Easy Ways to Save Money in Restaurants

Eating out in restaurants is something which most people like to do on at least an occasional basis. Whether it be to celebrate a special event such as a birthday or anniversary, try out the new restaurant in town that everyone seems to be talking about, or simply to escape the hot stove for an evening, the appeal of restaurant dining has many possible interpretations.

One of the problems of eating out in restaurants, however, that many have to face, is the cost. A family of four can often eat very well at home for less than the price of just one restaurant meal. Especially in times of economic hardship, this means that eating out at restaurants is frequently even more of a luxury than it was before. The good news is, though, that by taking just a few factors in to careful consideration, it is possible to significantly reduce the cost of eating out in restaurants and thus allow such treats to be more frequently affordable.

This page looks at some of the top tips for cutting costs and saving money when eating out in restaurants, whether the occasion be a romantic meal for two, or a fun-filled evening out for all the family.

The day and date of a restaurant visit can make a considerable difference to the cost of a meal
The day and date of a restaurant visit can make a considerable difference to the cost of a meal

Consider the Day and Date of a Restaurant Visit Carefully

When a visit to a restaurant is to mark a special occasion, the day and date of the visit is less likely to be flexible. When eating out, however, simply to sample what a particular restaurant has to offer or give the family an unexpected treat, choosing the day of the week and the date can have a considerable effect on the overall cost. In general terms, weekdays/nights are likely to be less expensive than weekends and dates which do not mark any particular special occasion are likely to be free of perhaps unexpected surcharges. One simple illustrative example of this consideration is Valentine's Day falling on a Saturday - this is not the time to take the whole family out for an impromptu restaurant meal.

A simple glance at the calendar and a couple of minutes' deliberation when considering eating out in a restaurant is all that is required in most instances to take full account of this factor.

Choose the Right Restaurant at Which to Eat

If the reason for dining out is to sample a particular restaurant, this factor will clearly not apply. In all other instances, however, where it is the occasion that matters rather than the restaurant, taking time to look at the different restaurant options available is the first and one of the biggest factors in minimising the cost of the meal.

The Internet will often make this practice much simpler. Where restaurants have websites, sample menus are likely to be included, as well as details of special offers relating to a particular time of the day or the week. The potential savings to be had from a little browsing in this way could prove to be considerable.


Enjoying such as a simple salad as a snack prior to visitng a restuarant can help to cut costs and be good for your health
Enjoying such as a simple salad as a snack prior to visitng a restaurant can help to cut costs and be good for your health

Visiting a Restaurant Overly Hungry Can Considerably Increase Costs

It will seem to most people that visiting a restaurant as hungry as possible is the best tactic. While this is logical, this factor can also considerably increase the cost. This is not only because we are likely to eat more but, more significantly, it is likely to cause us to order more, much of which we may not actually be able to eat. Excessive hunger distorts the perception of what we are capable of eating and can mean food is ordered and paid for which ultimately goes to waste. Try therefore, eating such as a simple, light salad before visiting a restaurant for a meal to limit the likelihood of this occurrence. Considerable tact, however, would of course require to be exercised if contemplating suggesting this tactic to dinner guests...!

What you order and from which menu makes a big difference to your final restaurant bill
What you order and from which menu makes a big difference to your final restaurant bill

Tips for Ordering a Meal in a Restaurant

Restaurants are likely to offer a variety of different menus. Some of these menus will only be available on certain days or at certain times. There will, however, be occasions where diners have a choice of menu and specials are available. Check your options with your server prior to looking at the menu and do not be caught in the trap of ordering from the most expensive menu when you may have been equally happy with an alternative.

Wine and other alcoholic drinks can significantly add to the direct cost of a restaurant visit - and impair judgement when ordering
Wine and other alcoholic drinks can significantly add to the direct cost of a restaurant visit - and impair judgement when ordering

Wine and Other Alcoholic Drinks Can Significantly Increase the Cost of Eating in a Restaurant

Enjoying a glass of wine with your meal is very often a big part of making the most of any restaurant visit. While there is of course nothing wrong with this in most instances (provided any driver does not indulge) there are two significant dangers attached to ordering wine with a restaurant meal, the first of which is fairly obvious, the second perhaps less so.

  1. When we look at and consider restaurant prices, we have a natural tendency to look at the prices only of the food. Restaurant owners/managers are aware of this, so very often it is the prices of the drinks which will realise them their profit. By cutting the cost of the food, customers will be drawn to the restaurant to eat and naturally be likely to purchase drinks with their meal, often blissfully unaware of the cost in the latter respect.
  2. As the wine or other alcoholic beverage goes down, judgement will naturally begin to be impaired. This can lead to more drinks and even additional food items being ordered, which are neither required or even truly desired, and the cost of the restaurant visit can consequently rise dramatically.

Avoiding or limiting these additional costs is firstly about considering the prices of the drinks as well as the food. It is secondly about agreeing to enjoy one or two drinks only with a meal and perhaps to move elsewhere to enjoy a less expensive drink or two once the meal is over.

Excessive and ill-considered gratuities can significantly distort the cost of a restaurant meal
Excessive and ill-considered gratuities can significantly distort the cost of a restaurant meal

Restaurant Gratuities Should be Realistic and Not Excessive

Different restaurants have different policies and expectations when it comes to gratuities, and often, deciding precisely how much to include can be difficult. There are even some cultures where offering a gratuity is considered offensive, as it is believed that the cost of providing the service is already included in the bill. It is a good idea, therefore, where a gratuity is applicable and discretionary, to have some idea in advance of what is appropriate. Remember: it is possible to be realistic, without appearing mean; it is possible to be generous, without going totally over the top.

Note that this is another area where alcohol can increase restaurant costs by affecting judgement and leading to excessive generosity in the event of what is at least perceived to be excellent service.

Paying your bill in the most considered fashion will further help reduce costs when eating in restaurants
Paying your bill in the most considered fashion will further help reduce costs when eating in restaurants

Consider in Advance the Best Way to Pay your Restaurant Bill

The method by which you pay your restaurant bill can either increase or decrease the overall cost of eating out. Paying your bill with a credit card when you do not clear the bill in full every month can - and most probably will - mean that interest is charged on your expenditure and consequently add a hidden cost to your meal. On the other hand, paying your bill with a properly administered cashback credit card can reduce the cost in real terms.

Cutting the Cost of a Restaurant Visit at a Glance

Point to Consider
Details
When to eat out
Avoid where possible popular days and dates
Where to eat out
Consider your options and the offers available at different restaurants
What to order
Remember to consider all prices, of food and drink, and order only what you truly require
Beware of alcohol
Do not allow excessive alcohol consumption to inflate your bill or cloud your judgement
Paying your bill
Do not over tip and consider the method by which you are to pay your bill

Thank you for your visit. Hopefully, you have found something useful on this page which will help you both to reduce your costs when visiting restaurants and allow you to eat out more often. Any comments, feedback or further tips may be left or shared in the space below.

The, "Useful Links," section at the foot of the page affords lots more great tips from around the Web for cutting the cost of eating in restaurants.

6 comments

Nora 5 years ago

These are all great tips to use to save when you are wanting to eat out. I like to use group-buying sites and daily deal sites to find coupons to use at restaurants.

http://www.dailydealpool is a site I love because it sends me a daily email with the best buys in my area from all the daily deal sites out there, so I don't have to weed through each one every day!


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you, Nora. Coupons are of course another great way of saving money. Every little certainly helps.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

This is some great advice - I love the table at the end too, and the photos!! The "Your Bill" one is my favorite - the images break the Hub up nicely, plus it's nice to see original stuff! It makes things friendly, fun, and easy to follow


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thanks, Simone. I'm glad you liked it. That last photo was spur of the moment inspiration. :)


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

Great tips! I always am victim to the "overly hungry" syndrome :) I go to places that take student discounts because that can really help. Also, thanks to Groupon and Livingsocial, I can get some good deals. I try not to go to restaurants unless if I have some sort of coupon or discount. Also, thankfully, my favorite foods are burritos and sandwiches, which I can usually find for just $5.


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you, glassvisage. Yes, it is amazing the offers that can be available to those who bother to really look for them and how much money they genuinely can save.

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