Direct Mail Coupons vs. Grocery Store Receipt Coupons: Which is Best for Your Restaurant?

Two black curbside mailboxes side-by-side

A coupon is a coupon is a coupon. Pretty much. There are some coupons that offer more than others. When your coupon is a great deal, it can be the difference between a prospect eating at your restaurant versus a competitor’s.

But make no mistake, the way you get the coupon out to your potential customers is an important decision. It can make or break your return on investment.

Two of the most popular forms of coupon advertising for restaurants are direct mail and grocery store receipts. Let’s take a look at the leaders in each space to see which one is best for your restaurant.

Valpak Coupons

For 50 years, Valpak has been sending direct mail coupons to households all over the United States. Local businesses pay to have their ads printed, packaged, and shipped. The famous blue envelopes are delivered to homes, typically on a monthly schedule, through the U.S. Postal Service.

Register Tapes Unlimited (RTUI) Coupons

You’ve seen and touched this advertising hundreds of times in your life, but you may not have realized it. With RTUI, local businesses have their coupon placed on the receipts at their local grocery store. As each shopper checks out, a set of coupons for closeby businesses is placed directly in the customer’s hand. Your restaurant’s local, potential customers will get your coupon hand delivered, usually more than once a week!

With this option, you know that the coupon has been delivered into the hands of someone who lives or works near your restaurant. (If you’d like to learn more about receipt advertising, read our blog What is Register Tape Advertising? How Can it Help My Restaurant?)Check out our Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing that walks you through creating a marketing strategy to bring in new customers. 

What Are the Differences Between Direct Mail Coupons and Grocery Store Receipt Coupons?

Grocery store receipt coupons and direct mail coupons and are like butter and margarine; they serve the same purpose, but one is much better for you than the other.

So how do you compare the two types of restaurant coupon advertising?

We use a framework called RATE which stands for repetition, appeal, targeting, and exposure.

Interested in how grocery store coupon advertising can work for your restaurant? Learn more.

The perfect form of advertising would:

  • Reach prospects over and over again, so your restaurant is always top-of-mind
  • Have the right message to draw them to eat at your restaurant
  • Target only the people most likely to become customers (fewer wasted impressions)
  • Be delivered right in front of their face so they can’t miss it

If advertising could do the above at an affordable cost, it would be impossible not to get a return on your investment!

That’s why we use RATE to evaluate advertising mediums. It allows you to strip away all the extra features, and level the playing field by focusing only on the elements that will actually impact profitability.

In this example, you can see exactly how RTUI and Valpak stack up to deliver results for your restaurant.


Direct Mail Coupons


Grocery Store Receipt Coupons (RTUI)
Repetition  – How often does a consumer receive the coupon? About 1 time per month 4-8  times per month
Targeting – How locally targeted is the advertising program? Targeted by zip code (could include homes 10+ miles away from your restaurant) Hyper-targeted, 3-5 miles around your restaurant
Appeal – Category exclusivity(ie: the only Mexican restaurant offer) Full Color

Approx 8.5”W x  3.67 H

No Category Exclusivity Available

Full Color

2.75” W x 1.75” H

Category Exclusivity Available

Exposure – Distribution format In mailbox, online and via mobile app In-hand at grocery store, online and via mobile app


As you can see in the above chart, RTUI provides more repetition, more local targeting, and more direct exposure.

But does it cost more to do grocery store advertising? You might be surprised!

How Much Does It Cost for Direct Mail Coupons vs. Grocery Store Receipt Coupons?

Variables such as location, campaign length, and ad design can affect the total cost of a coupon advertising campaign. But it’s easy to see which type of advertising costs less per impression, giving you greater exposure for your investment.

The following cost breakout assumes a distribution of 20,000 coupons.

Approx. Price – 20,000 Impressions Reach(How many people see the ad) Repetition (How many times the ad is seen) Targeting (Who sees the ad)
RTUI Coupons $120 20,000 Shoppers 4-8 times per month Everyone who lives and shops within 3-5 miles of your restaurant
ValPak Coupons $400-$600 20,000 Households 1 time per month Zip codes near your restaurant


Remember: Most consumers choose restaurants in a very small radius around their homes or place of work. When was the last time you drove 20+minutes to go out to eat? The farther you send your direct mail coupons from your restaurant, the fewer redemptions you’re likely to get!

How to Choose the Best Restaurant Coupon Advertising for You

As a restaurant owner, you need to make an investment in the type of advertising that is most likely to generate a profit. That means figuring out which types of advertising have the best mix of RATE at the most affordable cost.

It’s true that one of the most affordable ways of advertising is placing a coupon on local grocery store receipts. They are proven to have a high number of impressions and can yield a 5:1 ROI. But what if you can’t get into the grocery store closest to your restaurant? Don’t give up completely on advertising!

You may be interested in trying some other restaurant marketing programs. Visit our Restaurant Marketing & Advertising page where you can find resources on other types of restaurant promotions and programs.

As you consider which format for coupon advertising would be best for your restaurant, be sure you remember these three key factors:

  1. Stay close to your restaurant with your distribution. Don’t waste impressions on prospects who are unlikely to buy.
  2. Repetition is important when getting people to change their habits or restaurant choices. The more frequently you can get in front of their faces, the better.
  3. Use the format that is the most cost-effective for your market. That means the highest mix of RATE for the least amount of money.

download the complete guide to coupon advertising

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