While everyone knows that its cheaper to cook and eat at home, sometimes you just want to enjoy the convenience or experience of dining out.
Even when dining out, however, you can still find ways to save money. Below we reveal insider secrets to saving while dining out.
Watch Out for Those Menus. When ordering from the menu don’t be deceived by the extra emphasis placed on certain menu items. Restaurants often emphasize menu items that bring the restaurant the greatest profit. They may place a box around such a high profit item, feature it with larger type, or place it near the top of the menu.
Another technique involves using more descriptive language to describe higher margin items. Studies have illustrated that we tend to expect food with more lavish descriptions to taste better. Which sounds better: “Delicious 10 ounce filet mignon” or “Succulent, large filet mignon grilled by our renowned chefs to the brink of mouth watering perfection.” Same steak but which one would you be willing to pay more for?
Try a Lunch or Early Bird Menu. Restaurants have significant overhead costs. They must keep their tables full in order to remain profitable. As a result, many offer great lunch and early evening deals when fewer people are eating out. This is a fantastic way to get a great dining experience on the cheap. Portions are generally smaller but the prices can be significantly cheaper. You’ll get the same delicious food and atmosphere but pay less money.
Check the Bathroom. Restaurants provide a great dining experience by paying attention to details, whether in regards to how well the food is prepared, how well the dishes are cleaned, or how the dining table is arranged. One way to gauge your restaurant before you eat is to check the bathroom. A meticulously maintained bathroom suggests you’ll have a great experience while a dirty, smelly, or downright nasty bathroom may cause you to take pause. If they can’t keep the bathroom clean, how clean is the kitchen where your food is being prepared?
According to food blogger Michael Bauer, “When a restaurant minds the bathroom, it makes me believe the staff has been trained to have an equally serious and healthy attitude about food safety. ”
Visit During the Restaurant Sweet Spot – Tuesday Through Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays may not be the best time to visit your favorite restaurant. The fact that many people dine out on the weekends is the exact reason you may not want to. Restaurants packed to capacity may be prone to poor service and it may take longer for you to get your food.
Sundays and Mondays may not be so good either. With higher fuel costs many restaurants are receiving fewer weekly deliveries from their distributors. Restaurants commonly receive food and supplies on Friday which last throughout the weekend. Eat Sunday afternoon and you’re likely to eat food delivered on Friday. Eating on Monday is even worse as you’re getting served the last of the food stuffs that were delivered on Friday.
For these reasons, the most optimal eating experience can be enjoyed by eating Tuesday through Thursday. You’re served food that is delivered closer to the time its prepared and the restaurants are usually less crowded. Additionally, many restaurants offer mid-week specials to attract more diners.
Beware, That Daily Special May Not be so Special. Understand what you’re buying when you select that daily special. With food prices rising, chefs attempt to use every last bit of the ingredients they have. Left-overs can be used to create a “daily special”. Be especially careful if the daily special is a soup, or contains a sauce served over rice or pasta. Soups and sauces are common repositories for left-over meat and other foods. That crab chowder, for example, may contain the left-over crab from the day before.
Ask If That’s Real Maryland Crab. To save money in hard economic times many restaurants are substituting more expensive foods with less expensive substitutes. This happens commonly with seafood. Some restaurants, for example, substitute Maryland crabs with crab species from other areas of the Atlantic ocean or, worse yet, import crabs from other countries. When the menu lists “Maryland-like” crab be very suspicious.
Always Examine Your Bill. Many restaurants have standard gratuity fees that they tack onto the end of the bill. Usually mandatory gratuity fees are applied for large groups, but restaurants may have policies that apply a mandatory tip for groups as small as four or six people. Check your bill before you pay to make sure that you don’t pay a gratuity twice.
Update: We’d like to thank Consumer Boomer for including this article in the recent Money Hacks Blog Carnival.
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