Restaurant etiquette for using coupons [General]

2010 Jan 7
I rarely ever use coupons at restaurants, especially venues that are considered "fine dining"; however, this year I got the entertainment book and although flipping through the book is fun in itself - I would eventually like to use the coupons :)

So I was wondering what the general consensus would be for using coupons at sit-down restaurants - do I present the coupon first before ordering (ie. "Um...can I use this here?") or right before asking for the bill (ie. "Um...can we get the bill? Oh and also, I have this!")? Most of the people I've asked have been unable to help as using a coupon at a fine establishment seems to be a little frowned upon, but I would think that since they agreed to offer the coupon, they would be prepared to honour it right?

Any pointers would be great! :D

2010 Jan 8
Qster - Don't feel "uncomfortable" about using your Entertainment Book... places are quite happy to accept these coupons... in some cases really excited to see them. For example, we have on more than one occasion come across a fine dining establishment where we are meant to present our card for the discount, and then the Vendor is supposed to "scratch off" their code on the back of the card... several times we've had the card returned to us without the scratch, and the Server / Manager / Owner has said "Do come again" and honestly meant that. I think in hopes that we would return, and tell others. And of course that is exactly what happens, we return, and bring friends, and even then they don't always scratch the card.

As for presentation we've done it both ways... if it is a coupon we generally put it on the table when we sit down so the Server knows about it ahead of time... if it is the Membership Card for finer dining (Section A listings) then we usually show it to the Server at the time that we request the bill. As with all things though it is better to give the staff some sort of heads up BEFORE they go to all the trouble of preparing the bill.

There are a couple of rules though for use you should note. Coupons and Cards are usually not accepted on Holidays (like Valentines Day) coupons usually have their limitations printed on them. Some chains for example only honour the coupons at specific locations which are listed on the back of the coupon (like Lapointes they had coupons specific to each of their locations). Also, typically offers are one per "couple" and even sometimes one per table, or a maximum of two per table... so that is important to know if you plan dinner out with friends who are also members. The whole set of Rules for Use are printed in the front of the book... and if in doubt you can always call the Restaurant ahead of time for info.

You'll find that The Book is a great investment, you'll find the value will be surpassed very quickly. Also don't overlook the other sections beyond Dining, we saved quite a bit of money last year on incidentals like Drycleaning and got BONUS offers at Farmboy etc.

2010 Jan 8
I would also add that it's probably in poor taste to tip on the discounted total, not the pre-discount total.

2010 Jan 8
Definitely agree with the tipping - most people that I've talked to, although they didn't have many suggestions about using the actual coupon, did stress the need to tip properly (ie. as you would have without the coupon)

Thanks for the suggestions F&T and Chimichimi :)

2010 Jan 8
I too have the entertainment book and have used the discounts at several places and I always ensure I let them know at the beginning.

Everywhere I have gone, they have been great except for two places where I wanted to separate the bill (where they actually handed me a calculator to do it myself!).

I used it at Merlot and they couldn't use the computer, so he simply put the new total at the bottom in pen :) I think he even asked us if that was alright, and we were just fine with it.

Some establishments even sometimes change the coupon a bit depending on what you order. I think the Standard was one place that was also very accommodating. Not fine dining, but still in the book!

As a manager of a restaurant I would see it as an opportunity to gain loyal customers. If they were pleased with what they received on a coupon, they could very well return another time. Sort of a relationship marketing type plan.

2010 Jan 8
Chimichimi - Good point bringing up the Tipping issue... it is outlined in The Book's Rules Section, that one should tip on the BEFORE discounted total, but it was good of you to remind folks of that... hard to believe that someone would be "chinsy" as to not tip their Server on the total amount, but I guess it does happen considering that they have had to put the info into print in the Rules Section.

Schnicken - I could see (and understand) where a place would be upset about you wanting seperate bills... afterall most of the coupons clearly say "Save X when you purchase 2 Entrees" by splitting the bill, you technically are not complying with that. Personally, in this instance I would just figure it out myself and have my dining companion pay me back. It really isn't that difficult.

2010 Jan 8
I don't have much to add to what has been said already. But, I would definitely encourage you to use the coupons and the cards. I am someone who most definitely notices bad service or service with a condescending attitude. In the 6 or 7 years I have been using the book, I have not had one single bad experience with a restaurant when presenting the card/coupon in terms of how it was received and how they treated me. We get the book every year now.


2010 Jan 8
The Entertainment book is on for $20.10 for this week only!!!

I have used one for years and love it. I always mention it at the beginning of being served and have never had a problem using it.

2010 Jan 10
I like to reserve a place in the restaurant before our family comes and I always mention the coupon (on the phone)..and then I will mention it again to the waiter once they come to ask about drinks..the coupons are very convin.
We like going to Farme LeRouge and often I found coupond at Metro newspaper or small envelopes with coupon being delivered once a season...

2010 Jan 11
"I could see (and understand) where a place would be upset about you wanting seperate bills... afterall most of the coupons clearly say "Save X when you purchase 2 Entrees" by splitting the bill, you technically are not complying with that."

I too understand that, but in each and every case I ASK beforehand and they all agreed. Then when the bill came, it wasn't done in that one particular case. Still adds up to bad customer service because they obviously weren't listening. Also, many restos have marked our totals individually with a pen. It's an extra customer service that many of us appreciate.

They do not deserve to be upset if I ask beforehand. If they are unable to do so, then we deal with that with no problem. They should have the correct answer in the beginning.

2010 Jan 12
Thanks everyone for the input! I'm going to try and use one this weekend :)

2010 Jan 12
coupons are not free. having done some time in the service industry many many moons ago, i've observed that restos and stores allocate an advertising budget to pay for each and every single coupon that is printed and distributed. usually the owners/mgmt are happy to track and see how their advertising works and where to focus their efforts for future campaigns to bring in new people who otherwise wouldn't have come normally. it is the servers who usually feel the pinch as some custies may skimp on tipping based on lower total based on coupon use. sometimes the kitchen skimps if they know ahead of time that coupons are being used.

appear wise and don't show all your cards too early. this also applies to many other things in life.