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Do you use coupons at restaurants?

It seems to be the age of coupons...throughout the year retailers, shopkeepers and restaurants offer them...how come then I personally find using coupons in a restaurant a negative and not so in a department store or such? How do you chowhounders feel about coupons offered by restaurants? (Does offering a coupon to dine at a restaurant give off a negative connotation?)

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  1. I use them at chains but I feel guilty using them at independents, I want them to profit off me eating there, not give me a discount.

    14 Replies
    1. re: rockandroller1

      If they are offering coupons, then they want/need the business. Especially in cities where the competition is fierce. A lot of new restaurants offer coupons to get you in the door, then you get hooked, and the coupons stop. But you keep going back because you just can't live without "whatever." That's a good thing. Then there are the new places that pass out coupons, you eat there and are relieved you didn't have to pay full price for the meal!

      I use them wherever I can, but always tip on the full amount, not the discount.

      1. re: danhole

        The tip seems to be the real sticking point. I have no qualms about using coupons, especially if it my first time eating there. But I always tip on the full check.

      2. re: rockandroller1

        I agree with rockandroller, but have no problem using a coupon at a mom-and-pop indy if I'm there for the very first time. After all, that is the main intent of couponing--to bring in business that otherwise wouldn't be coming through the door.

        You are taking a bit of a gamble on your first visit, and a lower tab might cause you to look the other way if something didn't go perfectly with the food or service. You may not feel the same way paying full price on your first visit.

        If I decide to become a regular and the mom-and-pop is reasonably-priced, I also would feel guilty (not to mention a little embarrassed) to use one on subsequent visits. You become part of the family. I don't want to be seen as the guy who's there week after week after cutting up multiple copies of the Pennysaver.

        1. re: tubman

          I'll always use an offered coupon for a first visit, I figure that's why they print them in the first place. My father-in-law, on the other hand, is a serial clipper, even asking us to clip coupons from our paper, because he only eats at one place, only eats the same thing, and doesn't want to pay the regular, full price for it now. But the waitresses in the restaurant even keep extra coupons at the cash register and redeem them for the "regulars" if they don't have one, so I should probably excuse his behavior.
          But I always tip a little extra on the full amount if the service warrants - it's not fair to short the waitress for bringing the full value of food to my table.

          1. re: podunkboy

            I always tip "pre -coupon" amount of check.

        2. re: rockandroller1

          why in the world would you feel guilty? If they advertised in a coupon book then they expect some people will be using a coupon and that is how they will judge their return on investment for that type of advertising.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            I feel guilty if it's a) an independent and b) some place I have been to before. I'm torn between the fact that without the coupon, we might not be able to afford to go out and at the very least would probably just stay home instead of going out, but I feel like if it's a place I like to go to, I already know it's good and they're not getting the use out of the coupon that they intended - to draw in new customers. I do end up going there and spending money I wouldn't have otherwise spent if there's a coupon, but I do feel a little guilty as someone who is already a fan of the place, using a coupon.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              So I'm wondering... do you also feel that same guilt when you use coupons for grocery products that you'd buy even if you didn't have a coupon? And, are coupons offered only to attract new customers, or are they intended to perhaps give a little something to keep established customers happy?

              1. re: CindyJ

                There are no products that offer coupons which I buy, so it's n/a. At least where I live, the coupons are mostly for things like processed foods and sugared cereals so I don't use them.

                But to use a parallel, if, say, my farmer's market guy who gives me eggs offered a 2 for 1 discount, I would similarly feel guilty for using it and might ask to pay for all my cartons. If it were the lettuce guy and he were trying to get rid of older lettuce, ok. But if it were an "incentive" kind of thing, I wouldn't want to use it. I want the independents I purchase from to profit from my patronage, not get a deal off of me. Let them get deals off of new customers.

                Example - there is an inexpensive indie place I go to lunch at that offers a punch card where every 10th visit is free up to a certain dollar amount. I won't take the card because I don't want them to give free food to me, I am a regular customer and I want them to have my money and make a profit.

                1. re: rockandroller1

                  I use coupons for cat food, laundry detergent and paper towels all the time. I also use the coupons I get via email from companies like Borders, which are sent to their regular customers. As they say, different strokes...

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    See, I only buy recycled paper products and they never have any coupons for those. If they did though, I would use them.

                    It's not that I'm anti coupon. I'm just anti coupon for local, small establishments. I use the BBB coupons occasionally.

                  2. re: rockandroller1

                    Ditto.

                    If it were an small, independent restaurant trying to make a living , I wouldn't avail of any of their offers. I would gladly pay full price whenever I go.

                    These days, small businesses have to offer these incentives, just to compete with the "big boys" with the deep pockets.

            2. I use them but also order an appetizer or dessert (which I normally would not do) and tip on the full amount the bill would have been.

              I then know if I want to go back or not.

              It is not a negative, but a common business practice to get people in the door. If you like it, you will tell others.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cathy

                I agree with you guys: Using a coupon is a good way to try a new place or to give yourself a little reward for patronizing a favorite eatery. I too usually order something not covered by the coupon and of course, I tip on the full amount.
                If the bill is ridiculously low, I may well tip over 20%.
                We threw subject this around a while ago and I was surprised at how many Posters did not think it necessary, or even acceptable to base the tip on the pre-discounted meal.

              2. Yes I do use coupons. If the restaurant didn't want you to use a coupon, then they shouldn't hand them out. It's a great way to try out a new place or to gain repeat customers. It's also a way for me to add an appetizer, or get a slightly higher priced entree that I may not normally get because I'm trying to stick to a budget.

                BTW, I do tip on the full amount of the bill.

                1. I use a coupon occasionally for eating @ chain restaurants, that typically is the only redeeming quality & reason for eating at a chain, a discount.

                  I rarely find coupons for family run restaurants, so I do not use them there.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: swsidejim

                    To me, if a restaurant - any restaurant - gives out couipons, it means that they want the additional business, even if they don't make quite as muich profit. It's a bit like using a credit card. The merchant has to pay a small commission to VISA, Master Card, whatever, but it is evidently worth it to them.

                  2. There is nothing wrong with using coupons in a reasonable manner (and not from the Entertainment Book). The resto uses them to attract new business, the customer uses them (hopefully) to try a new place.
                    As an owner though I did discover that there is a category of diners that only dine out when there is a coupon/discount involved. And groups that come in where every person in the group presents a coupon. They will go so far as to sit at separate tables when there is a restriction on number of coupons per visit/group. LOL!!!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: hannaone

                      Curious as to why you say "and not from the Entertainment Book". What difference is there?

                      1. re: danhole

                        That's how I discovered the above described category and an unfavorable experience with getting my restaurant removed from the book (3+ years).
                        My experience with the E Book may be unique though.

                        1. re: hannaone

                          Not unique.

                          I respect everybody's right to save money by using e-book coupons, but I personally find it offensive that the same people would use a coupon each and every time they visit. If they like the restaurant enough to pay repeat visits, could they not pay full price for the experience?

                          1. re: hannaone

                            Also not unique in being unable to remove your restaurant from the E-Book. I've noticed three signs at three separate locations in my town that state that they do not accept the E-Book coupons because they had been automatically included in the book although they had not been contacted for renewal and/or had stated that they no longer wished to participate but had been included anyway.