Once upon a time, I was to be a contributor for a Chicago restaurant blog. I was really excited about the opportunity, because I was going to be the Suburban Restaurant Girl (official title. not.). I was asked to write a few articles ahead of the launch date, so I did. They paid me (in pennies, I think), and then the blog–in that format–was killed before launch. Almost a year later, the company started a new blog, and the writers it had already contracted with for the old one were told that they would only need one writer and if we were interested in the job, we had to send them a letter explaining why we thought we would be the best person for the job. Being based in the burbs, I pulled my name out of the running because that one writer really needed to be someone who lives in the city, rather than a lovely Suburbanite just looking to represent for the restaurants on the outer limits of Chicagoland. Follow me?

I wrote this article for that blog and thought it would be quite timely, with the economy the way it is…and with me eating out for four days straight in Manhattan*. Check it out:

I’ve been known to look for ways to save a buck here and there. I won’t call myself a cheapskate, though; I prefer to refer to my madness as “Bargain Hunting”. The thrill I get from paying reduced amounts for clothing to groceries to services is something I enjoy immensely. That’s not to say that I “cheap out” on everything: I completely believe in the concept of getting what you pay for.

That’s why Fine Dining rides a bittersweet line for me, between partaking in a sumptuous experience and sadly counting up how many hours of work I (and my husband) performed just to eat food that will…well, you know what happens to it.

I wanted to come up with a solution—because I’m “always thinking”, as my loved ones like to point out. After much deliberation, I had an epiphany that changed the landscape of my fine dining habits, and yes…I will share my secret with the masses, right here at *insert name of dead-to-me blog here*:


“Coupons”, you ask, laughingly? “That’s ridiculous.”
Laugh on…

I started checking out the websites of fine restaurants that I wanted to try: lo and behold, many of them have either a printable coupon that is immediately accessible, or, better yet, an “e-mail club” that you can join.

“An e-mail club??? My inbox has enough junk mail, thank you very much!”

Suit yourself. As it happens, I signed up for the “Texas de Brazil” (review to follow soon!) e-mail club a couple of weeks before my dinner engagement, and within 24 hours I was sent a coupon for half off our full-priced dinners—which are normally $42.95 per person, thank you very much. My husband, two sons and I visited “TdB” while my parents were in town, and my sister went along as well…YOU do the math!

Fine restaurants aren’t the only ones offering deals, either. Moderately- and lower-priced establishments have also joined the bandwagon. Offers I have found range anywhere from free appetizers to a percentage off the main course. Don’t forget, however, to tip your server on the total cost of the meal, before discounts!

Whichever restaurant executive invented this slice of marketing genius is, well, a genius. The monthly e-mails from the club keep the restaurant in the forefront of my brain, and the incentives offered that point my family in the direction of a great meal is a small sacrifice for a business to make in order to get me to spend money that I might not have chosen to spend there in the first place. Does my inbox fill with restaurant offers that I’ll never use? Well, I wouldn’t say it fills up, but yes, I do get lots of offers that I can either use, pass on, or delete. If I ever tire of a particular e-mail club, I can always unsubscribe.

So, the next time you make a reservation for a dining establishment, don’t assume that you’ll have to pay full price: Join the club!

*For the record, I did some extensive coupon-hunting and e-club joining for the places, restaurants and otherwise, that I knew we would be visiting in NYC, and didn’t luck out with coupons yet. But I have newsletters so I’m in the loop about what’s going on with these businesses currently, so that’s a plus!