The Lowdown: Dining discount clubs

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

The lowdown: Dining discount clubs

Related tags: Restaurant

Restaurant discount club DINE launched this week. But how do these clubs work, and are they worth it? 

Dining club? Is that anything like chess club?

No, it saves you money and there’s much less thinking involved. Dining clubs are a way for foodies to get discounts on restaurant bills by buying memberships that give them access to exclusive offers. Thousands of restaurants are involved, and Tastecard alone has nearly 3m members. DINE​, a new restaurant discount card, launched this week.

I’m always keen for a bargain… how does it work?

At DINE, you can choose a physical or a digital membership card, or both. You search for a restaurant, go for a meal, and at the end either tap the app or show your card. A staff member approves the discount, and you can leave with up to a 50% discount, or a 2-4-1 offer.

Sounds like a steal, but I was always told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. How do the restaurants get anything out of this?

If you look at the terms and condition of most of the clubs, there are certain limitations. Some restaurants only use them during quiet times to fill empty tables, and you probably won’t be able to get a discount Valentine’s Day (sorry, cheapskates). The main perk is that dining clubs encourage people to spend in places they might not usually go, with the hope that the customer will keep coming back. According to Bob Salmasi and Andy Huggins, the founders of DINE, the key to a successful dining club is loyalty.

Hmm, I’m interested. How many clubs are out there?

Some of the largest clubs are Hi-Life, The Gourmet Society, Tastecard, and now DINE. The restaurants signed up range from high street chains to Michelin star restaurants.

Won’t they run out of restaurants to work with?

Well, despite all this talk of ‘loyalty’, the world of dining clubs is pretty dog-eat-dog. The Gourmet Society, Tastecard and Hi-Life are actually owned by the same umbrella company, The Dining Club Group. Now DINE has launched as a competitor and already has 2,000 restaurants signed up, with plans to expand over the next three years.

Is membership really worth it?

It mainly depends on two things – the price, and the restaurants near you. If you’re happy with both of those, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t represent good value. Full prices for being a club member can be as much as £70, but there are deals on offer throughout the year.

Looks like dinner’s on me. 

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