Do coupons/discounts rule your dining out decisions?

The public is always on the lookout for a good dining deal. And restaurants need to fill those tables. Eating places on all levels of the dining spectrum feel they must sign on to some sort of promotional incentive these days: Groupon, Restaurant.com, coupon menu mailers, to name a few.
When you decide to dine out do these incentives govern your decision, or do you go with what you may really want? Is this good for restaurants?

A discount coupon will sometimes motivate me to go try a place I haven’t been to before, but if I like the place enough to go back I want to support them by paying regular menu price when I return.

Definitely does not govern our decisions.

We have a number of restaurants which we visit periodically. We are fairly anal, although not completely restrictive, about visiting them in order. So, for instance, if we fancied asian food, we would usually go to the first Indian on the list - but wouldnt not have asian because there were other restaurants higher up the list. None of these places, with one exception, are the sort of place that needs the likes of Groupon. We’re more likely to visit a place on the list that has emailed to say they have just introduced their latest seasonal menu than email to say there is discount.

I mention the one exception. This is a really good (as far as I can assess) Sichuan place on the list. It caters mainly to a Chinese customer base and we have yet to eat there and not been the only Anglos. That said, if I read TripAdvisor, other Anglos do eat there, in response to Groupon - but they only offer this on a small set menu of Cantonese dishes. Personally, I’d rather go to one of the good Cantonese places and pay full price than have a discounted Sichuan verson of Cantonese.

We don’t often eat in chain restaurants and, when we do, it’s usually lunch. Knowing that we’re likely to be eating in either Restaurant X or Y, I’d always check their website for a discount coupon - there’s usually one there, although fairly often, not one that particularly appeals to us.

No. I used to get excited about groupon and similar deals but realized they tend to be bad deals for the business. I also generally avoid restaurant week promos because the food is so often dumbed down.

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Ditto. I also find that groupon deals have too many restrictions and conditions - I would rather just go where I want, when I want, and order what I want.

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I was a waitress for a long time and let’s just say I’m too embarrassed to use them.

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Dining out it does not play into our decisions. Dining in, as in Chinese Delivery or something Pizza etc. yeah if we have coupons I’ll go with the coupon place over a non-coupon place. Hey, gotta save where you can! lol Well I should say places of somewhat equal quality, I’m NOT going to order from somewhere of lesser quality just for a coupon.

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yeah, I’ll use one for fast food, no problem. In my (very broke) 20s I used to get so excited for the McDonald’s coupon booklet haha.

I know it recently changed so I don’t know how this holds up currently, but previously I had a hard time blaming people, especially on budgets, who would order off Mc Donalds $1 menu. They use to have a double cheeseburger for $1.00, where they heck can you come close to that these days? They routinely run breakfast sandwich specials 2 for $3.00, and those are pretty darn tasty !!

Yep! It used to be that raw ingredients cost less, and the less fortunate could cook, let’s say, a chicken and sides for 8 bucks. Not anymore, so they just eat junk- it’s cheaper! There’s no motivation to even learn to cook. Very sad.

We grab the very odd breakfast there, or hit a drive-thru if we’re on the road. I’m not above it.

I will often try a new-to-me place that I may not have tried otherwise if they have a coupon in the local neighborhood magazine. Many times restaurants will put out a “$5 off your $30 purchase” or "10% off your meal’ type coupon. If it’s a place I’ve been curious about, but haven’t tried yet, I’ll try it out with the coupon. We actually discovered a nice Persian/Mediterranean place in our neighborhood this way a couple months ago and have gone back a couple times more!

That is because you have more money than time.

Or he just doesn’t want to eat crap food. I’ve been on a tight budget but am in no way ever tempted by the McDonald’s dollar menu.

Some of our Christmas gift giving and receiving:
We seem to get the best feedback from various family members when we give a restaurant gift certificate/ card for a Christmas gift. All the other efforts over the years to be more “personal” have paled in comparison, so we learn- give 'em what they like. One chain of restaurants throws in a gift card for free after purchase of 3 or maybe 4 gift cards. The restriction is that it has to be used exclusively in the month of January. So, it HAS to be used within about 5 weeks of that Christmas. No problem! We give something that is appreciated, and have a nice meal (we can debate quality of food in “chain” vs gourmet, another time- its still a fun night out.)
This past January, we had a meeting across the state, and coincidentally have only recently re-connected with an old friend from high school who lives in that area. We stayed at their house and had the conversation of “where do you want to eat tonight?” Small town, not endless choices. They mentioned a couple of places, we mentioned our gift certificate, and we all decided this chain restaurant would be fine.

A niece knows we like a certain mom-and-pop restaurant in town, so she gave us a gift certificate, about 2 Christmases ago. But the several times we ate there after that, we always left the coupon at home or forgot about it all together. And this one had an expiration date (booo!). It never occurred to us this might be the case, even tho marked on the paper- our fault for not reading it in the hustle-bustle of opening presents Christmas Day. Well, we know the owner, and belatedly pled our case to him (between dining trips there), and he said he would, of course, honor the gift certificate, and we only had to let the server know it was OK with him. This guy is at his restaurant 24/ 7, so we knew the server would not have a problem with this. We used it, few days after that conversation with the owner. We are loyal customers, but privately thought it was cheesy to have any expiration date at all on this coupon, but the reality is that that’s the way they do things, and we are grateful the owner broke his policy for us.

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I just thought of another take on this- the proverbial “SENIOR DISCOUNT!” Mostly at chains, again. Its rough when you get to the age where this is even part of the equation, but if we know we like a place OK, or like it very well, their “senior discount” may seal the deal for choice of restaurant. Free coffee (or is it free donut?) with purchase at Dunkin’ Donuts, thank you, AARP- sure! Simple amenity. But it hurts my feelings where the server and I have no verbal conversation about it at all, and he or she slaps on that “senior discount!” He or she should assume that 30-somethings don’t qualify, so how could the server make such a mistake? About that time, our table of getting-up-there old fogies has that conversation (again) about our denial of the aging process.

I’ve never used Groupon. I have used coupons, but for every 10 coupons that land in my mailbox/inbox/doorstep 9 are thrown out. Fast food (McDs, BK, Wendy’s, Ruby Tuesday’s) all pump out coupons weekly but are never used. Pizza (Papa John’s, Dominoes, Pizza Hut) also go to the trash. I would rather pay full price for a good burger or pizza.

Having said that, I was born and raised in a city with good cheap eats. In grad school in rural Ohio in the mid-80s, Dominoes was as good as it got and coupons were good. McDs was close and cheap. Arby’s was practically gourmet.

Now I use coupons occasionally–Mom likes Bonefish Grill and Outback for lunches. I have a frequent diner card for the Wm Penn Inn just to prove my gray hairs are no accident.

But no, these coupons/discounts never rule the dining decision. When I’m too tired to cook/clean we decide what we would like to eat and go there.

Well to be honest having been in the industry my entire life, I have an issue with supporting a restaurant of lower or sub par quality regardless.

Obviously if I believe a restaurant is of lesser quality I have either A.) Dined there previously and based that opinion by my own experience B.) Have read a negative review of a restaurant from a respected member of Hungry Onion, like yourself. In either instance a coupon will not entice me to try them.

I cannot recall seeing a “seniors discount” in British restaurants. That said, it’s common for eat-in fish & chips shops to offer “seniors meals/portions” - for which you can read “small portion”. Although eligible, it’s something I would always decline. If I’m eating fish & chips , I want the big haddock, overflowing the edge of the plate, the large portion of chips, mushy peas and the bread & butter. I suppose this is why I am a short, fat, middle-aged man instead of a short middle-aged man.

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The only time we use a coupon is for the local pizza joint that offers online coupons for $2 off an 8-slice. When I get those envelopes of coupons or the circulars in the mail I toss them without looking. I’ve recently requested to be removed from Valpak and the like because I just don’t use what they offer.

Good Lord, NO!

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold