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How to Save Money and Reduce Your Restaurant Bill

Updated on February 6, 2013

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.(
Borrow some condiments.(

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.

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


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