Eating at restaurants seems to get more expensive all the time. There are always some ways to save money when you go out. Here are a few ideas on how to save money at restaurants.
Lunch vs dinner
Instead of going out to dinner, consider going to lunch instead. The prices for the same meals are
usually marked down 30 to 40 percent during lunch. Another benefit to lunch is that restaurants are
usually less crowded, so you can walk right in and get a table, and the service is better because each
server has fewer tables to manage. If you want to try a new restaurant, see if they offer a lunch buffet.
This way you can sample several dishes at one time and see how you like the restaurant.
Share appetizers and dessert
Restaurants have no problem with patrons sharing appetizers or desserts. This is a good way to save
some money. Many times when you go in, you order more food than you need because you are hungry. Then they bring complimentary chips or bread, and if you get individual appetizers, you are stuffed by the time the entree arrives. Consider sharing dishes as a way to save money.
Similar to having lunch instead of dinner, may restaurants mark down their prices before 6PM. If it is a popular restaurant, they will be full later anyway, and offering an Early Bird discount enables them to serve more dinners (and sell more drinks) even if they make a little less profit on each one. Like lunch, you can also get seated quicker at Early Bird seating times.
Senior savings or kids eat free
If these discounts are available, take advantage of them. Most restaurants offer senior discounts,
although some don't advertise it. Kids eat free may only be available on certain nights of the week. Call the restaurant or check their website to see if they offer either of these discounts.
Local papers or savers papers have coupons
Check the local newspapers for local restaurant coupons. The Thursday or Friday papers may
have a restaurant section. If there is a weekly Food section or a a Weekend Guide, restaurant ads may
be there. Check any local savers papers also to see if there are any restaurant coupons there. If you are traveling, pick up tourist guides, which always have restarant coupons.
Easy on the drinks
You probably know that bars and restaurants make the most money on drink markups. At bars
especially, the food is just to get people in the door to spend money on drinks. When you go to a
restaurant, the first thing they do is get you a drink so you will be tempted to order a second one later when your meal comes. Every server will ask if you want another. Have a drink if you enjoy it, but get water or a refillable soft drink or iced tea to go with it. Every drink you get can add 10 percent to your bill.
Entertainment.com discount book
Check this website for local discounts. These discount books are often sold as fundraisers, but you can buy a local one anytime. They offer discounts at many local restaurants as well as movie theaters and local stores. Entertainment.com discount books cost $35, but offer thousands of dollars in local discounts. You can review it online before buying to see what is offered. My local book has discounts at over 400 local restaurants. Just enter your zip code and you can check restaurant savings in your area.
This is another online source of restaurant savings. You can buy discounted gift cards for specific restaurants in your area. These cards offer deep discounts. For example, a $100 gift card costs $40. You can also give a gift card and the recipient chooses from a list of their local restaurants where they want to use it. Check the fine print on this, there are some minimum purchase requirements by restaurant.
Sign up for email
Sign up for email updates at you favorite restaurant's website. They will send you discount codes and coupons, and alert you to specials they are offering. If it is a restaurant chain, they will sometimes let you pick the closest restaurant so you get targeted restaurant savings.
Check the bill
Double check the bill to see if the tip in included in the price. Some restaurants do this to make it easy on the customer, but if you don't notice, you end up tipping on top if this, which is giving money away.