Going out for lunch or dinner and eating out at restaurants is a great way to enjoy time with friends and family. However, you may not like the bill that comes with the experience. If you enjoy dining out but don’t want to spend a lot of money there are many things you can do to save on the bill.
Here are 9 great tips and suggestions to save money when dining out.
You may or may not have heard of Restaurant.com if not, they are a company that partners with local restaurants in an effort to offer lower prices. At restaurant.com you can purchase gift cards for participating restaurants in your area. An example of their service would be a 15.00 gift card is good for 25.00 dollars worth of food, each restaurant is different but it’s always a decent savings. Restaurants benefit because they bring in new customers, and customers benefit by saving money trying out new restaurants. Restaurant.com Make sure to read the fine print as there are on occasion special times and dates that are excluded from these offers.
2. Share Entrées
I don’t know about you but I usually have leftovers after dining out and leftovers aren’t usually as good reheated as at the restaurant, that’s probably the reason they are taken home in a “doggy bag”. Rather than bringing home half a plate of left overs consider sharing a large entrée with whom you’re dining with. My wife and I do this almost every time we go out and it’s always plenty of food. We usually order the larger entries to ensure we have plenty of food.
3. Use Coupons
There are always great coupons in the local Sunday paper, don’t be afraid to use them. Many times they are in the entertainment section of your local newspaper and often feature buy one get one free or an entire meal deal such as an appetizer, two meals and a dessert for a special price. You can also find coupons online and in magazines among other places. If you can stick to to the coupon and not buy the spur of the moment items you’ll save big money. Make sure to read the fine print.
Another great place to look for local restaurant coupons are at the hotels in your area, you know that big display with all the brochures? There are almost always great coupons and offering throughout the display.
4. Going for the Atmosphere
If you going out to dinner mainly for the atmosphere or for entertainment, consider having a lite bite to eat before you go, this will bring down the bill in a big way. If you show up at a restaurant starving to death, your hunger will take over your pocket book. Having a light snack before you go will allow you to order a small entrée and still enjoy the experience of dining out at your favorite restaurant.
5. Just Have Appetizers
Have a lite dinner at home and go out for appetizers and drinks. When we lived in San Diego my wife and I use to love to go out to a little restaurant at the boat docks near down town. These restaurants offer a great atmosphere and charged for it. Our favorite restaurant was situated over the water and was an open air restaurant. We would usually order an appetizer of calamari and perhaps a cockail or two. We would enjoy excellent food, and an amazing atmosphere for a fraction of the price.
6. Always Ask About the Specials
Restaurants are almost always running a special and it may or may not be on the menu, in fact many times it’s not on the menu as the specials change daily or weekly while the menu stays the same. Know the specials and save money.
7 .Save on drinks
Just order water, it’s funny one of the most common drinks people have is a bottle of water. And some are even proud of the fact that they drink water because it’s more healthy then other popular beverages but for one reason or another people feel obligated to order a drink of one type or another when dining out.
8. Go Out for Lunch Instead
Going out for lunch can be just as nice of an experience as going for dinner and the menu options are always much less expensive, in many cases half the price.
9. The Childrens Menu?
If you’re not a big eater ordering an entrée off the children’s menu may be a great way to save money, some are embarrassed by this but if you consider it, the meal portions on the kids menu are usually just about the right size where as the meals from the regular dinner menu are often too big. In reality there are many people not only senior citizens and kids that prefer a smaller portion to a larger ones. Many times if you order from the children’s menu the restaurant will append an additional fee of 1.00 for the privilege of ordering from this menu and it’s still a big savings.
10. Subscribe to Email Offers
More recently I’ve been subscribing to restaurant email programs. One of my favorites is Chilies. I get one email a day from them advertising some new or exciting menu options. With every email I receive there is always a special usually a free appetizer or a buy one get one free option. Last time we went all I had to do was show my phone email and received a free order of chips with cheese. It was excellent and it was completely on the house.
Personally I kind of enjoy window shopping and because I routinely check my email I like to receive special offers. Groupon has some of the better restaurant deals available. At restaurants it’s almost always an extra 10.00 or 15.00 dollars literally on the house just for taking advantage of one of their group specials. Again this works because the restaurant gets a ton of extra business and lots of exposure. Sometimes the restaurants or any business for that matter is inundated with new business. There is always plenty of time to use the offer so wait a while before going or head there during the offer hours or during the week. Groupon
What’s your favorite way to save money when dining out?