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Feb 282014
 February 28, 2014  Posted by  Features, Food, Hot Deals, Shopping Apps, Tech Talk

You’ve done it again — left home without that discount dining certificate you bought. Or, you forgot to buy one, even though you’re dining at a restaurant that’s currently offering a deal.

Just call up your discount certificate on your phone. Or use your phone to buy the certificate on the spot.

Most daily deal services and other sources of restaurant discounts have mobile apps that allow you to call up your purchased deal or buy new certificates on the spot and show the coupon to the server on your phone.

Among the free apps you should not leave home without:

  • This company sells discounted restaurant certificates. The regular price is $10 for $25 worth of dining, but there are often sales with promo codes that bring the price down to $4 or $5. Once you join the mailing list, will send you the promo codes. (And you can always find the current code on the Living on the Cheap Dining page.)
  • Groupon, Living Social, TravelZoo and any other daily deal sites active in your city. You can call up certificates you’ve purchased and buy new ones. On Groupon’s app, for example, you can also see available restaurant deals on a map. The Groupon Reserve function, which gives you a percentage off a restaurant meal without requiring you to buy a voucher, is not on the Groupon app but on its own Savored app.
  • OpenTable. This app (and website) lets you earn points for making reservations at restaurants. Once you earn a certain number of points, you get a certificate for dining dollars good at any participating restaurant. Can you reserve from your phone on the way to dinner? Yes, you can.
  • Yelp. Yelp is great for finding restaurants. You just type in what you’re looking for (restaurant, gelato, Greek, pizza) and it comes back with the closest places to you meeting that definition. You can filter by distance, price and other criteria and see either a map or list view. You can also read reviews. However, the Android app doesn’t allow you to filter by “restaurants offering a deal,” as the website does.

TripAdvisor and Urban Spoon are two more services with mobile apps you can use to find restaurants and read reviews.

You can also use your phone’s Internet browser to look for restaurant coupons (we have a bunch here at Living on the Cheap). And, some restaurants are now creating their own apps and offering discounts and freebies to diners who use them. 

Restaurants such as Subway and Pizza Hut have apps that let you order online, and the Snapfinger app provides online ordering for a lot of restaurants.

One caveat: Not all restaurants are as mobile-savvy as they should be so you may want to ask before you dine or even before you go to ensure they can process a mobile coupon or certificate. The first time I bought a restaurant certificate during the meal, I had to explain to our server how to get what she needed from the mobile site. But another time, when I left my daily deal certificate printout at home, the restaurant would not accept a mobile version. The manager did allow me to sign on to my account with their computer and print it out. But that’s unlikely to happen at a big restaurant or during a busy time.

As more and more diners use their phones to find restaurants and restaurant deals, more establishments are likely to embrace mobile coupons. You can use these apps to get started.

Do you have other favorite restaurant or dining deal apps? Leave a comment and let us know.

Teresa Mears

Teresa Mears is a website publisher, writer, blogger and editor who was raised to be frugal. In her 35 years as a journalist, she has written for papers ranging in size from the weekly Portland (Tenn.) Leader to The Los Angeles Times. She was an editor for the Miami Herald for more than 17 years, overseeing coverage of home, real estate, family and other subjects. She has also been a contributor to The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News and other publications. When she’s not writing about Florida deals, she writes and edits for MSN Money and does the Listed blog for MSN Real Estate. Teresa owns and operates Miami On The CheapFlorida On The CheapFort Lauderdale On The CheapPalm Beach On The CheapOrlando On The Cheap, Florida Keys On the Cheap and Jacksonville On The Cheap, as well as Baltimore on the Cheap and Washington, D.C., on the Cheap.

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