How to save money when you dine out
Published Tue, Mar 5, 2013 Updated Tue, Feb 16, 2021
We all enjoy eating at a restaurant, whether it’s a birthday celebration or just a weeknight treat. However, treating your friends and family to a slap-up meal can get very expensive. That’s why we’ve put together ten handy hints on how to save money when you’re going out for dinner…
1. Check out the menu in advance
Don’t be caught out by an expensive restaurant. Most venues post their menus on their website, which means you can check out the cost in advance and select a more affordable eatery if your first choice proves a little pricey.
It’s also worth checking if the venue has a bar menu in addition to the main restaurant – sometimes these offer a cheaper, more limited menu.
2. Set a budget
It’s all too easy for the cost of eating out to creep up, especially if you add alcoholic drinks, side orders and impromptu desserts into the equation. Setting yourself a budget when going for a meal will help you to curb those spending habits – even if it means you have to make a choice between sticky toffee pudding and that second glass of Rioja!
3. Look out for special offers
Most restaurants run promotions on certain dishes or offer meal deals on selected days of the week. Arranging to meet your friend for a curry on Thursday instead of Friday could mean your bill is halved.
Timing is also important as many venues offer early bird specials to entice customers through the door before the evening rush begins. You might even be better off visiting at lunchtime instead.
4. Share and share alike!
Splitting a starter or dessert is kinder to your waistline and your purse strings! Tempt your fellow diners with a sharing platter to begin or request one bowl of ice cream with two spoons at the end of the meal.
5. Search for discount codes
Websites and smartphone apps offering discount codes for popular restaurants are extremely common. Perform a quick Google search or download the Voucher Cloud application for the latest deals – Voucher Codes is also a good website to visit.
Newspapers and magazines often run promotions too, especially for local outlets.
You could also apply for a Taste card, which entitles you to 50% off or 2 for 1 at thousands of UK restaurants for a one-off membership fee.
If there is a particular restaurant or chain you prefer, follow their Facebook and Twitter pages and sign up to their email newsletter to ensure you receive all their latest discount offers.
6. Waste not
Saving money doesn’t just apply to the restaurant itself – cut down on your grocery shopping bill by taking home any leftovers. Those last two slices of pizza will come in handy for lunch the next day!
7. Water on tap
Restaurants often maximise their profits by providing bottled mineral water when you request water for the table. Make sure to ask for tap water, which most eateries will provide free of charge. If you’re a sparkling water drinker, try asking for soda water instead – this is also usually offered free of charge.
Some venues produce starter and main course versions of the same dish, which vary in both size and price. Opt for the smaller plate to save money.
There may also be vegetarian versions of certain dishes to which meat can be added at an extra cost. Forgoing chicken or beef for one meal is a small sacrifice and the dish will taste even sweeter at a lower price.
9. Don’t do the splits!
We’ve all been there: you set yourself a budget and choose an affordable option, but when it comes to asking for the cheque someone suggests you split the bill evenly between you. Don’t be afraid to break away and pay for yours separately – it’s unfair to go Dutch when your friend had steak and a glass of wine and you only had a salad and a soft drink.
10. Eating and drinking on the go
It’s not just eating out that can wrack up the pennies. Keep a diary of the number of times you purchase food and drink over the course of a week, from grabbing a takeaway coffee on the way to work to visiting the office vending machine for a daily chocolate bar. After seven days, add up the amount of money you’ve spent on drinks and snacks; you’ll be surprised how much you can save by giving up these small habits.