Never thought of it that way,..........
Which isn't particularly surprising. Restauranteurs tend to think that the services they provide are different than other businesses, and that what works for retailers doesn't work for them. Those who insist on thinking that way are the ones who fall by the wayside. Using gift cards is just one example.
Actually, considering the 1. unused money that is never redeemed with gift cards, and, 2. the interest value of having your money up front, a discounted gift card could be a great approach; particularly as the holidays approach.
The thing is, you can cut awfully deep without incurring any pain. A RestaurantOwner.com survey revealed that, on average, 21% of all gift cards sold go unredeemed. So think of the possibilities. For instance: A customer appreciation gesture: Buy a gift card in any amount after enjoying a meal and recieve a 15% discount on the card.
Let's say a couple has a meal at your place and really enjoys it. So they buy a $100 gift card, for which you charge them $85. On one hand, you are risking $15, long-term. But, on the other hand, is the sure and certain knowledge that all or part of that card will not be redeemed. Meanwhile, at even only 3%, you are earning $2.55 on that card until such time as it is redeemed.
A definate win-win situation for you.
But, interestingly, most gift cards are not discounted because people do not buy them for themselves but for other people. The opeative word on these cards is "gift," and you want to keep that in mind if you go this route. You might, for instance, find yourself marketing them to local businesses which use them as gifts to employees or customers. Or, possibly, they appeal to older clients who give them to the newlyweds so they can enjoy a nice night out. And so on. A lot depends on the kind of restaurant you are, your geography, and your markets...as well as how much time & resources you're willing to commit to marketing and PR.