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Secrets to Saving Big at Restaurants

Economists are predicting some wallet tightening for consumers as we head into 2006. Will this mean that delicious dinners out will be replaced with nightly meatloaf and tuna casserole? One group of savvy savers says, "Not a chance, stricter budgets should never take the fun out of life". We have talked to the experts, and they have revealed their best tips on how to save incredible amounts of money when dining out.The Quintessential Budget Helper.Consumer Reports recommends the Entertainment® Book (www.entertainment.

com) as one of the top "50 Ways to Save Money". Currently available in 166 locales throughout North America, this money saving gem earns back its $25 to $45 price tag quickly and often with a single coupon. The Entertainment® Book is loaded with 2-for-1 dining coupons and discounts for fast food. They even offer select printable coupons as an added perk to registered book holders.Bear in mind, "the" Entertainment® Book isn't your only option for restaurant coupon collections. Keep an eye on your local merchant's counters for other 2-for-1 coupon books being sold or even given away for free.

In one city, the children's hospital publishes its own hefty coupon book for only $15.Multiple Discounts to Your Favorite Restaurants.Ever wished you had duplicates of your best 2-for-1 coupons? Are you afraid that you won't get enough mileage out of a coupon book to make it worth the purchase? Problem solved.

There is a brand new website called Trade Entertainment Coupons (www.tradeentertainmentcoupons.com), which allows you to swap coupons with other aspiring diners.

Trade those coupons that you will never use for additional coupons to your favorite restaurants. The website is easy to use and free to sign up with. Members simply mail the coupons to one another. For the cost of a stamp, hundreds of dollars in discounts (that you will actually use) will be delivered right to your door.Yet Another Reason to Go Online.

Featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC, NBC, and in The Daily Herald and Wall Street Journal, www.Restaurant.com has been a hard one to ignore. They sell "gift" certificates (typically gifted to yourself) for a fraction of the face value. It is not uncommon to purchase $25 gift certificates on their website for just $10! The best part is, you buy the certificates online, and can print them immediately. Their offers include thousands of restaurants across the United States.

Go Direct to the Source.Local and chain restaurants often post printable coupons directly on their own websites. One upper end seafood restaurant we found delivers hefty discounts on their website to entice new customers. Some major fast food restaurants allow you to search by zip code for printable coupons to the franchises in your local area. So before you head out for a night on the town, or pick up the phone to dial that pizza hotline, check the net for direct discounts.No Coupon Required.

Another Consumer Reports best bet is www.iDine.com. Simply register your credit card with them to receive a 20% discount at approximately 7,800 restaurants throughout the United States.

With iDine, no special cards or coupons are required, and the discount applies to the total bill. This is an excellent option for frequent diners, as the $49 annual membership cost is waived for those who spend $245 or more at member restaurants.Don't Toss That Mail! Yet.There are a few good reasons to give that so-called "junk mail" the once over before feeding it to the recycle bin. First off, new restaurants love to do direct mailings to the local area with special offers to entice their first customers.

Second, some businesses give discounts to local restaurants in order to "win you over". In one heated real estate market, a local realtor began sending out monthly flyers with 2-for-1 coupons to cafes in the neighborhood. Third, mass mailings are a favorite of chain and local fast food establishments. On those lazy nights, you can surely find at least one "free delivery" deal within the pile of advertisements.Extra, Extra, Read all about it.

Newspapers are funded more by local advertisers than viewers. In fact, free newspapers abound on stands in most malls and restaurants. Flip straight to the dining section and you are sure to uncover at least a few restaurant specials or coupons.

Also, check out your local newspaper, even if it is paid, at least once. It too may hold a few hidden budget pleasers. If you live in, or are visiting, a touristy area, always keep an eye on the local papers during the area's "low season". You are almost guaranteed to find discounts from great restaurants vying for the locals' attention.Bon Appétit!.


By: Alisa Fleming


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