certificates are usually local, although there are a few chain restaurants available. If the certificate you want is out of stock, know that they are restocked on the first of each month and new restaurants are always being added.

Certificates are good for up to one year from date of purchase.

Giving Gift Certificates

You can also give a Restaurant.com gift certificate to someone else to be instantly printed or sent via email. The recipient can then redeem his/her certificate at a restaurant of his/her choice. Restaurant.com now offers gift cards sent through postal mail to recipients, too. These gift cards work similarly to the dining certificates, except they have no expiration date. There’s also a dinner-of-the-month club where your recipient receives a $25 gift certificate each month.

Coupon Codes

The real kicker with this program is that they often give out 80% off codes that make this a stellar deal. This means that, even with the minimum purchase requirement, you can get a $35 meal for just $12 + gratuity! Carrie lets us know when new Restaurant.com coupon codes come available.

Your turn: How do you like Restaurant.com?

**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate advertising links. Read Pocket Your Dollars’ disclosure statement for more information.

About Carrie Rocha

I am passionate about helping people live within their means so they can get out and stay out of debt. I live in Minneapolis, MN with my husband and two little girls.

Comments

  1. Somehow I still am having a hard time understanding how this works. Does it mean that if the bill for my meal is $36, then I use the $25 coupon (let's just say that I got it at 80% off the $10 cost = $2), so that my total cost is $13 + gratuity?

  2. would the coupon would be included in the minimum?

  3. Peggy no the the price of the coupon is not part of the minimum. You pay for the coupon on the web site and bring it in to the resturant and that is where the minimum starts. I went to Chevys tonight and the let us use our beer towards the minimum.

    • How does the e gift card if that’s what you call it. How does it look? can you use the coupon on your phone ?do you have to print it out? I tried to call chevys but they didn’t knw what I was taking about lol.

  4. Hmmm…I guess I must have misunderstood the question. I was under the impression that you just needed to spend $35 before you were able to use the coupon for $25 off. Is this right?

    Peggy, were you asking if the $10 (or $2 if you use an 80% off code) toward the purchase of the coupon counted toward the $35 minimum? If so, then no.

  5. I love restaurant.com. I have been buying from them for a while now and I also have a link on my blog that changes everytime they have a new great deal. It's cool b/c you buy the $25 gift certificate for $2. You take it to dinner just like you would with any other gift card. You spend the min of $35 to $50 and use the $25 certificate to help pay for it.

    You can also by gift certificates to give to people. They are not restaurant specific so they get to go on a specific site on the gift card and choose what restaurant they want the gift certificate for. They print it out and dine for less. The cool thing is that you get to purchase these at the same discounts you would for yourself.

    This is truly a great site, especially in this economy. You can get out, without spending too much.

  6. I called a restaurant before I bought to find out if this was legitimate. It was!! I have eaten at Marino's, Mr. BBQ and Nickalows. I am amazed at the savings. Its a great way to try a restaurant you've never eaten at or a great way to enjoy a restaurant you already know is good and haven't been to in a while. I'm now trying giving this as a gift. I'll update you later!

  7. Jacqueline says:

    I am sooooo glad to find this blog about it. I was debating on if I should use Mycokerewards towards a $25 gift card. It looks like I should, although I am dissapointed about minimums but I guess they have to make money.

  8. Flannel Guy says:

    I have used several restaurant.com certificates over the last 18 months. A few points:

    1) I have NEVER had any hassle of any kind.

    2) 80%off occurs about one week a month

    3) Value varies…look for deals over 50% off

    4) The cool part: This is NOT about chain restaurants. Example: For 25 years I lived within blocks of a restaurant, Vina, that touted Vietnamese food. I was scared to try it. I bought a $10 off of $20 certificate and gave it a shot. My parents, wife and I LOVED it !!!

    5) I have yet to see an 18% gratuity added automatically, but, as an ex-waiter, tend to tip 20% anyway if service is good. Keep in mind that servers typically make minimum wage, yet are forced to pay taxes on "expected" tips…even if they get stiffed.

  9. Jennifer Stone says:

    I used my first restaurant.com coupon last night and loved it however I had a question that I can’t find an answer for and hopefully someone can help me. I received my bill and the discount was taken off however on the bottom it stated there was a $9.26 service charge. Is the service charge the gratuity? I was very confused about this on the bill.

    • Some restaurants will add an automatice gratuity and it might be listed as a service charge. Look at what percent of your TOTAL bill the $9.26 represents.

  10. Monica Lohry says:

    So I am new to this too. Just the other day my mom said she wanted to try out Panekoeken Huis, we used to go there when I was little. So they are on here, but it says I have to spend a minimum of $45, so would it be smarter for me to buy 2 $25 certificates, or just one, I am not very good at math and I am confused by this. Oh, just a side note my hubby and I love Chevy's by MOA, it was one of our 1st dates, very good Mexican food.

    • Monica –

      If it says you need to spend a min of $45 then your bill before tax and gratuity must be at least $45. This means that $20 of the bill plus gratuity will come out of your pocket. Most places will only allow you to use one coupon per visit. You ask if the bill is split if you can use 2, but that is up to them. Just make sure your bill is at least $45 and you will be ok. It's like getting your entire meal for 45% off. Hope this helps!

  11. Lori Jo says:

    This is a great site. We used ours the first time at LaFonda's Mexican restaurant in Eagan and we just us another this past Sat to The Shout House (dualing piano bar) and had THE BEST TIME there! In fact I just ordered another to The Shout House today so we can go back again.

  12. I'm not very thrilled with these coupons. We have used a $25 off a minimum purchase of $35 at Gabes that was a gift to us. We paid almost $20 for our food (tax + 18% gratuity) which might sound okay to most of you; however, it was too much food for us to eat. So, we did take some home with us.

    Not sure how much the certificate cost; but if it was $10 — then there was only a savings of $5! Hopefully, it was less than $10. We have been given more certificates; so perhaps we'll get smarter about what we order & take more home for additional meals.

  13. Mary Ane says:

    I purchased a $100 certificate for a local Tavern for $50 several months ago. Today I took my famiy of 6 in for a late lunch. I gave the coupon to the waiter who took the order. When I was presented with the bill….the food was $98 and the tip was 18% added…or another $18 and my credit card was charged for $59. I think I got ripped off. I thought that if the bill was about $100 I would only be charged for the grauity…or the $18. Otherwise…it was no better than just paying the entire bill and not having purchased the coupon Am I wrong? I asked thw waited and he told me they did it correctly. The meal was not very good and we will not return there in the future.

    • Mary Ane – Did you buy a coupon for $50 off that required a $100 minimum purchase? If so, then you paid $20 for the coupon (minus whatever discount you used at the time you bought the coupon) which saved you $50 at the restaurant; in essence it was $30 off (or more if you used one of the 70% off or 80% off codes I often mention). The Restaurant.com website and their coupons all specify a minimum purchase requirement and you pay that difference out of pocket at the restaurant. If you didn't understand the process, then I'm sorry if I didn't make it clear enough. If you were charged incorrectly, then contact Restaurant.com's customer service (www.restaurant.com/customer_service.asp) and see if they can help make it right for you. Sorry you had a frustrating experience.

  14. I LOVE these coupons (and at the 80% off they are a GREAT deal).

    I didn't understand how it worked at first, but once you figure it out, they are a great way to save money at restaurants. I always get confused with the tip b/c it is already added in. So, for me, it was confusing to do the math at first to figure out my savings….I spent $50 on food, the restaurant added 18% gratuity ($9) so my actual total was $59. I then "paid" with my certificate for $25 and owed $34. So, with the cost of my certificate ($2) I paid OOP a total of $36 for a savings of $23!

    Oh, and so far all the restaurants I've gone to include alcohol in the required minimum total, so that glass of wine (or two, or ahem, three LOL) adds into the tally.

  15. I've used Restaurant.com for the past year and like it.

    I recently started using Pizzerias.com also. They offer similar types of gift certificates that never expire. They also offer a give a gift feature which I used to send to a friend in Florida. Has anyone else used them?

  16. Thrifty1 says:

    I am not thrilled about this site. And I wish there would have been a clear and complete example to follow. And the outcome really is no better, but is MUCH more aggravating, than using a Happenings Book type of coupon. I wish I had been forewarned.

    Last fall, I followed Carrie's tip & purchased 10, $25 gift certificates at some sort of a rock bottom price. Thought I'd give it a whirl & thought I was getting a deal. I thought I was purchasing gift certificates to shop at restaurant.com to select and pay for gift certificates to particular restaurants. No, that's not how it works. There's a fine line of a difference, which I later found out.

    From time to time, I'd thought about redeeming my general gift certificates for gift certificates to particular restaurants, and searched the restaurant.com website for local restaurants. The pricing looked great! For example, it advertised I could buy a $25 gift certificate to a particular restaurant for $10. That looked like I'd have $15 leftover on one of my general gift certificates, which only cost me a pittance to begin with. I still wasn't sure how this worked, so I telephoned restaurant.com (note to self: make sure to dial 1-888, NOT 1-800!). They told me that what I was doing was buying a gift certifcate to a particular restaurant online, and that yes, I could redeem a partial general gift certificate now and use the balance of it another time. I hate hanging on to partial gift certificates, so I clicked on a restaurant.com link in one of Carrie's daily emails, shopped the website and selected 3 restaurants' certificates totaling what I thought was $25 in general gift certificate purchase price:

    $25 gift certif. costing $10 (dinner bill to be at least $35)

    + $25 gift certif. costing $10 (dinner bill to be at least $35)

    + $10 gift certif costing $5 (dinner bill to be at least $15) =

    totaling what I thought would cost me $25, which happened to be the price of one of my (10) $25 gift certificates purchased last fall. I thought the purchase would be "free" to me now, since I already owned the $25 general gift certificate. And I was really pleased, thinking I could do this all 9 more times. Such savings!

    I later found out: Not so. The site did not take my $25 gift certificate code number.

    Backing up: simply finding my 10 gift certificate code numbers from last fall online was itself a separate, major hassle. The site did not recognize my login name/password from last fall (though I had printed it out & saved it, so I knew it was correct). Oh well. I had a new password emailed to me, I marked & copied it ready to paste it, clicked on the link in the email as instructed, which led me to a new connection which …..wouldn't accept my pasted new password, under either of the 2 options. So I telephoned restaurant.com, again (not making the 1-800 mistake again). The lady walked me through the email process, again, & it did not work with her, either! (FRUSTRATING!) So, she reset my password during the phone call.

    She also informed me that I could not "shop" like I had been doing, but that I had to instead click on the "Redeem Gift Certifcate" button at the top right. (Nowhere in Carrie's instructions did I see that step.) I thought I had to buy a gift certificate to a particular restaurant before I could "redeem" it (thinking: print it for use).

    Clicking on the Redeem Gift Certificate button took me to a different kind of shopping experience! The prices seemed higher. No longer do I see a restaurant with maybe 3 purchasing options with radial buttons ($100 for $50, $25 for $10, and $10 for $5). Instead, I see that I can purchase a $25 gift certificate to a particular restaurant for $25 if I "redeem" my full $25 general gift certificate. Wait a minute – this isn't the deal I thought I was getting! Then I also "redeem" the second, specific $25 gift certificate for at least $35 worth of food at the restaurant and pay an additional 18% automatic tip.

    Granted, yes, it's some money off of the price of a meal. But it's not spectacular by any means. And no where near what I consider a "value" given all the hassle of redeeming them.

    To top it off, the site does not sell $5 gift certificates to particular restaurants, though it sells $20 gift certificates. So I cannot get full value for my $25 general gift certificate if I buy $20 gift certificates for the Shorewood. That would leave $5 on my general gift certificate which I cannot spend on the website. And the restaurant.com lady emphasized I canNOT use more than one of my general gift certificates to purchase a particular gift certificate (can't use several leftover $5 general gift certificates to "redeem" for a $25 specific gift certificate). This time, she said I should shop in $25 puchase increments. But doing so limits my choices of restaurants.

    Now I'm starting to understand what I bought last fall….Can I just get my money back, please? Or is that a major hassle, too?

  17. MommyGio says:

    Thrifty1 – I am sorry that you had so much trouble with the site. I am not sure how much you paid for your certificates, but I can tell you what I did and maybe it will help you understand it a litlte better. They had the "dinner of the month" club on special where you could be 12 $25 restaurant.com gift certificates for $1 each, so I purchased this. Because they are not for any specific restaurant, I get to choose which restaurant to use them for, when I am ready to buy. For instance, normally you have to pick a restaurant first, and then pay $2 or whatever for the certificate. Buying the restaurant.com certificats allows me to buy any $25 certificate for any restaurant just using the code I received. Since you already purchased them for a good deal, you are buying the restaurant certificate for the $1 or $2 that you already paid. Make sense? And the restaurant.com generic certificates have no experation date, you can give them as gifts or you can use them yourself. I don't know if you can get your money back. Example pay $1 for your $25 certificate, your bill needs to be at least $35 +18%. Total bill = $41.30 – $25 = $16.30. So, you pay a total of $17.30 for a $41.30 meal. You save 59%!

  18. Even with the out-of-pocket expenses required by the coupon I have found it still to be one of the cheapest ways to eat out.

  19. Thrifty1 – I am a little confused. Did you buy gift certificates to the website Restaurant.com or, what they call "gift certificates, but are really coupons, for specific restaurants? The first is a credit that is good anywhere at Restaurant.com to purchase the coupons (that they call gift certificates) they sell for specific eateries. The other is the actual coupon that is redeemed at a specific restaurant.

    As for getting your money back, I'm not sure what their policy is about that. You'd have to call their Customer Service to find out.

  20. Kat Dunckel says:

    Okay, so I have a question. If my husband and I want to go out to a restaurant that has a min purchase of $35 dollars…and we purchase say $50 dollars worth of food…and have a $50 dollar coupon that we bought from restaurant.com Does that mean our food bill will be zero and we will just have to pay gratuity? Or does it not work that way and we still have to pay out of our own pocket? please help!

    • Kat – Normally the coupons will be for $25 spend min. of $35 or $50 spend min. of $75. You will always have to spend more than what the coupon is worth. But, you only pay the difference plus gratuity. Example: You go to a restaurant and spend $35.00. You give them your $25 coupon. You pay out of pocket $15 plust tip. Hope that helps. :)

  21. How does that work $35 dinner and a $25 coupon is only a $10 diffrence? How did you make it a $15 plus tip?

  22. MommyGio says:

    I'm sorry. That was a typo on my part. It would be $10 plus 18% tip at the table. You do purchase the gift certificate up front for $1 or $2.

  23. I have given out 6 100.00 dollar gift certificates to friend and relatives. So if they each buy 100 dollar worth of food , how much do they pay, these are people that can't afford to go anywhere. I thought I was helping them

    • MommyGio says:

      Betty, I didn't realize they did 100.oo gift certificates. If these are not for specific places, they can probably break it up and buy ones to specific restaurants with them. Depending on the value of the one for the restaurant, depends on how much they will have to spend. Example: $25 certificate, they will need their bill to be at least $35, leaving them to pay $15 plus tip. To use a $100 certificate, I would think at least $150 will need to be their bill, leaving them to pay $50 plus tip. Hope that makes sense. :)

  24. I am new to this and can i use this Restaurant.com certificate even if I go with entire family (me with my spouse)? or will this apply for each individual? Because the one I am looking saying that minimum $22.50 but each lunch buffet cost me only $12.00 per person

    • Raje – This is for the entire table. As long as you follow the restrictions and spend the minimum, you should be all set. :) You can always call the restuarant ahead of time to make sure everything goes correctly.

  25. Does restaurant.com change the restaurants in certain areas? I was browsing a couple weeks ago and I swear there was a huge selection. Now there’s only a few restaurants in my city and surrounding cities. Kinda disappointed because there’s not much to choose from. :( do they add more selection online and then take it after a certain period of time, like a promo time?

  26. I received a Restaurant.com, gift card with a total value of $100.00. How do we use this amount? Does this card have a total value of $100.00?

    • Dan – If you received it as a gift it is most likely an “equal exchange” gift card which you can exchange for a gift certificate/dining coupon with $100 value at a specific restaurant.

  27. I was given a code for $100.00 can I split that up into 4 $25 certificates, I will never spend the minimum $200 to get the certificate $100 off. And I have read these comments an I am still confused. If the minimum purchase is $35 an I have a $25 certificate does that mean I have to spend $60 an get $25 off or spend $35 an pay only $10 plus tip? This is very confusing I been have holding onto my certificate because I want to know how much cash I need to bring…

    • Shannel – If you were given a $100 code, I’m 95% sure you can only trade it in for a $100 gift certificate – it can’t be split. You can contact their customer service and ask just to be sure.

      To answer your second question, if you have a $25 certificate and the minimum spend is $35, you *only* need to spend $35 to use the $25 certificate, so you’ll end up paying $10 (plus tip).

  28. Please reply to my email as well

    • You CAN split it up into 4 separate gift certificates!! Just keep your code so that if you don’t buy them all at once, you can enter it again and they will know what your credit is. :)

  29. I received a $50 coupon code for restaurant.com for free, through kellogsfamilyrewards.com for entering codes there. So, how can I use this? Is the minimum $35 for this coupon? Say I use the whole $50, what would I actually pay out of pocket. Please only answer if you can give me a straight, honest, understandable answer.

    • If you received a $50 code, you go onto the “redeem gift” section of the site. It will ask you to put in your code and add that credit to your cart. You then pick your restaurant. Since you have a $50 code, you can break it up and buy two $25 certificates or one $50. If you buy a $25 certificate, it will tell you that the min. you must spend in the restaurant is $35 or $37.50. Example: You go to the restaurant and your bill total (before tax, no alcohol drinks and no specials) is $35. You give the certificate and they will deduct the $25 from your bill. You pay what is left along with the tip. If you use a $50 coupon, you usually must spend $75 when you dine. Give them the coupon and you pay what is left. I hope that helps. :)

  30. Lisa plus 5 says:

    I signed up for a BJ’s card and they gave me a $50 gift card to restaurants.com…very few good restaurants are participating but I am still way confused, please help. Do I purchase the certificate to the restaurant I want to go to with that gift card and take it when we go eat? It says purchase on the website, so I am basically redeeming the gift card for the restaurant I want in the amount available but paying for it with the gift card? This shouldn’t be so hard. Please help, I would like to go out and eat tonight. Thanks!

    • Lisa – Most likely the gift card you were given entitles you to an even exchange, which means that you can swap the $50 gift card code to Restaurant.com and get a $50 dining coupon to the restaurant of your choice.

      You’ll need to go to Restaurant.com and choose the restaurant you want to eat it, then redeem your code (from BJ’s) and print a dining coupon that you’ll bring to the restaurant. I say “dining coupon” because most likely the certificate you print will have a minimum purchase requirement of $100.

      Hope this helps!

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