8 Tips to Save on Dining Out

Residents and visitors of New York and Los Angeles are currently enjoying Restaurant Week; the annual event when high-end restaurants open their doors to people of all incomes with specials on prix fixe menu items. If you’re lucky enough to be in these cities during the festivities, you can enjoy the crème de la crème of cuisine without the typical price tag.

But what about the rest of us? Living in other parts of the country can leave you feeling a little left out of the gourmet experience. Happily, there are many ways to save on dining, whether it’s at your favorite diner or the best restaurant in town. Read on for tips to enjoy a tasty evening without overindulging your financial appetite.

1. Tune Your Radar
Since celebrity chefs congregate in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, you may assume Restaurant Week is only available in those locations. Wrong! If you live in or near cities such as Denver, Chicago, Charleston, Ann Arbor and San Diego, you have access to great food for less, too. A quick Google search should educate you on the timeframe and participating restaurants in your area.

2. Get Rewarded for Research
By now you know to never enter a new restaurant without first reading reviews. Sites like Yelp.com dominate restaurant review resources, but sometimes you can also find a voucher for additional savings. This is especially true for new restaurants hoping to build a customer base.

3. Facebook It
Social media enables you to get personalized recommendations from people you trust the most — your family and friends! Before trying a new restaurant or selecting one in your city, ask friends for advice. You may discover a new favorite spot or know to avoid an overhyped establishment.

4. Use Tech to Save

FourSquare is a popular app for restaurant deals, but be sure to broaden your technological horizons for extra savings. The Coupon Sherpa mobile app has coupons to popular chain restaurants, while BiteHunter aggregates local restaurant deals by cuisine and/or location.

5. Fill Up During Happy Hour

Happy hour is a great opportunity to try a new place you’ve been curious about, or afford a high-end restaurant you wouldn’t otherwise try. Drinks and appetizers often fill you up before the main course anyway, leaving the rest of the evening to take in a movie or hit up your favorite ice-cream joint for dessert.

6. Get Free Meals for Kids
Dining as a twosome can be expensive; add in a child or two and you’re looking at a hefty dinner check. Thankfully, most chain restaurants offer free meals for kids under a certain age on particular days. Consult this list for the when and where, and schedule your family date night accordingly.

7. Share for Savings
The easiest way to cut down on your dining bill is to order only one appetizer, entree and dessert. You can enjoy a three or four-course meal on the cheap by splitting it with your dining partner. Thanks to enormous portion sizes, you’ll leave the restaurant with a slimmer waistline and heavier pockets.

8. Don’t Forget Daily Deals
While you may be suffering from daily deal fatigue, sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial are still great resources for trying new restaurants for less. Typically, new companies partner with daily-deal sites to drive traffic and build a customer base. That means drink and appetizer specials, 50-percent off entrees and more big savings.