Eating in restaurants can be expensive. It's estimated that each American spends on average $2,620 a year eating out. Roughly 93% of consumers enjoy eating out and the restaurant industry holds 47% of the share of food dollar expenditures. Instead of spending thousands of dollars eating out at restaurants each year, try these tips that will not only allow you to dine out at restaurants, but will save you money as well.
1. Time of Day
If you are looking to try out the newest restaurant in town, try going for lunch instead of dinner. Dining in off-peak hours can save you money while still allowing you to try fabulous new dishes. There are even apps for your mobile device, such as "Savored," that advertise the discounts restaurants are offering during off-peak hours. Another time to look at going to restaurants is during happy hour. Not only do some restaurants offer buy-one-get-one-free deals on beverages, they also typically have specials on appetizers.
2. Look for Deals
Many restaurants offer promotions through various websites. Groupon offers vouchers that can save you anywhere from 50 to 90% off your meal. The trick with Groupon is to ensure that you make use of the deal before it expires. Also, if there is more than one location in your city for the specific restaurant, make sure it is valid at the location you want to visit. Another great site is restaurants.com, which also offers discounted gift cards. By checking these deals out, you can effectively cut your dinner bill in half and perhaps even try a few new restaurants in the process.
Yelp and Foursquare are both apps that can be used to "check in" at locations. Both allow you to search for deals nearby, which may influence your dining decisions. Another great site is OpenTable. OpenTable allows you to make reservations through its website and accumulate points in doing so. Once you have accumulated 2,000 points you are able to claim a $20 gift voucher for OpenTable restaurants. While most reservations earn around 100 points, you can search for some that are worth 1,000 points.
Wine and other alcoholic beverages are often marked up as much as two to three times their wholesale value, meaning the restaurant is making a pretty penny on your $11 glass of Pinot Noir. Surprisingly, many restaurants mark up their cheapest bottle of wine the most heavily. One method for saving on wine is by calling ahead to see if you can bring your own bottle. Some restaurants will allow you to do this, but they may charge a corkage fee. By researching the corkage fee, which can be as much as $20 per bottle, you can price out how much you'll spend on a bottle of wine.
4. Share a Plate
Portions at restaurants tend to be a lot larger than anything you would consume at home. A lot of people find ordering a meal a bit overwhelming because they want an appetizer and a main course. If you're out with friends, opt for sharing both. That way you can try both items without having too much food, plus you get to share the costs when the bill arrives!
The Bottom Line
Many Americans enjoy eating out, especially with the cost of food still being so inexpensive. They do so to celebrate or simply to give themselves a break. Eating in restaurants can be costly, but if you pay attention to the plethora of deals available you can definitely manage the cost. By sharing food, scouring websites and paying attention to the time of day you go out to eat you may be able to cut your bill by as much as half.