People are definitely eating differently thanks to the recession. But cutting food costs doesn't mean you still can't enjoy eating out. Tough times for consumers means empty tables at restaurants - and to fill them, restaurants are making menu changes and slashing prices, or offering discounts. Just take a look at how you can save on your next meal out.
- Make a Reservation - Many restaurants now partner with free sites like Open Table and DinnerBroker to give discounts to diners who book their tables ahead of time. Using the site to reserve a table could score you a 30 percent discount for an early dinner time and additional reward points to earn you a gift card to one of the site's partner restaurants.
- Look For Coupons - Check your local papers for casual eateries in your area offering coupons. Another way to snag coupon deals? Pick up a copy of the Entertainment Book in your area. Though the price of the book varies depending on your city's location ($10 to $30), it includes both local and national chains.
- Don't Order Off the Wine List - BYOB whenever possible. Restaurants make a significant portion of their profits from menu extras like bottled water and wine. Next time you dine out, compare the cost of bringing your own bottle (with the corkage fee) against ordering a comparable bottle off of the menu.
- Order Plates to Share - If you're out with a group - and out to get the most bang for your buck, order a couple of plates to share. Often times, portions are big enough for two, or even three, besides, sharing means you'll get to taste a little bit of everything - without plunking down extra cash.
- Remember Even High-End Eateries Offer Specials - Discounts aren't exclusive to casual restaurants and chains. Now, even top restaurants, like Top Chef Judge, Tom Colicchio's Craft in NYC, offer discounted menu items. Plus websites like Eater, GrubStreet, and Open Table, all feature restaurants offering great deals.
- Get Gift Certificates Online - Sites like Groupon and Restaurant.com sell restaurant gift certificates for less than face value - so you could score a $25 coupon, but pay only $10.
- Friend the Chef - These days, even restaurants are on Facebook. Take advantage of the social networking trend and friend or fan your local restaurant chains. TGI Friday's is just one example that recently offered up menu coupons for the first 500,000 people who signed up as fans of its advertising spokes-character online. Once you sign up and register your email, the restaurant will likely enroll you in their rewards program and update you with any deals or promotions.
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