15 Ways to Cut Your Fine Dining Bill in Half

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You don’t have to keep wishing on a star that you’ll one day be able to afford fine dining establishments.

It’s usually one of the first expenses to take a hit when the spending plan comes into play, but the last thing that we actually want to part ways with. However, it is possible to enjoy the finer things in life, at least in the food category, without breaking the bank.

Let’s start with a short video called “Tips to Radically Reduce Restaurant Checks.” Then meet me on the other side for more details.

1. Daily special

Most fine dining establishments share their daily special online, in the waiting area or via the server once you are seated. Even if your mind is already made up about your meal of choice, don’t be afraid to expand your horizons and try something new. You may actually like it.

Also, inquire about specials offered throughout the day, such as half-priced wings after 5 p.m.

2. Lunch menu

Heading out for a hot date? Lunch may seem like the worst time to go, but can save you a nice chunk of change. The portions are often equivalent and come at a third, if not half, the cost. Just be sure to go online and view the menu before heading over.

3. Deal websites

If you can do so without going overboard, check out deal websites, such as Groupon or LivingSocial, for promotional offers at fine dining establishments in your local area. Just make sure that you will actually redeem your purchase because the vouchers are typically nonrefundable, and check for any restrictions that may apply.

4. Stick to the main course

There’s no point in fine dining if you don’t indulge in a full-course meal, correct? Well, not necessarily. The extras, including appetizers, alcoholic beverages and desserts, can sometimes cost more than your main course.

My suggestion: Skip the add-ons and go elsewhere for desserts or drinks. And if you must have a drink, stick to the most affordable items on the menu.

5. Discount by affiliation

Are you a senior citizen, member of the military or college student? Inquire about any special discounts that may be available to you.

6. Coupons

Peruse the restaurant’s website, Restaurant.com or the Entertainment book for coupons and promotional offers on cuisine at fine dining establishments. Also, check the Sunday newspaper.

7. Weekday dining

You can beat the crowds and take advantage of the specials offered during the slower periods to entice customers to come in. Besides, lunch specials typically aren’t available on the weekends.

8. Check in online

Select mobile applications, such as Foursquare, will allow you to retrieve a free drink or appetizer from the restaurant just for checking in. When I visit Chili’s, I always check in to receive an order of free chips and salsa. It’s more casual than fine dining, but still a good deal.

9. Culinary schools

Check with the culinary institutions in your area to find out if they have restaurants that are open to the public. In most cases, the three-course meals are offered at an extremely affordable rate, and prepared by students preparing to head into the culinary world as chefs.

10. Gift certificate promos

This is particularly popular during the holiday season, but some fine dining establishments run promotional offers on gift certificates. Also, try gift certificate resale sites, including Gift Card Granny and ABC Gift Cards, which offer secondhand gift cards at a steeply reduced rate.

11. Kids eat free

Want to bring the entire family along? Find out if they offer a special night when kids eat free during the week.

12. Split the meal

My favorite Italian restaurant offers such generous portions that I often split it with my dining partner. However, a fee may apply if you do this, so inquire with your server.

The two of you can enjoy a scrumptious meal together while cutting the bill in half. Besides, why spend big bucks on two over-sized entrees just to take home leftovers that could possibly go to waste in the refrigerator?

13. Freebies

Does the restaurant of your choice offer freshly baked bread or some other unique freebie before the main course is served? If it’s an item that whets your appetite, fill up and order a smaller, less expensive meal.

And in some cases, you may score a free appetizer simply by signing up online for the restaurant’s loyal customer program.

14. Special occasion

Is it your birthday or anniversary? You could land a free meal at your favorite fine dining establishment. If they don’t offer this perk, there are plenty of others in your area that are willing to treat you on your special day.

I always head over to Kobe Japanese Steakhouse on those special occasions because being a member of their rewards program grants me a free meal.

15. Order takeout

If you’re more interested in the food than the actual restaurant experience, why not order takeout and enjoy the cuisine in the comfort of your own home. Want to spruce things up a bit? You can also head to the local park or sit on the patio and watch the sunset.

Either way, you will save money on drinks, appetizers, desserts and the tip. Sounds like the perfect date night to me.

Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • 78852Juan .

    Ask for water instead of soda that saves you automatically $2.75+tax per person. Also share a huge meal with someone its better to eat adequate that to be stuffed.

  • Jessica

    No “fine” dining restaurants would let you do any of the above things. Perhaps you might get lucky with an off season pri fixe menu. They are suggestions that would work better for “casual” dining at best.

  • Toni Ziffer Schultz

    Take out orders should be tipped also but at a much lesser rate.

  • Y2KJillian

    Below–Take out orders should be tipped? You mean, like, you go through McDonald’s window and you, what, flip them a coin or so? Um, wow, I’ve sure been rude all my life if that’s true! Sorry, McD’s workers! I’ll hurl some change through the little window next time I grab my take-out bags!

  • Scott Goff

    Check the price first on those daily (chef’s) specials. Sometimes the wait person will just list the off-menu offerings without telling the price. Guess what? Have your Prosecco or Martini at home and stick to a glass of house wine with the meal. The mark-up on restaurant wine is obscene. And a tip for take-out? Not unless they carry to the car for me.