Dining out can be an expensive proposition. A great way to save money is to sign up for restaurant loyalty rewards programs. Once you’re part of a program every dollar you spend (not including tax and tip) earns you a point. After you accumulate a certain number of points you can cash in for a free reward.
Many restaurants in Chicago are part of larger restaurant groups. For instance there’s Lettuce Entertain You which has 37 restaurants in Chicago. Every dollar you spend at any LEYE restaurant accumulates toward a free reward. If you eat at different restaurants it can be relatively easy to accumulate free rewards if you stay within a few groups.
Lettuce Entertain You restaurants has a promotion from from mid-July to mid-September “Savior your Summer” where you receive a booklet of 50 scratch off coupons for all of their restaurants. I kept track of my spending and savings for the 2015 promotion period and the retail cost of my spending was $435 but I saved $247 or 56%. This is a great promotion! I also used discount gift cards that I purchased here to increase my savings by 25%. So join LEYE today and get ready to save big time this summer. Live well and spend less! Enjoy.
Lettuce Entertain You: You earn 1 point for every dollar spent (not including tax and tip). When you accumulate 140 points you earn a $10 award which will be automatically added to your account. The award dollars can only be used for dining, not for tip. You can earn the points by:
- Using a credit card registered to your account
- Give them your LEYE membership card and they will add the points to it.
- Download the LettuceEats app, check into your Lettuce location, write the four digit mobile code on your check, and your points will automatically be added to your account.
It costs $25 to join but you will get $10 in dining rewards after each of your first 3 visits to any Lettuce Entertain You Restaurant. So you get $30 in dining rewards for a $25 enrollment fee. They send you an annual birthday reward of around $10-$15.
During the summer they have a very popular promotion where you earn double or triple points at their restaurants or actual dollars off for dining at most of their restaurants from mid-July to mid-September . From time-to-time throughout the year they have bonus point days where you earn double or triple points. Some of the restaurants in the group: Three Dots and a Dash, Hub 51, Frankie’s, Joe’s Seafood, Shaw’s.
Levy Restaurants: A $25 reward is added to your account for every $250 you spend. You must have your reward card with you or the account number to earn points at the time of purchase. Membership costs $25 but they refund the $25 as a credit toward a future dine. They add a $25 reward to your account every year for your birthday. From time-to-time throughout the year they have bonus point days where you earn double or triple points. Some of the restaurants in the group: Bar Toma, Cafe Spiaggia, River Roast.
Landry’s: A $25 reward is added to your account for every $250 you spend. You must have your reward card with you, the account number or you can use your phone number in order to earn points at the time of purchase. Membership costs $25 but they refund the $25 as a credit toward a future dine. Restaurants: Morton’s, McCormick & Schmick.
Single Restaurant rewards
The Grill Westin Hotel, Streeterville. Sign up for a limited time and get $25 added to your account. Also get an annual $25 birthday reward.
Kinzie Chophouse, River North: Spend $250 get $25. Kinzie Chophouse has a quarterly $29 prix fixe menu. They also offer double points at various times of year.
Palm: A $25 reward is added to your account for every $250 you spend. You must have your reward card with you or the account number to earn points at the time of purchase. Membership costs $25 but they refund the $25 as a credit toward a future dine.
Pizano’s: Sign up and receive 25 points. After 100 points receive a $5 reward that can be used Monday-Thursday.
Smith & Wollensky/Smith & Wollensky Grill A $25 reward is added to your account for every $250 you spend. You must have your reward card with you or the account number to earn points at the time of purchase. Membership costs $25 but they refund the $25 as a credit toward a future dine.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse has a new rewards program. Membership cost $25 but they put $25 back into your account. Points can be earned and redeemed for alcohol and Sullivan’s has a excellent Happy Hour on Thursdays. A $25 reward is added to your account for every $250 you spend. Sullivan’s is also part of the restaurant group that owns Del Frisco. Join here.
Grill Concepts: The Grill on the Alley. Get $25 Welcome Reward for joining and $25 annual birthday reward.A $25 reward is added to your account for every $250 you spend.
Independent loyalty programs
OpenTable is an online restaurant reservation booking service. You need to set up an account which is free. Every time you make and keep a reservation you are awarded 100 points. Some special tables award 1000 points (reservation must be for a minimum of 2). Once you accumulate 2000 points you are eligible to redeem for a $20 gift card. You must redeem through your account online. You select from a limited number of restaurants and Opentable emails you a $20 gift card that doesn’t appear to have an expiration date. Here are the current restaurants you can receive a gift card from. In addition to online they have an Android and iphone app. I use Opentable for all reservations. Many times I make reservations while I’m standing outside the restaurant. This adds to whatever I’m saving through loyalty programs. In fact there are some people (myself included) who generally won’t patronize establishments that aren’t on Opentable.
Spring Rewards is a reward program that is used by restaurants and restaurant groups as their loyalty program rather than setting up their own programs. Here’s how to save money with Spring:
- Sign up for an account and register a credit or debit card. You have to keep a credit card(s) registered online.
- Spend up to a certain amount and get cash back. Each time you dine at a restaurant you will earn credit toward cash back. The amount you have to spend for a cash back reward varies by restaurant.
- Accept free cash back offers that Spring emails you by clicking on the offer to add it to your account.
- Purchase discounted cash back offers that Spring emails you by clicking on the offer and selecting a registered credit card to purchase.
- Spend the required amount on a registered credit card to get the free or discounted cash back. There are no coupons required to get the discount.
- To confirm that you received the cash back check your email. As soon as a restaurant swipes your registered card and you have made the required purchase you will receive an email telling you that you just spent X dollars. If you don’t get an email there is a problem. Before using an offer make sure you are going to the correct location
if a restaurant has multiple locations.
- Check your credit card. Within a few days you’ll receive the credit on your registered credit or debit card.If you don’t get a credit you have to contact customer service. I have had to do this three times in the last year and they respond very quickly to correct the problem.
How the offers work: Spring Rewards will send you offers from time to time. Examples of some of the offers you may receive are spend at least $5 and get $5 cash back, or spend $10 get $5 cash back or purchase a $20 credit for $5. The amount you are required to spend is before tip. An example of the savings: Purchase a $15 credit for $5. To get the $15 credit you must spend $15 (before tip). The total meal cost $30 (including tax) plus $6 tip = $36 plus $5 prepaid for $15 credit = $41 less $15 credit = final cost $26.00 or 37% savings.
As you use up offers they will send you more. As you spend at various restaurants you are also accumulating points toward an award from that restaurant. Generally the threshold is high to get the free reward. The value lies in the free money they send you and the credits you buy. The downside is having to check your credit card to make sure you received the credit. Spring Rewards is relatively new so they have a decent selection of restaurant choices you may want to search by area to narrow it down. Some restaurants that are part of Spring Rewards: America’s Dog, Goddess and Grocer, Howell’s & Hood, Kanela Breakfast Club, a bunch of places in Old Town andmore. If a restaurant has multiple locations make sure that the location you are going to is included.
Table Savvy – On a daily basis, restaurants will push their empty tables out to TableSAVVY customers, refreshing everyday at midnight. If you see an offer you like you click on it and for a $5 processing fee you can secure that
reservation and save 30% off your meal. Once your reservation is set, an automatic alert will be sent to the restaurant, and 30% will automatically be taken off your meal. No coupon necessary. In order to breakeven your check would have to be at least $15 which is a pretty low threshold. I haven’t used this yet because I haven’t seen anything I wanted to try. When I do I’ll update this post. You must be a party of at least two to use this discount.
Generally, to me, it’s not worth my time if the savings is less than 10%. Keeping track of loyalty accounts and remembering to bring the right cards with you when you go out takes some planning but I’m generally saving at least 10% dining out and usually a lot more. You may want to start slowly and see how it goes but once you get the hang of it you’ll see substantial savings.