A report released earlier this week said that the trend of eating in instead of going to restaurants isn’t showing signs of letting up. There are some signs of economic recovery, but it looks as if people have realized the joy of cooking and eating in.


You know I love to cook for my family, and I hold the family dinner as one of the most important activities that my family can do together. Still, I love to eat out at good, independent restaurants where the owners and chefs support local and organic producers whenever they can.

If your personal finances are starting to recover, and you’re venturing back to restaurants once in a while, a discount coupon can help.

Over the past year, many regional, daily discount websites have popped up following the example of Groupon. Some of them are restaurant-specific. Some of them have discounts to all sorts of attractions, including the occasional restaurant.

None of them offer discounts to only sustainable restaurants. You have to do your homework by simply checking out the restaurant websites and keeping up with your e-mail updates. You can usually find substantial savings to the types of restaurants you want to support with a little bit of research.

Here’s a list of sources of restaurant discounts. You’ll have to do the homework on the restaurants yourself.

Restaurant-specific sites

  • Restaurant.com – This site offers discounts to specific restaurants. You can search by your region and buy a gift certificate at a discount. If you sign up to be on their mailing list, you will receive frequent coupon codes that will allow you to get even further discounts. It’s not uncommon to be able to get a $25 gift certificate for $2 or $3. Often, you must spend a certain amount to be able to use the gift certificate you purchase. I’ve used this site several times, and I’m very happy with it.
  • OpenTable Spotlight – Once a week, this site run by the OpenTable reservation service offers a 50 percent or more discount to restaurants in several cities. As a matter of fact, the discount for the Philadelphia region this week is for a farm-to-fork restaurant.
  • Village Vines – This is a city-specific discount site that offers discreet percentage discounts off your entire bill to some of the city’s better restaurants at specific dining times. Right now, discounts are available in New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, but it looks like Village Vines will be expanding to other cities. Membership is free, and you pay a $10 booking fee for each restaurant.
General discount sites
  • Groupon – If you’re not signed up to receive notifications of Groupon’s daily deals, you need to consider it. Not only is the occasional great restaurant deal offered, but there are other deals that you’ll probably jump at. The other day, I got a $20 Amazon.com certificate for $10.
  • Living Social – Sign up for a city near you to receive notifications of regular deals on restaurants and other social activities.
  • CBS Local Deals – Restaurants, museums, night life, arts, entertainment and more are offered in specific cities through CBS.
  • Eversave – Another site that offers discounts on many attractions, including restaurants.
  • mySimon – This site tends to have a lot of cosmetic, dental or hair-removal coupons, but it does have the occasional restaurant deal.
  • South Jersey Daily Deal – If you’re in my region, you’ll want to connect with this site offered by the local Courier Post newspaper. If you’re not in my region, search around to see if there are any deals. 
A few pointers when you use these discounted coupons and gift certificates to restaurants.
  • Always tip on the amount the bill minus the discount. Your server does just as much work with or without your discount. As long as the service is up to par, your server shouldn’t suffer because you got a deal.
  • Read the fine print of the deal and don’t try to get around the rules. There are often minimum amounts that need to be purchased or a one-coupon-per-table rule.  
  • If you don’t want your inbox bombarded with these deals, many of these deal sites also have Facebook pages that you can “Like” and the deals will show up in your Facebook stream.
  • Be a wise consumer. Some of these deals seem too good to pass up. Unless you’re sure you’re going to use the coupon or gift certificate you purchase, give yourself some time to think about it before you hit the “buy” button.  

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Where to find discounts for sustainable restaurants
A slew of coupon and gift certificate sites offer discounts to sustainable restaurants, but sometimes you have to do your homework.