In these harder economic times, we're all looking for a way to save a little money each day. One great way is to trim a bit off your restaurant bill the next time you dine out. Whether you dine in a restaurant nightly or only for special occasions, these tips should prove useful in saving a little extra money so you can enjoy these indulgences more regularly:
Don't Dine Out
This is the most obvious one and I think I'd be irresponsible if I didn't share this one first! When you eat in a restaurant, you're not just paying for the food. You're paying for the preparation of that food, the delivery by the wait staff, the decor, the bus boy that clears your table, the dishwasher that washes your plates, the taxes for all those services, and the electricity and rent to keep the whole operation going. When you prepare food at home, you save money because you replace your money with your time. You have to shop for the groceries, cook the food, set the table, clear the table, wash the dishes, and do all the other things that make the meal possible ... but you save money. We made Provençal Rack of Lamb for the fraction of what it would cost us in a nice restaurant.
Look for Specials, Coupons
Most high-end restaurants will likely not offer any coupons, but many offer specials, which may mean saving a few dollars on your overall meal, during slower meal times like happy hour periods. If you frequent more mainstream restaurants, it's often easy to find restaurant-related coupons in your local circulars for 10% off or more. You may sometimes get lucky and find them on Restaurant.com, a gift certificate site that will sell you a $25 gift certificate for $10. The gift certificate comes with stipulations, such as a minimum order amount, but it's still a great deal when you couple it with Restaurant.com coupon codes.
Wine, and alcohol in general, is one of the highest margin items a restaurant will sell with the listed price being three to five times the wholesale cost to the restaurant. While this may seem like highway robbery to you, the reason why the markup is so high is because buying wine is an indicator that a party will be staying at the table for a while. The longer a party stays, the fewer times the table can be turned over. This is partly why wine is priced with such a large markup.
Split or Skip Appetizers, Dessert
In terms of food cost to price on the menu, appetizers and dessert are a lot like bottles of wine in their margins. They are another indicator that a party will be staying a while and so the prices are increased accordingly. An easy way to save a few dollars is by forgoing each or consider splitting one with friends. While the portions may be small, this is a great way to share different flavors and reduce the number of calories you consume.
Play Credit Card Roulette
Credit card roulette is a game where each diner puts a credit card into a pool for the bill. The waiter or waitress pulls cards out one by one until there is just one card remaining, and that card pays the entire bill. This "game" can save you some money or cost you a whole lot! It's not for the faint of heart because it's the purest of all gambling, since your expected value on the bet will be your share of the bill, assuming you split it evenly. Those who want to opt out can simply pay their share. It's a fun way to end the evening if you're with a bunch of gamblers.
What are you tips for saving money at restaurants?