When attempting to save money, cutting back on dining out would seem to be an obvious step. Let's be honest, though. Eating out is fun. It's tasty. It's easy.
Restaurant eating can be expensive, but there are ways to reduce your bill so you still feel able to indulge once in a while. The tips that follow will help you prepare for dining out. They are money saving steps you can take before you get to the restaurant. In a future post, I will give tips for reducing your bill after you're actually ready to dine.
SIGN UP FOR RESTAURANT E-MAIL LISTS
- By signing up to receive e-mails from your favorite restaurants, both fast food and sit down, you will be alerted to special events and promotions. You are also likely to receive money saving coupons, sometimes for free items. For example, earlier this fall, I was alerted, via e-mail, to a Chick-fil-A promotion offering free breakfast. I've also received coupons from other restaurants for BOGO (Pei-Wei, Chipotle, Noodles, etc.), free items (Bruegger's, Which Wich, etc.) and dollar amounts off of my bill (Maggiano's). Unfortunately, e-mail discounts are most common for chain restaurants. I've yet to encounter e-mail list discounts for my favorite, non-chain restaurants.
CHECK DEAL SITES LIKE GROUPON AND LIVING SOCIAL
- On any given day of the week, a daily deal site like Groupon or Living Social will be offering discounted vouchers for area restaurants. Discounts offered are typically 50% or greater. For example, earlier this year, one of my favorite Durham restaurant's, Pop's Backdoor Pizza, was offering a voucher on Living Social where the buyer paid $10 for a voucher worth $20, a 50% savings. Vouchers from daily deal sites provide a great way to save on non-chain restaurants, as well as a less expensive way to try a restaurant for the first time.
'LIKE' YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANTS ON FACEBOOK
- Many companies are now turning to Facebook for promotions and advertising. By 'liking' your favorite restaurants' pages, you'll be the first to know about special offers and promotions (like Outback Steakhouse giving away free steaks a few months ago). Many restaurants offer coupons on Facebook, only available to fans.
COMPLETE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SURVEYS FOUND ON RECEIPTS
- Over the past few months, I've learned to closely examine each receipt I'm handed. On occasion, you'll find a invitation to complete a customer satisfaction survey. While the reward for doing so if often an entry into some sort of prize drawing, there are times when you will be rewarded with a free food. For example, I've received free sandwiches from Chick-fil-A after completing satisfaction surveys.
LOOK FOR COUPONS
- There are a number of places to seek restaurant coupons. In addition to restaurant e-mails and Facebook, you might find coupons in local coupon mailers, newspaper inserts, or entertainment books. I've also found coupons in less expected places, like the pages of the Durham events calendar (discounts to Moe's, Twisted Noodle, Q Shack, etc.) and in the back of the phonebook. These coupon sources are great places to find discounts to both chain and non-chain restaurants.