That moment when the restaurant check is dropped at your table can make you resent the previous two hours that you just enjoyed talking with friends and tasting new foods. But it doesn’t have to! Take home your leftovers, not your guilt, with these tips on reducing your restaurant check.
Buy discount gift certificates
Restaurant.com sells $25 gift certificates for $10, or $50 gift certificates for $20. The site also has regular sales, when gift card prices go down even more—sometimes you can find a $25 one for $5! There are some restrictions, for example you may only be able to use a gift card once a month per restaurant, and they’re for dine-in only, but that’s just more reasons to try more restaurants!
Check the coupon sites
If you’re in the mood for a certain cuisine, or just want to go out and aren’t particular about the restaurant, check sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. They have dozens of daily deals offering 50 percent- to -90 percent off restaurants.
Many restaurants have gone social, and give you free treats or discounts for checking on their social media platform of choice. These apps will help you know when checking in will reward you:
Ask about special-occasion deals
Many restaurants have birthday and anniversary clubs. Becoming a member is free and usually gets you coupons around those special occasions, or free items. You can also check the site EatFreeOnYourBirthday.com for a list of restaurants that feed you for free on your birthday.
If you like to drink when you go out, it will be worth it for you to find restaurants that let you bring your own alcohol. Restaurants that are not BYOB will charge you a corkage fee (that might be higher than the bottle of wine cost you), and cocktails will run you around $10. If the restaurant is not BYOB, get a drink at a bar before or after—bars usually charge less than restaurants.
Get two meals out of your dish
Most restaurant dishes are over portioned, so if you have self control, you can get two meals out of one. When your dish arrives, immediately ask for a to-go box and empty half of your food into that. Save that for lunch the next day and you get twice your money’s worth, and saved yourself from feeling bloated.
Learn about steak
Sirloin, flank, skirt and hanger steaks are under ordered, and that’s a shame. They can be just as tender as a filet mignon, sometimes at half the price. In general, you’ll want them marinated for the most flavor.
Pick the restaurant
When dining with a group or a friend who is less frugal than yourself, choose the restaurant. This way you can control how pricey the menu will be and won’t be forced to just have a $20 garden salad for dinner.
Become a regular
Restaurants appreciate loyal customers, and they know that acknowledging their loyalty could keep them as returning customers, and have them recommend the place to their friends. If you find a place you love and can afford, go there as much as you can when the craving to eat out strikes. You might find yourself enjoying free appetizers or desserts.
Take restaurant surveys
Your input is very valuable to restaurants—valuable enough for them to pay you for it. Join the site iDine and you can earn 5 percent to 15 percent back each time you eat at a restaurant. All you have to do is this: within 30 days of visiting a restaurant, sign onto the site and complete a short survey. Each survey you complete earns you cash back and when you hit $20, iDine will mail you an American Express gift card.
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