Many people consider dining out to be a luxury, but it needn’t be. Since we love fine cuisine as much as the next person, we came up with these ten dining tips to help you substantially reduce your check.
1. Put the drinks on hold.
Alcohol can double the bill for a two-person dinner, so say no to that $30 bottle of wine and stick to water. If you must indulge, pick a restaurant with a happy hour special, or order a bottle of wine for a group instead of a bunch of separate glasses. BYOB is always an option, but corkage fees can get expensive, so know what those are before you go.
2. Opt for appetizers.
Entrée prices are on the rise, as entrées averaging $10 rose 2.2 percent at mid-market U.S. dining chains from 2009 to 2010. Meanwhile, appetizer prices fell 2 percent. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2010 Restaurant Industry Forecast, diners will keep trying to reduce costs by seeking value and expanded menu options in 2010, and restaurants are expected to deliver.
3. Don’t overtip.
You can download a useful iPhone tipping application, called Check Please to help with otherwise-uncomfortable tipping situations. It’s a useful way to combat the tipping tantrums that sometimes arise when groups dine together.
4. Buy restaurant gift certificates.
We like Restaurant.com, where $10 gets you a $25 voucher to a restaurant and $40 gets you one worth $100. Many restaurants set a minimum tab to use these vouchers, though, so read the fine print.
5. Have your steak and eat it, too.
Steak can be pricey: Tender, succulent prime cuts such as rib eye can sell for upwards of $45 per plate at some of the high-end national chains like Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse. Hanger steak, however, is often cheaper at independent dining establishments. For example, at Marseille in New York, hanger steak is roughly $10 cheaper than a strip steak. Although hanger meat is tougher, it’s extremely flavorful; marinades can also make it more tender. According to specialty food magazine The Nibble, another cheaper option includes boneless blade steak, which runs roughly 57 percent less than New York strip steak. If you want to learn more, read up with this guide to different kinds of steak.
6. Brunch or lunch in lieu of dinner.
Go for a sumptuous brunch, which often includes drink specials (throw in a free mimosa or two, and you’ll be feeling great!). A report by market research firm NPD Group said that brunch traffic was up 8 percent during the first eight months of 2009, compared to the same period the year before. Because of the recession, restaurants will continue to refine their lunch menus. According to industry magazine Restaurants and Institutions, value-minded lunch menu options will be a major trend to watch in 2010.
7. Come out for restaurant week.
Roughly twenty-four cities host a Restaurant Week, so get in on the act. During Restaurant Week, diners enjoy steep discounts from local restaurants, usually in the form of fixed-price menus at otherwise top-scale venues.
8. Fix your prices.
Is a prix-fixe menu worth it outside of Restaurant Week? Often. For example, the $24 three-course, prix-fixe lunch at Tocqueville in New York costs roughly the same amount as a lunch entree (or less).
9. Eat like a local.
Try WhereTheLocalsEat to find coupons for local eateries. These coupons range from 50 percent off bottles of wine?often a savings of $10 to $15?to free dessert vouchers and other daily specials, which generally slice another $5 to $6 off the check.
10. Go retro.
Say hello again to pot roast and brisket. According to Restaurants and Institutions’ Menu Trends for 2010, old-fashioned comfort foods are making a comeback for value-minded customers, as some restaurants use lower-priced cuts of meat to save money.
Originally published on LearnVest