I’ve recently discovered the joy of belonging to a special club that gives you discounts at restaurants of half off (and sometimes more). I want to share this saving opportunity with those who are not yet aware so they can save money at restaurants too. It doesn’t cost anything to join and it’s not a rewards system. It’s called the e-mail club. It’s actually not one club — it’s quite a few different clubs at different restaurants, but joining them can yield substantial savings.
Many restaurants have an option on their website to join their e-mail club. By entering your e-mail address and some information about yourself (mostly your zip code and birthday — no Social Security number or anything like that) you can join their club and begin to receive coupons to their restaurant. Yes, you will most likely also receive promotional e-mails from them advertising specials they may run or new menu items, but usually you can get a pretty good discount out of them as well. Many e-mail clubs offer a coupon right off the bat just for signing up. Most of the clubs offer a special on your birthday and some offer one on your anniversary. Here are the types of discounts I’ve encountered most often and a few of the places I’ve used them at recently.
Buy One Get One Free
When most people go out to eat, they go with someone else (often a spouse or date) so a buy one get one free coupon will cut your bill in half. My father-in-law’s birthday party was recently held at an Old Country Buffet where you pay one flat fee for unlimited food, drink and dessert. When I went to their website, I saw an option to join their e-club and get a free meal. About 2 days after I signed up I received a buy one get one free coupon for dinner and my husband and I were able to both eat for only $12. We will also get additional buy one get one free coupons on my birthday and on our anniversary.
If you are just going out with friends instead of a spouse, then perhaps a flat out free meal is better for you. When I signed my husband up for the Red Robin e-club, he got a coupon for a free gourmet burger on his birthday. We went together and I still ordered and paid for my meal, but the two of us still ate for the price of one.
Some restaurants may not be as generous as to give an entire meal away for free, but they may offer a free dessert with purchase of a meal. This can be a nice free treat at the end of a celebratory meal.
Similar to the free dessert, some restaurants will only offer a free appetizer instead of a free meal. However, if dining with someone else, one of you could eat the appetizer for a meal and the other can order a regular meal off the menu or you can split both and still only end up paying for one meal.
I didn’t include this with free dessert because usually you have to order a meal in order to get free dessert. But popular ice-cream chains offer a flat out free ice-cream treat on your birthday — no purchase necessary. My husband and I look forward to going to Cold Stone Creamery for our free ice-cream for our birthdays and just recently we signed up for Baskin Robbins e-mail club and will get free ice-cream for our birthdays there too.
While many restaurants don’t offer anything free on your birthday, some will at least give you a coupon for a small discount on your meal. For instance Red Lobster will give you a $4 off coupon, which is better than nothing.
When I found my first buy one get one free coupon, I honestly searched the yellow pages for restaurants in my city and went to every restaurant website that I I had an interest in dining at and checked to see if they had an e-club. Surprisingly, about 75% of them did. I signed up near my birthday and watched the offers pour into my e-mail inbox. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Usually when you receive a birthday coupon, you don’t actually have to go on your birthday. You will receive the coupon anytime from 2 weeks before your birthday to your actual birthday and usually have a 2 week window to use it in. This allows you to take advantage of more than one offer.
- If you hate the junk mail that e-mail clubs cause (they swear they won’t sell your address, but they might send you promotional stuff) then create another e-mail address specifically for this. You can check it periodically and more often around your birthday when you are waiting for coupons to come.
- Read the fine print — some restaurants require a minimum purchase in order to use the coupon.
- Many fast food restaurants offer an e-club as well. Often they will send out coupons to get one of their newest menu items for free, just to try it out.
I think one of the best presents is an opportunity to save money, so birthday coupons are welcome in my e-mail inbox anytime. It gives my husband and me a great opportunity to go out to eat (which we don’t do often) and not have to spend a fortune.