Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ways to Save on Restaurant Bills

Eating in restaurants is one of the fun aspects of travel (or of staying home, for that matter.) However, food purchased away from home can take a big chunk out of a travel budget.
There are ways to minimize the damage, and a lot of them are pretty obvious. Concentrate on the main course and minimize other courses, especially dessert. While restaurant desserts can be yummy, they are also marked up a lot more than mains. And, generally, they are not good for the waistline.
Forgoing alcohol at meals is another way to save big. Wines in particular are often marked by a factor of three or more over what you would pay to buy the same bottle in a store. By sticking to a soft drink or beer, you can keep a bill in check. And coffee after a meal is another unnecessary expense. If you have the nerve, do what a lot of people in the U.S. do and just have tap water with your meal. (This won't generally work in Europe where they seldom serve tap water in restaurants.) In fact, continental Europe is one place where wine is often just as cheap as soft drinks, so why not indulge?
Another way to reduce costs is to share dishes with a companion. This works best in the U.S. where portions tend to be large, sometimes very large. There may be a small extra charge for sharing. Or have two appetizers rather than a main course, especially if the main courses are unappealing.
A trick that works pretty much everywhere I have been is having a big meal at lunch rather than dinner. Usually the same meal will cost less if eaten around noon, when a lot of locals eat out. Those who eat out for dinner are more often visitors or people out for a celebration, who supposedly don't mind paying more.
And if you are in a place where the so-called "early bird special" is offered, try it out. These are often very good deals with somewhat smaller portions but the same food for a lot less than during regular dinner hours.


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