I’ve pretty much stopped using restaurant coupons—those pay-in-advance online purchases through Groupon, LivingSocial or LocalFlavor which typically take 50% off the price of your meal. Part of the problem is the bad juju fostered by LocalFlavor, which I’ve written about previously. But there’s more.
I guess there must be a lot of fraud nowadays, because when I present the coupon the server whisks it away for a tense conversation with the manager. There’s usually no acknowledgement or reassurance once the document’s authenticity is established, so I enter the ordering process feeling like a low life penny pincher (perhaps separated at birth from Chef Colose’s Restaurant Week patrons) rather than an adventurous diner who wants to save a buck or two. Often, the server treats me throughout the meal as if I’m getting away with something (possibly because they are worried about their tip, which I always base on the full value of the meal). It turns eating out into a joyless affair.
Granted, I’ve also had restaurant coupon experiences with none of the aforementioned negativity (most typically with Groupon, but caveat emptor because they’ve started reselling LocalFlavor deals). The server is polite and gracious, the meal is excellent, and I leave feeling like I’ve had a great deal and will be back for more at full price. But you don’t know this will happen till it does.
In fact, when I use one of my dwindling supply of deals (usually from LocalFlavor since they seem to have taken over the space) I now go in with the assumption that the coupon will NOT be honored and I’ll still have my meal since I entered the restaurant with the notion of dining there. Thus, in the worst case scenario instead of saving 50% on my meal I’ll pay 150% of the retail price—what’s on the menu plus the cost of my coupon which is now worthless. I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to work.