Photo (cc) by fredcamino
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.
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?
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.