How to Save when Dining Out

…and other penny-pinching secrets from an anonymous waiter.
By an anonymous waiter, as told to Stephanie Taylor Christensen

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"If you become a regular at a local restaurant, you can reduce your costs. This is how: After repeat visits, you'll be able to acknowledge your server by name or mention a detail from your last meal. Gestures like these help you get more personalized attention-as well as free stuff, like complimentary appetizers or beverages. To save on drinks when dining with a group, order individual sodas or cocktails rather than a pitcher. The large container appears to be cheaper, but it's often filled with more ice than liquid and is therefore not a bargain. You can also spend less on wine and beer by asking for recommendations from the bartender or server. Say, "If you were ordering, which Pinot Noir would you think was the most reasonably priced?" He should suggest a wallet-friendly option.

"As for entrées, avoid chicken and pasta. These are the cheapest items to purchase, so restaurants mark them up more than other dishes. Seafood, beef, and pork are better values for the price. And when you're ready to leave, examine the bill closely. Many restaurants add a gratuity before the total is tallied, even for parties as small as five, which frequently goes unnoticed by diners."

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