Saving money at casual dining

By on March 25, 2009

By Sam Erickson, MultiAd
Today, everyone is on a budget. People are buying fewer things, going fewer places and using less gas. One of the easiest choices people are making is to eat at home. It’s easy, cheaper and can save time. However, there are some days when the only thing you want is to have someone else doing the cooking and the dishes. You can still eat out, as long as you go casual. Casual restaurants are less expensive and less time-consuming. If you follow a few simple tips, you can save even more money.

Eat early. Many restaurants will have a happy hour menu, usually starting at 4 p.m. Appetizers, drinks and even full entrees are available for as much as half price. You can also head out on Mondays or Tuesdays, which are less busy and often feature specials to draw in diners.

Watch for specials in your newspaper. Many casual dining restaurants are aware of the current economic climate and will be working hard to get you into their door. The Sunday newspaper is a fountain of coupons and deals that aren’t advertised anywhere else. Casual dining restaurants will often have unpublicized specials when nearby retail outlets are having large sales, so look for this crossover savings.

Go for brunch. Brunch can often be had for less than a regularly priced meal, and you can use it in place of both breakfast and lunch. Many restaurants will have brunch buffets, and these are an absolute jackpot on the weekends. You can take the family, make a day of it and enjoy a leisurely meal without worrying about what’s going to happen when the check comes.

Split your meal. Despite the economic downturn, restaurants are still serving the same large portions. Splitting a meal can be a romantic affair with someone you love. It can also be a way to save the cost of having a child’s meal that goes uneaten. The larger your group, the more advantageous this is. If you gather a group of 10, for example, you could get six or seven entrees instead of one for everyone. This would make for a much more family style meal, giving everyone a chance to get a lot of different tastes and sample new treats.

You don’t have to completely forgo your favorite restaurant just because things are a little tight, but you do have to be aware of ways that you can save. Watch out for special deals at your local restaurant and be savvy about when you go. You can actually get what you want; you just have to be smarter about it. Casual dining restaurants are the way to go to meet all of your needs.