By Candice Choi -- AP Personal Finance Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The annual Mother's Day brunch is a tradition for many. But with so many restaurant deals up for grabs, why not make a meal with mom a regular habit?
She might even be tickled by your newfound desire to save.
"The discounts are even more enticing to parents," said Albert Ko, a 24-year-old Boston resident who runs the bargain-hunting blog CheapCheapCheap.com. "My parents don't usually go out to eat, but now we go about once a week."
Value menus and two-for-one deals are part of the Kos' regular rotation these days. The bar is naturally a bit higher for Mother's Day, but Ko is positive he can still find a bargain.
A few of the strategies he employs include scouring coupon Web sites and calling ahead to ask restaurant managers about unadvertised deals.
His prospects look good, with restaurants struggling to fill empty tables. Last year, restaurant visits by those ages 18 to 24 — the most lucrative in the industry — dropped by 8 percent, according to market researcher NPD Group. Visits by parties with children fell 3 percent.
So with some inside knowledge, it shouldn't cost a lot to make breakfast, lunch or dinner with mom a standing date.
Sniff Out Deals Online
There are a variety of ways to save online.
For starters, check whether your favorite restaurants offer any deals. At Restaurant.com, you can get steeply discounted gift certificates to thousands of eateries. A $25 certificate can cost $10, a $50 certificate can go for $20, and so on. The incentive for restaurants is to get more people in the door.
"Restaurant participation is bigger than it has ever been. We know there are more empty tables now than ever before," said Cary Chessick, the site's president and chief executive.
The conditions for the certificates are generally reasonable, but vary depending on the restaurant — so read the terms carefully. For instance, you might need to spend a minimum of $20 on food or use just one coupon per bill. Be sure to check the expiration date as well. Listings are searchable by zip code.
The site also has a "dinner of the month" club, which lets you give a gift certificate to the site over three, six or 12 months. This gives mom the freedom to pick the restaurant. It might be a way to commit to regular meals with her too.
Point reward programs are another saving strategy. At OpenTable.com, members can get 100 points or more for making a reservation. A $20 certificate is awarded for every 2,000 points earned. DinnerBroker.com gives users discounts ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent for booking reservations during off-peak hours.
If you're bringing the kids along, check out MyKidsEatFree.com. The site lists restaurants that offer kid-friendly deals. It's maintained with the help of visitors, so call listed restaurants to confirm the deals.