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Dining Dough is a part of Restaurant.com

Does Restaurant.com Really Save You Money?

I considered naming this post “When a gift certificate isn’t really a gift certificate.”

It’s been a few years since I’ve used Restaurant.com, the website that offers gift certificates to neighborhood eateries at a discounted price.

On its website, they advertise $25 gift certificates for $10.

Many people are tempted to use the service when it occasionally discounts the gift certificates to $1 or $2 a piece. I have $300 worth of them. I got them for free from American Express.

Dining Dough is a part of Restaurant.com

Dining Dough is part of Restaurant.com

I’ll begin by explaining why Restaurant.com (also DiningDough.com) shouldn’t be calling these gift certificates.

Think back to when gift certificates actually existed. You know, before gift cards. You paid $25 to the restaurant and they gave you the cash equivalent.

That’s not how Restaurant.com operates. Far from it.

You are essentially buying coupons loaded with fine print. Minimum purchases, date restrictions and exclusions (like no alcohol) are typical.

In fact, Restaurant.com is more about splurging than saving.

On its vouchers, Restaurant.com lists the top three ways to use your gift certificate: Order dessert, try the appetizers and go for the grand entrée.

Those recommendations are meant to facilitate spending. They don’t want you to save money.

Another thing to consider is where the restaurants are located. I live in a big city and there is only one place listed on Restaurant.com within walking distance.

On top of that, few of the restaurants are ones I had even heard of.

But since I have $300 in free gift certificates, I thought I’d give Restaurant.com another try. With the Restaurant.com app loaded onto my phone, I drove 1.8 miles to one of the nearest options.

I redeemed a $5 gift certificate, which normally would cost $2 if I had paid for it.

I visited a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant. I’d call it a fast-food place. There were seats, but no waiters. I got my order to go.

Normally, Panang Curry with Chicken costs $8.95 before tax. Using my $5 discount, it was $4.67. I left a $2 tip, bringing the total to $6.67.

Had I paid $2 for the gift certificate, we’d be talking $8.67. Hardly a bargain.

Here is the delicious meal I got using my $5 Restaurant.com gift certificate

Here is the delicious meal I got using my $5 Restaurant.com gift certificate

I wouldn’t say Restaurant.com is a rip-off, but I do believe most people can find better deals without having to pay any money upfront.

Do you have an experience with Restaurant.com? Was it good or bad? Let me know.


  1. I have purchased Restaurant.com certificates to try new restaurants when they cost $3.00 for a $25.00 certificate. When I did the math, I was saving about $5.00 when you factor in the cost and instructions on how you must use the certificates. For example, minimum spending and day and/or time of use restrictions.

    PS…the two restaurants that I purchased certificates for no longer can be found on the site. Does that mean that it wasn’t that good a deal for them!?!

  2. It’s nice you got the certificates free from AE. How do I get free certificates?
    Thank you!

    • I got the certificates when I signed up for the credit cards — years ago. I honestly have so much money left on them. They are very hard to use in my area.

      • Cause they suck for business owners. The business owners get NO money from the restraunt.com and cheap customers don’t want to tip on the actual amount and just want to get a $25 meal for $5 you people suck

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