The abundance of daily deal sites has made cheap eats a reality, to the relief of both cash-strapped diners and die-hard foodies. Now there’s a new crop of food-focused discount sites, ranging from aggregators that gather real-time offers to sites catering to specific consumers, whether you’re a fine dining aficionado or a fast-food fan. We take four Web sites to test to see how they serve the hungry masses.
The scoop: The site is the first real-time deal aggregator for food. The site aggregates daily discounts from the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial, combining them with publicized lunch and happy hour specials and tips from restaurants’ Twitter feeds. It also integrates deals from Savored.com and Restaurant.com. Last week, the company unveiled a new version of its free iPhone app, which includes offers from Groupon Now and LivingSocial Instant.
You’ll love this: A search for happy hour discounts yielded two nearby restaurants offering half-priced bottles of wine and a smattering of venues with cheap cocktails. When looking for lunch deals, the results ranged from a $6 special at Chinatown spot Full Kee to a $26.95 three-course option at Bistro Bistro. A search through the “daily deals” tab revealed a $30-for-$15 or $60-for-$30 LivingSocial deal at Dupont’s I Ricchi and a $25 Groupon worth $50 at Bethesda’s Tragara.
. . . But not this: The interactive map was very slow to load.
The scoop: The site partners with area restaurants to offer discounted certificates worth anywhere from $10 to $100. Search restaurants by Zip code, then choose your deal — some venues offer just one price point for certificates, while others offer up to five. The site includes menus for featured restaurants, and signing up for an account means you’ll get e-mails for new restaurants and exclusive offers.
You’ll love this: Sample deals included a $15 certificate worth $25 at Brabo in Old Town Alexandria and a $45 certificate worth $100 at Georgetown’s Cafe La Ruche. You can sort results by average entree price or restaurant name, or opt to see new restaurants first. If you’re buying a gift, you can send an electronic gift certificate or a physical gift card.
... But not this: Featured restaurants have minimum order requirements — usually $35 or two entrees, so this isn’t the best deal for solo diners. Tips of 18 to 20 percent is added to the check before the discount is applied. You can’s search by cuisine.
The scoop: The site bills itself as a news source for discount dining information, focusing solely on national chains and gathering restaurant coupons, coupon codes and updates on national offers. If you spend more time at Starbucks than the corner java spot or want to save a few bucks on your fast-food habit, this is the site for you.
You’ll love this: Navigational tabs make it easy to sort by deal type, whether you’re looking for discounts on dinners for two, happy hour specials, or kids-eat-free promotions. Scanning the site yielded a deal for a free large side at Boston Market and an update about happy hour specials Morton’s Steakhouse.
... But not this: The site includes expired deals, which adds to the amount of sifting you’ll have to do. Locavores won’t have the best results here, since the site focuses exclusively on chains.
The scoop: Known as VillageVines until June, the site is unique in its focus on fine dining. Instead of trying to lure budget-conscious consumers, Savored works the “experience” angle, enticing users to try new venues (and swallow the $10 fee for each reservation) by offering a 30 percent discount on the bill. Users get access to Zagat ratings and reviews of member restaurants — 58 of which are in the Washington area.
You’ll love this: The restaurant selection comprises some of the most popular local foodie haunts, from Co Co. Sala in Penn Quarter to El Manantial in Reston to Stella in Rockville. If you don’t save more on your bill than you paid for the booking fee, the company will refund the $10 charge. Drinks are included in the discount.
... But not this: If you want to break even on the booking fee, you’ll need to spend at least $34, so groups will benefit most. The site focuses on decidedly high-end venues, so if you’re on a tight budget, you might be better off avoiding the temptation.
THE BOTTOM LINE Decipher your dining preferences: If you care more about budgeting than branching out, use an aggregator or a discount site to save on your next meal; if your cravings are more high-end, you can still save by booking through a membership site. As always, read the fine print — check expiration dates and requirements — to make sure a deal doesn’t wind up costing you in the end.