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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


                    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.

                      2. I do use coupons at some restaurants. The local pizza places often run coupon specials and I have no qualms about using those. Also, I sometimes see coupons in the "Clipper" magazine that offer 20% the bill, off or half-off an entree with the purchase of another, and I use these in restaurants I'd frequent with or without a coupon. I'm not usually enticed to use a coupon at a restaurant I'm not familiar with. For the most part, it's my impression that the restaurants that offer coupons are very casual family restaurants, so I don't think a coupon offer is a negative thing.

                        1. In the Bay Area many mom and pops offer coupons with the idea of getting repeat business I'm guessing. If they voluntarily signed up, then I'm fine although using them every visit is uncool.

                          I don't look for coupons but through my cellphone bill there was a free Entertainment Saverguide online deal and I checked it out. There was a coupon for a place I've gone to for a long time (Juan's Place in Berkeley). The coupon encouraged me to go again. The way the waiter took the coupon told he surely didn't care...he didn't even look at it. I think I saved $10 bucks.

                          Also I have a buddy that received the entertainment book as gift and I went to a place with him that I have to say I would have never thought about or even known. The place still did okay.

                          If you're worry you're taking mom and pops or shorting them, just order extras or drinks which will easily recoup their costs.

                          1. ABSOLUTELY! I love using coupons. If you have a problem with saving money, you can send me all your unwanted greenbacks.

                            They can deduct the coupons from their taxes, as a "cost of business" so they do not really lose out and it entices people to come in the door.

                            1. I guess I'll be the lone dissenter here but I don't go to restaurants that offer coupons.

                              If they have to use a coupon to get you in the door, it is a red flag to me and I will not eat there.

                              Of course there are always exceptions.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: BlueHerons

                                Using coupons is just another form of advertising. Many people are hesitant to try something/someplace new without an incentive. Coupons simply provide the incentive. A restaurant using a coupon for advertising isn't a "red flag" in most cases, just some place trying to expand their business, or a new restaurant trying to promote awareness that they are now in business..

                                1. re: hannaone

                                  Being a marketing executive, I know exactly why coupons are used.

                                  I'm having to use one now for one of the restaurants I'm marketing and the food is horrible.

                                  1. re: BlueHerons

                                    It is not the SOLE reason coupons are used for a new restaurant.

                                    Looking at any Industry magazine it is one of the recommendations, along with advertising a link to the local community-having a portion of profits go to a local school, church or athletic group on a certain night of the week or month and along with other incentives within the store.

                                    They do NOT tell you to market a bad product.

                                    Although, you should tell your client, as a favor, that they need to improve their product, so that you can keep business with him/her longer.

                                    1. re: BlueHerons

                                      As a fellow marketing executive I feel exactly the same way. We offer new neighbor coupons for people moving in, but that is the only one, and it is for an item not a discount: Our food is worth every penny that we charge for it--we do not discount it, ever, because it is worth the price.

                                      1. re: dagoose

                                        Do you also (like BlueHerons) think it is a red flag to not eat there?

                                        I mean, BlueHerons said basically the place s/he represents has awful food. Is that how you marketing execs work? Promoting and not telling the client how to stay in business? Seriously, I would like to know.

                                      2. re: BlueHerons

                                        I think your theory might be true for a restaurant that has been around for a while and still can't fill enough tables - a coupon issued at this point is an indication that maybe the reason why they can't fill tables is because the food is not too good and/or the service is horrible.

                                        But new restaurants that issue coupons are doing just what other posters here stated - they are trying to raise awareness of their existence and giving people an incentive to try them out. I wouldn't automatically write off a restaurant in this scenario.

                                        1. re: flourgirl

                                          I agree that with new restaurants it is a bit of a different situation--or, in our case (new neighbor incentives), if there are new people around that you want to attract. In Seattle, where I live, there are two largish restaurant groups that constantly have 2 for 1 entree coupons available. To me, this is a huge red flag not to go there. If they can afford to always sell their dishes for half price, I am paying far more than the dish is worth, and to be honest, it probably isn't worth it at half price either.

                                          Cathy, I'm not saying that it is bad marketing to put out a coupon--I don't automatically assume if there is a coupon, this is a bad restaurant, but I would say if I see repeated half price/2 for1 or even 20% coupons over a long period of time (and that they are ever present) I would not eat there. And like I said before, we do not discount the food at our restaurants. We offer entrance incentives (free dessert, free app) to new neighbors ONCE to get them in (similar to the new restaurant theory). So no, I don't promote and not tell my client how to stay in business.

                                          1. re: dagoose

                                            OK. It was more you were agreeing/responding to BlueHeron and s/he said they 'are having to use one now for the restaurant I am marketing and the food is horrible'. I was more upset with BlueHeron, saying s/he was a 'marketing executive' and basically not helping a client.

                                            I also am suspicious when there is a 'constant' coupon and at minimum see that as a reason to never have to pay full price at that establishment.

                                        2. re: BlueHerons

                                          You must be a bad marketing executive if you make this assumption of all or most restaurants that have coupons.

                                          1. re: Jacey

                                            I stand by my assumption that only restaurants in trouble use coupons.

                                            The restaurant in question I was representing was part of a major golf resort and I had questioned the food on multiple occaisions. The restaurant is now out of business.

                                            A coupon at a restaurant cheapens the brand.

                                            Think about this; what good restaurant in your city has ever offered a coupon?

                                            A coupon does not attract new business.

                                            1. re: BlueHerons

                                              > A coupon does not attract new business.

                                              Hm. I guess all those new restaurants I try via coupons, cards, and web discounts aren't aware of this gem of knowledge...

                                              1. re: The Ranger

                                                Coupons are mainly used by repeat customers. Market research backs this up and is not a fact I pulled out of thin air.

                                                You can disagree all you like but it doesn't change facts.

                                                1. re: The Ranger

                                                  While it may not attract new business, I would safely assume that coupons get repeat customer to go back more often than they may otherwise. An excellent restaurant in my area recently offered a $25 restaurant.com coupon. It's the type of place I'd go twice a year, with the $25 off it's looking like we will go three maybe four times this year. The coupon is getting me to come in more often, even if I may not be a new customer.

                                                2. re: BlueHerons

                                                  2941, a local upscale restaurant offers deals, albeit in "upscale" coupon mailers (don't know their mailing list). the coupon inspired our first visit.

                                                  ruth's chris' steak house offers "deals" and so does morton's. are they struggling? i don't think so. (i don't think the "deal" is any different than a coupon for diminishing the "brand", to whatever extent -- if any -- it does).

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    Right now high end restaurants are having a VERY hard time and yes they are struggling.

                                                    The New York Times recently did a story on how the high end Manhattan eateries that used lottery reservations and only take them 30 days out are now scrambling for reservations.

                                                    Here is a link to Ruth's Chris double digit fourth quarter losses in 2008. http://www.chainleader.com/article/CA...

                                          2. re: BlueHerons

                                            Restaurant.com has just included several restaurants that are outstanding in FFD County, CT. With the discounts it is ~$2-4 for a $25 coupon. But you can onlyuse M-TH.

                                            Win-Win. Jfood gets a great meal, restaurant gets a couple of customers and maybe a few dollars more than no customers.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Couldn't agree with your more....................
                                              Today, Mrs. B and I are lunching at Bistro St. Tropez in Fairfield with a $25 restaurant.com coupon, that I bought for $2. We love this place, but with 2 in college at the same time, $50+ mid week lunches are no longer weekly occurences. So now we can go for a $50 lunch atht costs $27. Much more doable.
                                              Instead of dining at this restaurant 2-3x a year for dinner, we now also get to enjoy it another 6 times a year for lunch.

                                              We often try new to us restaurants with coupons from Restaurant.com or Clipper magazine.

                                              I was in retail for many years, and coupons are an effective way for an establishment to track advertising dollars for return on investment.

                                              An establishment will never know how many people read its advt in a particular publication, but they can count how many coupons are redeemed.

                                          3. I use my KCRW Fringe Benefits Card at a bunch of places...yoga, indoor cycling, Surfas, little boutiques all over LA, wine stores, Rockaway Records, Grateful Palate, and of course, plenty of fantastic restaurants in LA.
                                            There are some great restaurants that are KCRW Merchants and they are happy to know that their contribution to such a great station is bringing in like minded, quality people to their places.
                                            Go to KCRW.com for info on how to become a member!
                                            BLD, Grace, Bread Bar, Oliva Trattoria, have just recently become merchants!
                                            Eat Drink and be Merry!

                                            1. Here's a twist on the cupon debacle...How about a cupon on a date? I never have because I don't want to look cheap. I like at least take turns with the guy in terms of buying the meal - I don't think it's fair to expect them to pay for EVERYTHING. I've never known how to factor a cupon into this. Any thoughts?

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: enbell

                                                I know someone who knew her husband was the right one because he did use a coupon on a date, so to each her own.

                                                1. re: enbell

                                                  When my last boyfriend was tryng to get his restaurant open (they had a 9month delay) I knew he was strapped for cash and he still would take me out...I would say hey, let's go try this place that takes my KCRW card so if we hate it it wont cost us too much money.
                                                  I made it about the quality of the place vs making him feel like I knew he couldn't be throwing his $$ around at the time since he'd always try to pay.
                                                  I'm on a tight budget so I love to use my KCRW card at Chadaka Tai, and I now know I'll use it at BLD and GRACE...mmm, burger night!

                                                2. YES! YES!

                                                  If I can save a few dollars, I'll go for it.

                                                  I live in a seasonal touristy area and when the summer ends the whole place becomes a tomb. Its funny how a resto can be jammed 2hr wait and come November be completely empty. More places are closing for the winter or at least Monday & Tuesday. To prevent that restos use coupons to intice the poor locals to patronize the pricey (overpriced?) establishments during the off-season.

                                                  1. I have my own bizarre grading system on this. Locally we have several coupon options - Entertainment Book, Clipper Magazine, city newspaper, alternative newspaper, ValPak coupons, Pennysaver, online and flyer distribution.

                                                    IMO, having a coupon in the the Entertainment Book is a pretty sound decision. People who buy those books tend to eat out often, so you give them an enticement to try you. There is no negative connotation here in my book. I've had an Entertainment Book for the last 15 years or so and use it often. Have been introduced to a number of nice places that way.

                                                    Newspaper ads with coupons for special events (V-day, New Year's, special celebrations or chef's specials) also escape negative connotation.

                                                    Regular newspaper ads featuring coupons begin to cross the line as they're using price as the main enticement. Val-Pak, Pennysaver and Clipper reinforce this - you'd probably never eat at the place UNLESS you had a coupon for it because they've trained you to always look for the coupon. Can't say I'd recommend the food at any place I've seen in Clipper.

                                                    Fliers are ok for a grand opening. That's about it.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Panini Guy

                                                      I'm hoping that restuarants who 'suddenly' use coupons are falling on hard times.

                                                      That said, I am going to use one I received for a restaurant that is waaaaaaaaaaaay out of line with their pricing.

                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                        "I'm hoping that restuarants who 'suddenly' use coupons are falling on hard times." - ???

                                                        My previous restaurant I "suddenly" started using coupons. I started using coupons because my primary customer base was military and after certain events starting on a certain date in September a few years ago, my customer base was "suddenly" in another country.
                                                        The coupon use was to try and draw upon a new customer base to make up the lost volume of traffic. New faces began to come in and one of the most frequent comments I heard was "I've been driving by here for years and didn't even know you were here", another was "I'm so glad that I found you through the coupon, we will be back"
                                                        For all who use coupons as way to judge restaurants:
                                                        Coupons have their uses, and it doesn't always have to do with the quality of the food. Changes in the customer base, traffic re-routing, negotiating a lower lease in a new location, a restaurant ready to expand and accept more business, and many other valid reasons can be behind the use of coupons by a restaurant.

                                                        1. re: hannaone

                                                          Just a little personal bias, hannaone.

                                                          On just about all restaurants in NY, I am quite happy to use a coupon, if I get one. However, when a restaurant is either obSCENEly overcharging when it opens in an area whose traffic doesn't bear it, or whose management is obnoxious, I am hoping as I noted.

                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                            Cases like that I agree with you

                                                    2. It's very interesting that people (Jfood included) feel guilty using a coupon in an independent resto but have no problem with the 20% LNT or BBBY or the $0.35 coupon for peanut butter. Why? Not quite sure but maybe the independent that he goes to often is more like family than A&P or Stop & Shop (and that's a good thing).

                                                      Since jfood is friends with most of the MOD or owners at the independents in his neighborhood and evenif they did have coupons, jfood would probably not use them here. And since he does not eat at chains, there is little chance for use there but he would absolutely use them at a chain.

                                                      Go figure.

                                                      1. Yes, please, someone send me one for per se!

                                                        (Seriously though, I do not think we ever used a coupon in a restaurant).

                                                        P.S. We would use a coupon if we got one for a restaurant we would want to eat in. But I have not seen a coupon like that yet.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: FoodWine

                                                          I have no problem using coupons and no problem using a coupon multiple times. If they didn't want the coupons used, they wouldn't be issuing them. You may forgot also that someone using a buy one get one coupon may also order drinks which may handily outweigh the free meal.

                                                          Don't forget that depending on the chain a person rather than a corporation owns the restaurant i.e. Melting Pot, McDonalds, ColdStone Creamery are just a few places that I know offer franchises andaren't all corporate owned. Why not feel guilty using a McDonald's coupon at a franchised store then?

                                                          1. re: Rick

                                                            pretty much my thoughts too. A coupon may draw me to a new place or, I may not think some restro's food is worth the price, but maybe with a coupon it is worth it to me. Also, If I can get any product at a better price, I will.

                                                        2. Well, it must be wonderful to be able to go out to dinner and pay full price every time, and tip 30% on the bill to boot. I don't consider using a coupon at a restaurant any different than looking in the Sunday sales ads and deciding this week would be a good week to buy a TV because they're on sale.Our family budget is such that I don't walk into a Best Buy or Sears or whatever and pay full price for something unless I really NEED it, and if I'm taking my family out for dinner, I'm going to use any means necessary to save some money if at all possible. That being said, our Entertainment book makes it through the year with less than 10% of the restaurant coupons used.

                                                          1. I have no problem using coupons at restaurants. I'm not originally from the area in which I currently live, so a coupon in the ValPak or whatever is often the only way I will find out about a place that isn't on any of my normal routes. My husband isn't the most adventurous of eaters, unless I find a new place for us to try. We often use coupons for the local Chinese restaurant, but the coupon is often what makes us decide to order from there instead of cooking. I definitely have no problem using a coupon on pizza. The menu prices are generally way too high anyways.

                                                            My only note is that you tip from the original price, not the discount.

                                                            1. I'm a student - so Coupons are a great incentive to stop the PBJ or Ramen dinners.
                                                              if they didn't exist, I wouldn't eat out as often.

                                                              Also of note - I interned this summer for a theatre that gives a Restaurant coupon book to donors of a certain level - it's specially made with those restaurants and that theatre, so that people can more easily afford a full night out (dinner and a show) And so they can get to know the options close to the Venue.
                                                              I think its a great idea especially since theatre tickets can be fairly expensive.

                                                              1. This question and some of the replies totally befuddle me. It doesn't matter to me if a restaurant is local, small, chain, big, well-known, established, etc.--if it is giving permission for coupons (or "gift certificates," as they're sometimes labeled) to be printed, then what's the problem in using them? I started my business 6 years ago and thought about offering "2-for-1" deals in the beginning, when I was in desperate need of clients. I am a small, local business. I ended up not doing it, but believe me, if I did, I would have been happy if clients took advantage of it!

                                                                As others have pointed out, always tip on the original check before the discount, and if a restaurant tells you that it tried to stop the printing but couldn't, I would respect that as well.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                  I totally agree with you! We eat at a local mexican restaurant that has had a $5 off coupon that has run since the beginning of time! Whenever we go, they treat us very well, and don't care that we use the coupon. We usually have a couple margaritas, and that more than makes up for the $5 off. And, as I stated above, we always tip on the full price, and then some.

                                                                  BTW - this place is always packed, and I'm sure not everyone has a coupon!

                                                                  1. re: danhole

                                                                    I didn't realize coupons were bad until I read a post from someone here. I will still use a coupon if I like the restaurant, but based on the rationale I read here, it's an indication that the restaurant either isn't good or is going downhill.

                                                                    I'm fine with coupons and love pizza places that have their coupons right at the door, waiting to be utilized.

                                                                    1. re: dolores

                                                                      No, Dolores! Not true! Some aren't good, but you can't say that all restaurants that pass out coupons are bad, or going downhill. That's tossing out the baby with the bath water! ;-) Like the place I mentioned above, it is very good and loved in the neighborhood. It is not the best Tex-Mex/Mexican, but it's still good. And they have been in business for years. They even had to expand to accommodate the crowds. Please re-read all of the posts. Hannaone gave a good reason for "suddenly" passing out coupons.

                                                                      1. re: danhole

                                                                        Ohhh, I know, danhole, I'm just going by some past posts.

                                                                        I don't agree with that, and quite agree with you, but it was just wishful thinking on one restaurant.

                                                                        Trust me, I very much agree with you. As I said, one of my very favorite pizza places has different specials with a coupon on different days of the week and if you didn't get them in the mail, they have them on the pizza counter which I pass on the way to the seated restaurant in the back.

                                                                2. Here's a bit of a twist on restaurant coupons: There's an Asian-Fusion spot my husband and I eat at about 3 times a month. It used to be that they'd give you a coupon for 15% off on your next visit when they brought your check. Now they recognize us there, and without us asking or presenting a coupon, the server takes 15% off our check. Should we insist on paying full price?

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                                                    Wow! Now THAT'S a nice restaurant. I wouldn't insist, I would just tip on the amount before the discount.

                                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                                      Any restaurant, like this one and the one mentioned above with the long running coupon, which has such a long standing deal is clearly to high priced. If you have room in your food costs to discount all meals, then you should lower your prices.

                                                                    2. I'm not saying this is logical, but I won't use coupons at local, family owned, Mexican restaurants. The meals are already incredibly inexpensive, the service fabulous and complimentary chips and salsa and white sauce. I feel like a schmuck using one there.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                        Restaurants as stated before use coupons for various reasons. Generally it is to attract more people. I'm all for using coupons at any restaurant, whether I'm a regular or not. Although..I'm not really a regular at any one restaurant...
                                                                        it doesn't matter to me what kind of restaurant it is. If they felt the need for a money saving coupon, I'll use it. Anyway, generally when people use coupons some feel compelled to spend more in other areas. I generally give more in tip just because the waitress has taken a cut pay for the coupon... she does the same amount of work, if not more...she (he) deserves the tip

                                                                      2. Lots of input on whether to use coupons at the independents.

                                                                        When the jfood were first married the only "date" they could afford was Mount Fuji Resto. The local paper had a coupon for buy one get one free plus free appetizers. The jfoods would go, eat some apps and some water and then order Habachi Chicken. Total was $10.99 plus tax for the two of them. They were definitely on the receiver end of that deal.

                                                                        Now they can afford to give back to the independents and they just feel guilty not paying full freight for the meal. Is it the correct economic analysis, probably not, is it the correct Karma analysis, probably. And not that it is bad Karma to use a certificate the resto has printed, but for the jfoods, not using it is some inner positive Karma.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          That is how I feel. We said, as usual, jfood.

                                                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond


                                                                            jfood agrees with your syntax above as well. Why do you want to feel like a schmuck after eating in a mom and pop, go figure.

                                                                        2. I've seen some restaurants open with a competitively-priced menu while simultaneously making extensive use of couponing. Within a year, the couponing gets out of control--the blue-hairs move in, everyone seems to be using a coupon (they've even got policy signs posted to address those trying to combine discounts, the server routinely asks if you have a coupon when he brings the check) and the menu prices have clearly been raised for no other reason but to offset the extensive couponing.

                                                                          When a restaurant reaches that point, using their coupon no longer serves as an incentive to visit, it's a survival tactic to avoid getting ripped off. It's not so much that those using the coupons are being rewarded as much as it is those not using them are being penalized.

                                                                          If a restaurant reaches a stage where a coupon is necessary to bring their pricing down to a competitive level, I wouldn't use the coupon. Because I won't be patronizing them, period.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: tubman

                                                                            No, I wouldn't patronize a place in this situation either.

                                                                            1. re: flourgirl

                                                                              who cares? a coupon is a coupon is a coupon...either you use it or you don't... I'm one that uses them. I don't care what restaurant it is. I don't care if its a mom + pop, a chain, a place that's prolly going under and using coupons to save... I don't have rules for when I'll use a coupon and when I won't. I just do it.

                                                                              1. re: tdiprincess

                                                                                tdiprincess, since a coupon may not be a bellwether, darn it, that a place is going under, I just had a point brought home to me today. I received a coupon book in the mail, and 'all' the coupons were for places I don't patronize.

                                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                                  so don't use them. I'm just saying that most people if they have a coupon for someplace they like or someplace new, they're going to use it. When I'm cutting out coupons, I look at whether I would actually go to that place or not. If its a new place..I say sure, I'll try it. If I know I like the place, I'll use it.
                                                                                  If it is a place I don't go to, then I toss it. Its the same as food coupons. If I know I'm going to be buying it soon, I'll keep it. If not, it goes in the recycle bin...

                                                                          2. as an update to this thread...in this economic climate have your opinions changed regarding the use of coupons or special promotions at restaurants that offer them...do you feel comfortable with them?

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: gutreactions

                                                                              Not sure why anyone would feel uncomfortable with a special promotion. It's not like you're walking in and trying to negotiate a better price for your dinner, it's a promotion! Would you tell the car dealership, thanks, but I'll pass on that rebate, full MSRP for me please!?

                                                                            2. Coupons are really showing up again...a new wave of restaurants who would normally not promote them are using them now. It's probably a sign of the times...are you using them?

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: gutreactions

                                                                                I have noticed quite a few coupons lately. I've used the fast food coupons (I must have had a half dozen free chicken sanwich/chicken biscuit coupons from McDs last month, that I used up on the kids ), and held off so far on using coupons at the local mom & pop places. I want the little guy to succeed here - I have too few non-chain options nearby.

                                                                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                  Especially in these economic times, many restaurants (even high-end, well known ones) in San Francisco have begun advertising specials. Whether offering a special prixe fix menu, reduced prices on wine or coupons proper, I believe these establishments are offering specials because their business is in decline and they need to attract customers. If by taking advantage of one of these specials causes my husband and me to go to one of our frequented local restaurants even once more a month than we otherwise would, the restaurant wins. I think it's to their advantage to offer up specials and for customers- regulars or otherwise- to make use of them.

                                                                                2. re: gutreactions

                                                                                  I have no problem using them when times are good...and definitely no problem using them when times aren't so good.

                                                                                3. I would use coupons because I like saving money.

                                                                                  1. I had a pretty bad experience with a coupon late last spring. In fact I think it was only one of two times I've ever said anything bad about a restaurant on chowhound. My usual motto is if I can't say anything nice, best to not comment. I have to get pretty steamed to complain. I'm cringing right now just thinking about that fiasco. I have used them sucessfully in the past though and I always make sure to tip based on the full amount.

                                                                                    1. I'll use a coupon at a resto if I have one - usually it's the tipping reason to go to that place rather than somewhere else, which is why the resto puts out the coupons anyway. I wonder if the posters who don't like to use coupons at independents also shy away from specials that don't require a coupon like half price wine night or a special prix fixe menu. One of my old fav places in my neighborhood (that sadly closed a few months ago) had a special Sunday three course dinner that was $25 for a salad, any entree and dessert (we'd get steak frites which was usually around $25 on it's own). I didn't feel bad about ordering the special since that's what brought us in on a night we'd usually eat at home. What about happy hour? Do other posters feel bad about going to happy hour and drinking/eating at half-price? I don't. I don't think that taking a resto up on an offer is embarassing or disrespectful to a restaurant, even an independent - they're a business and they make their own business decisions about what to charge and when to offer specials. If you thought they underpriced their food, would you insist on paying more?

                                                                                      1. I must say I am really impressed with the mentality of this discussion of Coupons. I am an independent restaurant owner in Arizona. I own a small sandwich shop that prepares really gourmet sandwiches. I use only the highest quality ingredients and therefore require a premium price. I couldn't afford to offer a discount. IF you want quality you have to pay for it. I have refused, for over two years now to offer coupons(for the most part.) I have tried an online coupon for over a year now because they are doing an incredible job at getting my restaurant noticed all over google. so, that is a big marketing aspect for me. other then that I HATE COUPONS! I am really shocked to hear how many people will not use it in order to help out the restaurant. Can you all please move to Phoenix? It would be my pleasure to serve each and everyone of you who feel that way. Thank you all for showing me the light. It is tough times right now because of the economy. business has dropped 40%!!! i'm hanging in by a thread but thank goodness for our catering division. that has helpped keep us alive. on the flip side of this discussion. All the people who are dissing restaurants that offer coupons "ALL THE TIME", there is a very good explanation for a lot of those restaurants. Look at that 2 for 1 coupon. Does it have restrictions. like, "Only valid Mon to Thurs"? If so, this does not indicate in any way that the restaurant is bad or suffering. Do not red flag all establishments for doing that. A lot of restaurants just don't get the same business during the week as they do on the weekends so they need a device that will fill seats on the slower nights. Case in point, there is a REALLY good high-end restaurant in town that has the most awesome food. Prepared extremely well. The place is always packed on the weekends but unfortunately does not get the same crowds during the week. So, he offers 2 for one entree's Mon and Tues Nights Only. I find nothing wrong with that. Restaurants are going to have there slow nights. Why not do something to fill thsoe empty seats? I do not use the coupon because I know the chef and have no problem paying full price. My Mother-in-law only goes when the coupon is offered, but that is another story. Thank you all, again, for confirming what I always felt, BOOO TO THE COUPON!!!!!

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Riccahet

                                                                                          i'm sorry, but your post does not cohere with your conclusion in the last sentence.

                                                                                          as to the original question, heck yeah i'll use a coupon, if it's a place i like or one i want to try. and i tip on the regular price, not the discount or "freebie"-reduced amount.

                                                                                          there's one local place that does half-price burgers on mondays, and another place on tuesdays. the burgers are excellent, and we'll go out on monday or tuesday sometimes just because of the deal.

                                                                                          if you're a business owner, and don't want to offer coupons, i have zero problem with that. i believe in the free market.

                                                                                          1. re: Riccahet

                                                                                            Ricca: I and many others say "yay" to the coupon. I use them all the time, without apology. I agree with Alkapal that your closing is inconsistent with the rest of your text, in addition to being a misreading of half the posts here.

                                                                                          2. I do use coupons, and tip on the amount before the discount.. If busineses don't want people using coupons, well the answer is simple- stop putting them out there! I don't feel the need to order extra to cover for the discount, but make sure we don't short ourselves if we decide we want dessert. To me, it's a business transaction- buy one, get the next half off, and I won't screw you on the tip if you don't try to charge me the whole thing.

                                                                                            1. I use them; regularly. It matters not to me whether it's an independent or chain. The coupons expose me to new restaurants in a part of my burg I might not normally visit. If the food was good, the service stellar, and the prices reasonable, I'll add them to my rotation. Better still, for the restaurant, I'll immediately post about my experiences and (hopefully) they'll profit from those visits.

                                                                                              That's the whole point of offering coupons; to generate traffic that otherwise wouldn't be there. If the business did not think they could benefit from them, they wouldn't accept them. I've seen businesses that post signs regarding this, "Coupons from XYZ are no longer honored."

                                                                                              Perversely, if the place sucks, then I haven't wasted too much on the experience and it's given me a chance to warn others from my folly.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                I think many of you have far too much money and guilt for your own good. As a small business owner I would put out coupons to get through the slow patches, and always knew which customers would only come in then. And I was always happy to see them. If a business offers coupons it is because they want you to use them! Restaurants pay a lot of money to get those coupons into your hands! To mom and pop or independants that may their entire advertising budget. If it is a matter of respect you may want to reconsider. I find it a bit patronizing that you won't use them. Is it that you don't think they know what they are doing? I am certain that if they need you to tell them how to run their businesses they would ask. In the meantime, pay full price for goodness sakes, but get over yourselves and the rest of us with less money and more sense. I am off to change as I have a hot date with my husband at Roy's. And yes, I am bringing a coupon.

                                                                                                1. re: dvsndvs

                                                                                                  dvsndvs: Perfectly put. Everything I was thinking and more so, said better than I could.

                                                                                              2. I'm surprised no one has brought up this point: I won't use coupons that mandate that they be "Presented before Ordering". It always makes me suspicious - does this mean I'm going to get a smaller portion, or what I, when I was waiting tables, called "left over" service - I'll drop by your table when I have time left over? Does it mean I'm going to have ask for everything, like bread, water, butter, etc., that everyone else gets without asking? Heaven forbid, does it mean something worse might happen to my food?

                                                                                                And yes, when I do use a coupon, I tip on the full amount.

                                                                                                And it's not unusual for Chinese restaurants that we visit frequently to offer us a discount if we pay cash. It's considerably more than the credit card charge, so I have NO idea what might be going on, but if they're going to offer, I'm going to accept.

                                                                                                1. If a restaurant offers a coupon and I want to go to the restaurant and the deal suits me, I use it.

                                                                                                  How can using a coupon the restaurant puts out there for our use be doing something bad?

                                                                                                  If restaurants do not want customers to use coupons, they should not issue them.

                                                                                                  ** That said - I do not forget to tip on whatever I would have paid had I not had the coupon.

                                                                                                  1. I will use them at most places, unless I know the owner or chef. We went to a restaurant where our good friend was the chef and my mother in law proceeded to pull out a coupon. Talk about mortifying. They had been quite gracious and sent out an amuse bouche (which is not standard) as well as small tastings of the new menu offerings, so I wanted to crawl under a table. If we ever do use a coupon, we always tip on the pre-discount amount so that the server is fully compensated for this. I think that many servers get jipped when patrons use coupons and are only tipped on the amount after the discount.

                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Leonardo

                                                                                                      Here's a recent coupon story. Friend walks into a local branch of a well-known national pizza chain. He sees some coupons for the taking on the counter and asks the person taking orders if he can use one, since it's for what he would be ordering. She says "No, it's either for a next visit, or a phone-in order". He says "So, if I go outside, call you on my cell phone, place an order, I can use the coupon?".
                                                                                                      She cheerily says "Sure!", which he proceeds to do.

                                                                                                      1. re: markabauman

                                                                                                        I don't understand the business of tipping the regular rate when using a coupon. The coupon is an incentive to come to the place and eat. Why should the management be the only one to take a hit to encourage customers. To say that the server still did the regular duty and should get a regular tip is specious. The house bought the food, the chef cooked it, but the server is so special they shouldn't be involved in enticing customers? Sounds like the servers union is pushing too hard.

                                                                                                        1. re: Danybear

                                                                                                          The server works for tips with an exceptionally low hourly rate. Everyone else is paid the same amount regardless of whether there is a coupon used. They are doing the exact same amount of work and should be paid accordingly.

                                                                                                        2. re: markabauman

                                                                                                          >>>>He sees some coupons for the taking on the counter and asks the person taking orders if he can use one, since it's for what he would be ordering.

                                                                                                          She says "No, it's either for a next visit, or a phone-in order".

                                                                                                          He says "So, if I go outside, call you on my cell phone, place an order, I can use the coupon?".

                                                                                                          She cheerily says "Sure!", which he proceeds to do.<<<<


                                                                                                          mark, that reminds me of the thread "no substitutions" when someone just wants a condiment OMITTTED and the response is "the SIGN says NO substitutions"! LOL!!!!

                                                                                                          dum..dum..da dum, dum dum dum dum dum da-dumB!

                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                            I think these two restaurant people were separated at birth.