Anyone living near large cities that is budget conscious has probably heard of the Entertainment Book. They are sold in most states, and while the majority of their coupons are usually for retailers near the larger cities in the area, they used to cover large enough areas to make them worth the purchase for many people. If you are not familiar with these books, they general had coupons in several different categories. One of the most valuable was the “fine dining section”, there were also areas for chain and local restaurants that were less expensive in the local area. Other coupons usually included a local travel attraction, coupons for entertainment venues, and coupons for general retailers.
As I mentioned, the fine dining section was one of the best sections of the book in the past. It would include a large number of coupons for local fine dining restaurants that in general were high enough value for buy one, get one free entrees. They also included sample menus. In recent years that section has gotten smaller each year and the section in my local Entertainment Book is now about one third the size it was when I first started buying it in the mid 1990’s. The coupons have also dropped in value, many times the average entree at one of these restaurants is over $20, but the coupon is for $16 maximum value or less. This year saw another disturbing development in my opinion. Many of the fine dining coupons now place restrictions on weekend use. Some will state “not valid Fridays or Saturdays”, or “you must be seated before six or after nine on weekends”. It’s becoming clear that with the drop in the number of coupons, the lower values, and new restrictions that the restaurants are not getting the business they want from these coupons.
I have discovered many restaurants that I liked using these coupons and returned to visit even without the use of the coupon. Obviously that would be the restaurant’s goal in advertising in the book. With the new limitations on the coupons my guess is that the restaurants are seeing more people use their Entertainment Book coupons on weekends, and then not becoming repeat customers. Now, it appears those restaurants have either decided to stop advertising all together or at least lower their loses by reducing the value of coupons, or requiring people to use them during their off-peak hours.
The chain and less expensive restaurant coupon sections have become smaller as well. Many of the local fast food restaurants used to have up to nine coupons in that section, now we are lucky to see three from many of them. If you look at the coupons, you will notice the offers are very similar to ones you might find in fliers in your local Sunday paper now. The other difference I’m seeing is many of the chain restaurants or local restaurants with multiple locations are limiting their locations that accept the coupons. From what I have seen it is generally the locations that are less busy that accept the coupons.
The resort destination section still has a fair amount of coupons, but even that has dropped by 20-33%. I have also noticed that more and more of these coupons are not valid for the standard tourist seasons. For example, many coupons for the local beach resort are not valid from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Obviously this is an attempt by businesses to increase business in the off season, I’ve also noticed that some of the vacation towns sell their own smaller coupon books that are valid during the busier seasons.
As far as the entertainment venue and retail coupons these still exist and have not changed significantly. Keep in mind though, that you can find these same coupons in many local shopping circulars in your areas. Grocery store coupons and larger local retailers tend to only be good for 10-20% off, and many either have large minimum purchase requirements, or cap the discount at under $10.
Overall, I’ve been really disappointed in the recent editions of the Entertainment Book for my area. I have resorted to using restaurant.com for discount coupons for the fine dining establishments I wish to eat at. Yes, restaurant.com has restrictions as well, but at least then you are just purchasing coupons you know you will use. I have found out that by joining local restaurant discount clubs, browsing local discount advertising inserts and fliers, and using restaurant.com that I can save much more money than with the Entertainment Book. I can also use these resources more efficiently and get the coupons I want instead of getting a large number of coupons I can’t use. The Entertainment Book used to be a good value, but now if restaurant.com and another good on-line site like thesmartcirlce.com have good coverage in your area, I really think you have better options available.