Are discount restaurant vouchers a false economy?

Eating pizza in a restaurant

Are discounts for high street restaurant chains a diner’s delight or do they force menu prices up further? A study out this week shows it could be the latter… but will it put you off your discounted dinner?

Very rarely does a day go by when a new discount offer for a restaurant doesn’t come my way. You know the type: ‘two main meals for the price of one’, ‘three courses for £10’, ‘any main dish for £1 when you buy another’… the list goes on.

I only have myself to blame for this inbox influx, however. They’re either a result of signing up to a voucher email list, or of giving my email address in order to take advantage of a discount in the past. You could say; I’ve fallen for the sales pitch.

The rising price of restaurant food

But I’m still in two minds about these offers. Yes, I’ve used them a few times and they do give a good reduction on the real price of the menu. But is the ‘real’ price actually set correctly – or just adjusted to make up for the discounts?

This week it was revealed that prices in high street restaurant brands shot up by 7.5% during 2010. Food service consultancy Horizons analysed the menus of 115 high street brands and found the average price of a three-course adult meal rose 5% to £18.94 in 2010.

And what could possibly be behind the rises? According to Horizons, the proliferation of money-off vouchers has caused restaurants to review their prices – what a surprise.

Do vouchers devalue brands?

While discounted meals are appealing, they’re becoming so ubiquitous that I’m now reluctant to go to certain high street pizza chains unless I’m clutching an A4 print-out.

The food in these places is alright, but I’m only really there because it’s cheap and cheerful. Heck, if I have to pay full price I might as well go somewhere a bit more personal; a bit… well, nicer.

So is this trend for discount vouchers devaluing the brand of certain restaurant chains? While it continues to put bums on seats (bums that often wouldn’t choose to sit there) I doubt they care. Which means we’ll continue being offered discounts on artificially-inflated menu prices.


Hannah, I totally agree with you – I now never go to a certain high street pizza chain unless I have a 2-4-1 voucher or something similar. It’s almost as if I’d feel cheated if I had to pay full price. But I’d never considered that the price of the meals would generally be raised across the board, this seems a little dishonest of the restaurants and a definite false economy. I’d much rather pay a ‘fair’ price for my meal and forgo these vouchers.