12 Tips to Shrink Your Restaurant Bill


shrink restaurant billThis post originally appeared on SavvySugar.

Although staying in to eat is a lot cheaper than going out, foodies can’t help but indulge in their favorite restaurants once in a while. Food is one of the biggest joys in life, and nothing is better than sharing a good meal and conversation with the ones you love.

In fact, the restaurant industry in America makes about $1.8 billion on a typical day, according to the Restaurant Association. That’s a lot of money we’re spending meals out! On your next food outing, be sure to keep these tips in mind to shrink your bill:

1. Use Coupons

 Go to Restaurant.com and enter in a coupon code for restaurant.com that’ll get you a $25 voucher for only $10. You can find the coupon code by searching online at sites like RetailMeNot.com. Buy a local Entertainment book worth $15 that will give you lots of buy one get one free coupons for restaurants.

2. Earn Rewards

Do your research on sites like Credit Card Guide and figure out which credit cards give you the best rewards for your diner bucks. Oftentimes, if you’re a loyal member of a mileage program, you can even earn some miles by eating at the restaurants the airline partner up with. For example, Southwest has a Rapid Rewards Dining program that credits three points for every dollar spent with their restaurant partners.

3. Skip the Drinks

Sodas, alcohol, and other non-tap water drinks tend to be overpriced at restaurants. Get water with your meal, and if you’re really itching for a particular drink, wait until dinner’s over and head to a convenient store to buy it.

4. Order the Kiddie Meal

The meals for kids are generally cheaper and most of the times are the perfect size for adults! This option is also great for portion control and your wallet.

5. Get Takeout

Skip the long wait and the service tip by taking out a meal from the restaurant and enjoying it at home. This way, you won’t be tempted to spend money on drinks and dessert.

6. Do Your Research

Yelp the restaurant to death before eating at the establishment. A big waste of money is not eating your food. Check out if the restaurant is worth your bucks and see what dishes are highly recommended by fans. Sometimes the opinions of the masses are more accurate than your friendly waiter.

7. Bring Back the Leftovers

Bring back a doggy bag and make the most of your leftovers. Sometimes you can even make an entirely new meal out of them. For example, when I had leftover steak one time, I chopped it up and stir-fried it with veggies for a brand-new dish.

8. Split a Meal

Since portions are usually way oversized, split an entree with your eating partner and perhaps an appetizer to share.

9. Order Appetizers

Ask the waiter how big the appetizers are at the restaurant or look at what the people near you are eating. Sometimes the appetizers in itself are big enough for a meal!

10 Go For Lunch

Oftentimes, the lunch menu is a lot cheaper than dinner. Check out your restaurant in the daytime and be sure to pick their lunch specials.

11. Wait For Deals

Look out for daily deals from sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, and be sure to snap up that coupon for a good deal at the restaurant.

12. Don’t Go Hungry

Don’t skip a meal before you go to the restaurant just to have that extra space in your stomach for food. When you’re hungry, you’re more prone to ordering more than you can eat.

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  • 2deuces

    A point to remember. Saving money doesn’t mean short changing the wait staff. Leave a tip based on the pre-discount, pre-coupon price of the meal. Your servers, table bussers, and othesr do the same work regardless of the coupon price. Also, unless the restaurant does a LOT of their business through take-out – .ie pizza, chinese – it is nice to leave a small tip for those doing the extra work. I may throw a dollar or two into a take-out tip jar but I don’t feel it is mandatory.

  • Andrea

    Servers are taxed based on the total bill, not on what they are actually tipped. If you order take-out, they are taxed the same as if you sat in and received service. (I have been told in my state it is 6% of the bill.) I always tip 10% on take out so that the server doesn’t end up loosing money.

  • D

    Amen! but if you can’t afford to tip 15-20% for dining in for good service, you can’t afford to go out to eat. Servers’ tips are hit with 15% out for the bartenders and busboys based on the total of your bill, before coupons are applied. I swear there have been many a tables where I paid to wait on them. Don’t be one of those people!