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  • Lexi Eimbinder

10 Tricks to Save Money When Going to a Restaurant

Dining out easily breaks the bank. Starters are a must and who can say no to the chef's special when it sounds so compelling? A beer or two, a glass of wine, and a bottle of VOSS to feel like a boss - it adds up quickly. We FEEL this struggle and that’s why we’re sharing our life hacks with you. Keep reading to learn how to save money while still enjoying the pleasures of eating out.

1. Timing

When it comes to saving money at a restaurant, timing is everything. Typically, for restaurants, the start of the week is quite slow. Therefore, the restaurant industry tends to offer special deals on Mondays and Tuesdays. This can include amazing discounts on more expensive dishes and all-you-can-eat buffets. Don’t let the two-for-one specials, $5 Pizza Mondays, or all-you-can-eat Nachos pass you by.

2. Sharing is caring (and saving)

Many restaurants serve enormous portions. This, of course, does not count for fancy-dancy restaurants, where you will need 10 of those tiny, cute plates to actually fill your belly. We all know that our appetite is often bigger than our actual hunger. This means that, when going out with friends, you can share a main and add a side or a starter. Et voila, you easily save $5-10. Restaurants often offer half portions for less money too. So don’t hesitate to ask for shared mains or half portions (Super hack: ask for a kids portion).

3. Skip the overpriced Chef's Special

Most of us foodies would die to try that fancy special, personally curated by the chef. Fun fact, however: most of the restaurants just advertise the dish as a chef’s special to justify inflating the price. In reality, we know it’s pretty unlikely that the chef would personally prep a dish specifically for us. BUT A GIRL CAN DREAM THO.

4. Get it to go

Since we already know that most main dishes are supersized, you can either share it with your bestie or get the rest to go and save it for tomorrow. Getting food to go is cheaper than ordering in. Many restaurants offer a 10% discount for takeaway. In addition, tips are lower and instead of paying the 300% markup on beverages, you can get your favorite bottle of wine from the liquor shop for a third of the price you would pay at the restaurant. Naturally, some of us are going to the restaurant for the ambiance and a reason to get all glammed up. However, you can easily create a cool ambiance at your place. Get the chic dishes out, light up the overpriced candles, and put on a jazz playlist. Et voilá, you will save money and still have a lovely evening.

5. Drink water

Restaurants make most of their turnover with beverages. As mentioned before, drinks can have a markup of up to 600%. Crazy right? And this is why we Frichies should especially rethink whether we really need two glasses of wine or that third beer. Try to order, if for the taste or fun, one fancier beverage and ask for tap water instead of that fancy overpriced bottled water. At the end of the day, we come for the food and the experience with our friends.

6. Skip the full price

Here is one for the smart savers: always check the restaurant’s website or other restaurant deal sites for some coupons or online deals. Websites like OpenTable, LivingSocial, and Groupon often offer great discounts with which you can save up to 25% on your next restaurant bill. Also, don’t forget to sign up for your favorite restaurant’s newsletter. Many restaurants send out alerts with current discounts and special deals.

7. Lunch dates

Here are two good reasons why you should consider lunch as your next date time. First of all, the lunch menu is always less expensive. Secondly, restaurants often offer amazing lunch specials, such as menus with an extra soup or a salad on the side for less than the dinner price. If you still want to meet your friends at night, have dinner at home and meet for a dessert or a drink instead.

8. It’s your birthday

Yayyy it's your birthday! Surely, you have planned to go out with your friends to one of your favorite restaurants or brunch spots. As it is your special day, many restaurants or waiters get equally excited about the fact that you came to their restaurant to celebrate. Often they offer you a free dessert or a round of shots on the house. So never forget to mention that it is your birthday. However, do not brag about it. The best scenario: let one of your friends tell a waiter about your special day.

9. Hit up happy hour

Our favorite hour of the day: Happy hour. Best known for awesome 2-for-1 cocktail deals at those quirky bars we go out to when we want to pregame or just have a fun night out with our friends. However, during happy hour some restaurants have not only fun half-priced drinks, they often provide half-priced snacks and appetizers as well. So why not grab an early dinner with your friends, get a bunch of affordable and tasty appetizers and some half-priced cocktails. However, never forget to double-check offers and times as each place has its own happy hour days, times, and discounts. Let’s happy hour Frichies!

10. Prioritize outings based on your plans/budget

Keeping track of your plans and restaurant plans seems boring; yes. However, writing down your dinner plans and lunch dates may save you a lot of money. Take some time at the beginning of each week and look at your calendar. If you have plans for Friday night and Saturday night, there is no good reason to add another cocktail rendez-vous with your besties on Thursday. Save that money and plan ahead by balancing your going out and cooking-at-home strategy. Some planning will save you a lot of money.


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