How to Save Money and Reduce Your Restaurant Bill

How to Cut Your Restaurant Bill

Food Network’s Rachel Ray has done a travel show called $40.00 a Day about how to cut your restaurant bill while traveling; but why not apply these principles during the Holiday Season this year and whenever else you can manage to do so?

Using these methods will save you from bankruptcy when you are caught having to eat at a restaurant by helping you cut your restaurant bill.

Down Memory Lane -

During the Depression there was an old stage gag - A man sat at a restaurant table and a waiter approached.

Man -  Is there any charge for bread?

Waiter - No, Sir.

Man - Is there any charge for gravy?

Waiter - Of course not, Sir.

Man - Fine! I'll have bread and gravy.

Portion Size Control

One technique I had never thought of when ordering in restaurants was to ask the wait person for a half-sized portion, which comes at a reduced rate. Although menus offer a set number of dishes and full meals, many restaurants fulfill customer requests of this nature.

If you can’t order a half portion, you can eat half of a full portion and take the rest home for another meal. Some restaurants will also package up half your meal ahead of time and bring that half to you when you are ready to leave. This is an excellent way to cut your restaurant bill and cut your grocery bill by having two meals for the price of one.

More Extreme Methods

One technique that you may not want to attempt is one used by a person I know that hates cooking for the family. He goes to the Chinese Buffet down the street every two weeks and orders enough food that is on the weekly Specials list to make 3-4 meals during a week. Considering that he purchases the most expensive brand of food in the grocery store, this actually saves money. The family makes extra rice to go with these meals and uses fruits for dessert, so they save money by cutting their overall food bill.

Ways to Reduce a Restaurant Bill

Take your own gravy (photos public domain)
Take your own gravy (photos public domain)
Borrow some condiments.(sxc.hu)
Borrow some condiments.(sxc.hu)
SCARE THEM INTO GIVING YOU FREE FOOD! Don't forget the gravy.
SCARE THEM INTO GIVING YOU FREE FOOD! Don't forget the gravy.

Most Extreme Methods

This method of cost cutting may be one you wish to skip. An old acquaintance of mine used cut her restaurant bill by taking her young daughter into restaurants and, ¾ through their meals, complaining to the manager that the food was making them sick and demanding a refund. Actually, this worked once in every restaurant she used and the management and staff caught on quickly and refused the refund the second time around.

As a restaurant manager for a steakhouse, I witnessed a few people return their steaks after ¾ eaten – and all side dishes eaten completely - with the complaint that the steaks were tough. Their demand was for a whole new meal, which they would then take home. The District Manager leveled the edict that we would supply only a new steak and nothing else after a certain date; but, the customers received a new steak, which they took home. After a few weeks, they tired of making their own side dishes at home and gave up their complaint practice.

At the same steakhouse, an extra charge was made for butter pats, sour cream, extra salad dressing, extra bread, etc.; so some customers brought in their own low-fat low-salt butter and other healthier condiments (which we did not have) and even a roll or two, and saved money that way.

Another method that my father used was to eat a sandwich before he went to an expensive restaurant for a business meal. Then he would order a modest meal and skip dessert, except for some fruit and coffee during after dinner conversation. He was able cut his restaurant bill for his company expense account and the company liked this very much. Other times, he would have just arrived by plane, having eaten on board and would have pie and coffee while others ate. Everyone was fine with this, too. You could join friends halfway through a celebration meal and have dessert and still enjoy the outing.

The most extreme methods of cutting a restaurant bill are 1) to walk out and not pay, which is illegal, and 2) never eat out and cook everything from scratch. The first is unwise and the second nearly impossible for many Americans.

Another very extreme technique is one I see some folks using in my neighborhood next to a mall. When short of cash, they stand at the mall car park entrance with a cardboard sign indicating there poverty and requesting employment opportunities or money or food. Usually, some motorist will go through a Drive-Thru and bring them a bag of food. That is the ultimate in reducing a restaurant bill and saving on gasoline as well.

Resturants, a Part of American Culture

Other Suggestions

I have seen the suggestion to take your own bottle of wine into a restaurant in order to reduce the restaurant bill by cutting the cost of alcoholic beverages. This works in some cities, but in our own, many restaurants will not allow outside food or wine and liquor and have a sign posted in the lobby to this effect.  In fact, some of these add the full price of their own wine to the restaurant bill and demand payment or criminal charges as an alternative. Some cities have restaurants that charge a fee to open or let you open the bottle in the dining area and some are not licensed for alcohol and cannot permit it. Call ahead and find out what you can and cannot do.

Another alternative is to skip the alcohol altogether because of the high markup rate on this product. Some people even take a bottle of spring water into the restaurant, which they state is for health purposes, and save the cost of beverages altogether.

Some individuals feel that less money is spent in a restaurant when credit cards are not used. Debit cards and cash outlay may restrain spending and reduce your restaurant bill. 

How have you reduced your restaurant bill?  

Settling the Bill - (bit of harsh language)

Asking for the Bill in a Philippine Restaurant

More by this Author


How Do You Reduce Your Restaurant Bill? 12 comments

Netters profile image

Netters 8 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

Great article. Good tips, Cute and funny too. Thank you.


elisabethkuhn 8 years ago

Hi Patty,

 great article though not all of the ideas are quite as implementable as I would like ;-)

 I also have a question....  I just came across a post on posting on Today.com by Lizzie or Lizzy

and you had commented on it (which is why I'm asking you).  I have no idea how to find it again. How does one find hubpages when I don't remember the exact sscreen name or even the title?  I even commented but without being logged in, so it's under my name, and then logged in and lost track of the page.  sigh.

thanks so much for any help. (if you could send an answer to my email too that would be great. It's elisabeth711 AT gmail Dot com. I'm still a newbie with hubpages)

Elisabeth


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Lissie has the posts on Today.com. It sounds like it might be a good deal if it can create free backlinks.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

There's a cute little cafe and wine room near us. The food is good, but we don't always feel like spending the amount for two full dinners and a couple of glasses of wine.

Sometimes we just share a couple of appetizers or soup and have a dinner salad, or else have a hamburger (theirs are quite good) with a glass of wine. The wine costs more than the burger, but it still seems like a special dinner out, while spending quite a bit les.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

That sounds like fun, Rochelle, and very special. Thanks for sharing that, because it made me have a warm smile.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 8 years ago from Scotland

Nice article, I have never done this in a restaurant but I can make myself sick at will and I can control the amount of puke that I produce, do you think it would work if I produced a little sick after eating?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Probably! Or you could just pass out and fall out of your chair. :)

At the steakhouse whenever something went amiss, we refunded the price of the entire party's meals, and provided coupon cards for a free meal next time.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 8 years ago from Scotland

cool, lol free meals here I come.....jimmy


Sagan profile image

Sagan 8 years ago

Very interesting! Great article.

I once heard about a man who ordered the most expensive bottle of wine on the menu, and after he tasted it he decided he didn't like it. So he sent it back and bought a much cheaper bottle! I'm guessing it was so that he could taste the expensive wine but just didn't want to pay for it. But I don't think the servers and cooks minded very much- they got to finish the bottle after their work was done:)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

That's very interesting, Sagan. The staff enjoyed that wine, I'm sure.


B.C. BOUTIQUE 7 years ago

Great article, but it seems to teeter on the areas of theft or con artist practices alot.

Very good detail I must say, but I would never do many of the aboved mentioned things to save money at a restaurant, its healthir and cheaper to eat at home, and for me going out for dinner is a special occasion treat.

That is my method, learn to be self sufficient and save the "luxuries" for special occasions :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Eaxcatly, my dear BC! As a good friend says, "If you cannot afford a restaurant, go to McDonald's and eat in your car. Or eat tuna sandiwhses at home." :)

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