Save Money On Food, Without Coupons? Tell Me More!
The percentage of money spent on eating out has been growing strongly for the past 20 years. In fact, for the first time Americans are now spending more money eating out than buying food at the supermarket. The average family spends close to 5% of its budget on dining out. While CouponSurfer strongly encourages the use of restaurant coupons to save money, we feel it’s useful to show you other ways to save. And don’t worry, we are not getting soft, for each of these ways you can also combine with coupons to save even more (that’s what we do!).
With IDine you get up to 15% off your meal at select restaurants across the United States. The way IDine works is you register multiple different credit cards with the service. Then as long as you use one of the credit cards at an restaurant that participates in IDine, you will get a discount credited to your account. For example, let’s say the bill comes to $80, then you would get a $12 credit. Once you get $20 or more in credits, IDine sends you an American Express Gift Card. The more often you go to a IDine restaurant the more often you get gift cards. You can “double dip” with coupons and most other discounts with IDine. Many people also register their business credit cards so they can also save money on business lunches and dinners. With IDine, your server is not aware that you will be getting a discount. You can use IDine to find restaurants all across the country, for example a list of IDine restaurants near Beverly Hills CA.
One of the things I like about this program is many times when traveling you don’t even realize the restaurant you ate at is participating in IDine until you get an email or text a few days later showing your discount/cash back – it’s like finding money!
Of course IDine is free to join.
Belly is a custom loyalty program designed for individual and chain restaurants. You earn points based on the amount of money you spend. There are currently over 10,000 locations in the United States and Canada that use Belly. To use Belly, look for the Belly Tablet next to the cash register. You check in by scanning your Belly loyalty card at the Belly Tablet or by using the Belly app. After you check in, Belly shows you how many points you have for the restaurant as well as the awards available (i.e. 10 points for a free beverage). At this point you can choose to redeem an award or let the points build for a bigger reward for a future visit. The more you dine the more points you get. For example, last week I checked in at a BBQ place and had enough rewards for a free bbq platter which I then redeemed and promptly ate.
What’s nice about Belly is while you use the same card or app for multiple restaurants but the rewards are for the individual restaurant. You don’t need to deal with multiple apps or a key chain full of loyalty cards. Plus the rewards are customized for each place. So while one restaurant may offer a free entree for 50 points, another may offer a free t-shirt. I’ve even come across one place where for about 500 points they will name a menu item after you.
While Belly is currently mostly for restaurants I expect it to rapidly expand to other types of retail such as salons or clothing stores, To get Belly, sign up here or register at a restaurant that uses Belly. You can also get the Belly App for Android or iPhone.
Open Table makes it easy to make reservation at over 32,000 restaurants across the world. You pick the name of the restaurant or the location along with the times you are looking for and Open Table shows you what’s available and then you can select a reservation. When you make a reservation there is also a space for a special request such as asking for a table in the back or noting a food allergy. You can also use Open Table to find a place for private dining such as a birthday party or company dinner.
While Open Table is used by most people to easily make reservations, you can take advantage of its loyalty program to save money. Every time you make and show up for a reservation you earn at least 100 points. Once you accrue 2,000 points, you can redeem for a gift card good at many restaurants that take Open Table. From time to time specific restaurants will also offer promotions such as 500 points for making and showing up for a reservation. So even if your favorite restaurant is not always busy enough for you to have to make a reservation, if they have Open Table, you should use it to make reservations and earn points.
I tend to use Open Table while traveling. In a couple of cases, I’ve come across a very interesting restaurant early in the day before they opened. Rather than waiting for them to open, I’ve used Open Table to make the reservation right away. I’ve also used it to gauge how full a restaurant is. One time I wanted to have a small business meeting and was looking for a quiet place where we could sit for a while in a back corner. Using Open Table I found a place that had lots of available tables at the time I wanted, so I knew I would be okay to meet there.
While Open Table does show if tables are available, some restaurants don’t show all their available tables on Open Table, so if there is a place you really really want to eat at and Open Table shows no availability, it might be useful to contact the restaurant directly.
So tell me, have you used any of these apps before? If so, what was your experience with it? Perhaps you have a favorite program that saves you money while eating out, but it wasn’t covered in today’s post – be sure to let me know! Leave a reply in the comment section below and make sure to share this post with your friends and family by using the social sharing buttons below, so they too can save while eating out!
Enjoy your Meal (and Savings)!