As someone who loves dining out (and a good deal), I’ve tried more than one reward program for dining out. Some have proven to be more lucrative than others – here’s a few I’ve tried. And while my experience with most have been confined to Chicago or Dallas, all these programs should be applicable across the US, at least continental (but I’m not sure if any include international locations):
Restaurant.com – This is a good site to subscribe to if there are several restaurants you want to check out. Their discount coupons offer pretty decent savings – and for subscribed members, the deals can get even better with codes offered up in their emails. Read the fine print carefully though – I recently bought a coupon wanting to try breakfast at Kanela, cause I’ve heard good buzz about this newer Lakeview restaurant. Only after I bought it did I realize it’s only good for dinner during the week. And they’re supposed to be a breakfast place?? Insert Debbie Downer here. Still a good deal, though, I guess – but not really what I was wanting.
Groupon – Everyone knows (or should know) about this deal-of-the-day giant. Occasional offers from your favorite restaurants can be found if you keep a close eye out. Groupon also offers up wide range of other deals, as they’re not restaurant or dining-centric, so discounts at places you like are inconsistent. Will they have an IPO this year? Will the daily deal bubble burst? Can I just get another Groupon for The Counter, please?
AAdvantage Dining – This is offered via the Rewards Network for American Airlines and allows you to earn miles for dining at participating restaurants. I liked this well enough, and the miles always tracked back to my account without incident. But with American’s black out dates, it’s just not easy to use their miles, period. Great program in theory (for AAdvantage members), cumbersome in execution.
iDine – This is a program also offered via Rewards Network that I’m actually excited about. Once you enroll, you start “earning back” a certain percentage of your bill at their participating restaurants. I think you start “earning back” a relatively small 5% – but the more you eat at their restaurants, the more you earn back – and then they’ll send you an Amex gift card once you “earn back” up to $20 or more. It’s all tracked via my debit/credit card and from answering a follow up survey on my experience at the restaurant. Honestly, the cash gift card is what I’m excited about – cha-ching!
I just signed up recently with iDine, so I haven’t had a chance to eat at any of their restaurants – I should follow this up with another post about how this is working out for me. Also, I get the whole argument about customer engagement and brand loyalty. I have my favorite restaurants, regardless of any diner’s program – but the good thing about them is they get me in the door of places I might not have patronized otherwise. After that, it’s up to the establishment to win me over as a repeat customer.
Let me know what rewards programs you’ve tried out – and which ones you prefer??