How to Cut Your Restaurant Bill in Half

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.

Free Meal

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.

Free Dessert

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.

Free Appetizer

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.

Free Ice-Cream

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.

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14 Responses to How to Cut Your Restaurant Bill in Half

  1. Missy says:

    Email clubs are great for a lot of other discounts, too. Department stores, drug stores, even some products! If you can think of something you could really use a coupon for, it’s worth searching out!

  2. disneysteve says:

    Good information. We’ve signed up for the e-mailing list for Buca de Bepo and are frequently getting coupons for discounts.

    I also signed up at the Van Heusen outlet and got a $10 off coupon for joining and another $10 off coupon after my first purchase (made the day I joined). So on my next trip, I bought 2 shirts and saved $10 on each.

  3. Alexandria says:

    With the economy so bad where we live we have been getting a lot of buy one get one free coupons in the mail. Even for weekends (which is usually not the norm).

    So I have to add, look through all your junk e-mail.

    Definitely way better coupons than the run of the mill, lately. As such we have been eating out a lot more.

  4. Alexandria says:

    P.S. Thank for the tip though! I will check out the e-mail clubs.

  5. Michelle says: sells printable gift certificates for dining at reduced prices. Check for online deals before leaving to dine.These certificates also make good gifts. A $50 certificate (Your cost $10) in a greeting card with $20 to meet the minimum purchase makes giving a generous gift affordable.

  6. Ann says:

    The non-monetary savings of eating out–dishes, cook time/time with family, general clean up, leftovers–has always been in conflict with the monetary savings of eating at home. This idea at least makes eating out a bit more guilt free.

  7. Steven says:

    I signed up Friday at a local restaurant for their loyalty club. The application was tucked in the leather jacket along with my bill. I filled it out and answered the customer service questionaire. By golley, I got one meal free and paid for the other meal. It costs nothing to join and I paid for dinner with my Amtrak Mastercard so I got train miles, too.

  8. consumer_q says:

    Dairy Queen sends me an email every month for a buy, get one free blizzard via:

  9. Save For House says:

    I live in the SF Bay Area and really like a restaurant here called Daphne’s (Greek Food). They have a “Pita Points” club which I recommend. You get 1 point for every dollar you spend and get $10 off for having 200 points. This basically means you’re getting 5% cash back. If you eat there a lot (like myself), it’s a winning situation. I like to think I’m actually getting 6.5% back because I combine the Pita Points rebate with the points I get on my credit card as well (Amex Blue Cash).

    Another place I like to eat is Baja Fresh (Mexican Grill). They are currently offering a $2 off coupon that they give to their customers periodically. I go there so much, the friendly cashier gave me a handful of them last time so I’m excited to be able to save $2 each time for the next few trips. These savings really add up over time and make my lunch break a lot more enjoyable.

  10. Cheryl Cavender says:

    I signed up for an email newsletter for the restaurant my daughter was going to for prom. The restaurant sent me an email coupon for a free appetizer. They weren’t too embarrassed to use it. Actually her date was impressed. It saved them about $11.

  11. Alan says:

    Ditto on On a same note, is another site for discounts and my own shopping site has a rewards program that gives you points towards future purchases.

  12. Nancy says:

    I just want to tell you all you are mean, you made me hungry now for a blizzard,grrrrr….lol. jk
    Ps. Disneysteve, I see you everywhere I go …lol

  13. TopWaysToSave says:

    I wrote an article similar to this on my site. There are so many restaurants right now giving discounts to get people in the doors. Many also have kids eat free nights which can be good if you have a larger family. I’ve seen Bugaboo creek do that. Pizzeria Uno’s and TGI Fridays also have nice programs to reward frequent diners too. Its obviously cheaper to just stay home, but when you do want to go out get the best deal possible. Also try and cut back on the drinks. Most restaurants make a lot of their money from them since they’re so heavily marked up.

  14. Pingback: How to cut your Restaurant bill in half. « iGotLunch - Daily Lunch Coupons

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