Dining out used to be much more affordable than it is now. Restaurant gratuities are two or three times more expensive now than they used to be, for instance. It’s important, then to be smart about eating out. You can’t afford to make the simple mistakes anymore.
Do you make your reservations on the phone?
Certainly, even popular restaurants can have free tables sometimes if you call before 5 in the evening. If you’re serious about snagging a table, though, calling restaurants up directly usually turns out to be an exercise in frustration. It’s a far better idea to use an online restaurant reservation service like OpenTable. Reservation services give you dependable availability information for thousands of restaurants and also offer you discounts when you use them.
Savored, a restaurant reservation service by Groupon, only lists 10 US cities at this point. They offer 30% discounts for same-day reservations and 40% discounts if you are willing to eat early at 6 PM.
Do you order your entire meal all at once?
Personal finance experts often tell people that if they hope to keep their grocery shopping bills down, they should make sure never to go shopping when they are hungry. Hungry shoppers tend to be more free buying snacks and other expensive junk food. This is good advice when you go out dining, too. People who go to restaurants when hungry often overestimate how much food they will need. They make the mistake, then, of ordering too much. It’s only when they are halfway through the meal that they realize that they’ll never be able to finish everything they’ve ordered.
If you are going in hungry, you should sidestep the over-ordering risk by simply ordering a snack and an appetizer first. Once these little dishes take the edge off your appetite you should be able to estimate accurately how much you have room for.
You order the house wine
Unbranded restaurant house wine is usually cheaper than any well-known name. Since restaurants know that these wines are easy to sell, they usually mark them up greatly. In other words, you get very little quality for your money. Most of the price tag is markup. It’s a much better idea to order an imported wine – say, from South America. These wines have fallen in price lately. You get much better quality for your money. You should also remember to not order by the glass if your party plans to order more than four glasses. Buying an entire bottle makes more sense then.
You choose the wrong vodka for your vodka tonic
Restaurant waiters are trained to offer the most expensive brands of vodka when diners ask. If you order a vodka tonic, for instance, the waiter will usually only offer Belvedere and Gray Goose, even if the restaurant stocks less fashionable names like Smirnoff, Absolut or Stolichnaya.
Paying three times more for a French brand like Grey Goose only makes sense when you drink your vodka straight. If it’s part of a mixed drink, it won’t make any difference to get a good, but moderately priced brand. It’ll make a real difference to your bill, though.
Finally, be aware that waiters can pull a few tricks for a bigger tip
As the cost of living has risen through the years, restaurant waiters have continued to make just about the same – $2.13 an hour. While federal law requires that no state have a minimum wage rate lower than $7.25 per hour, restaurants get away with paying little because they expect their waiters to make up the difference in tips. This is why restaurant standard gratuity has gone from 10% 20 years ago to the 22% that it is now. This isn’t enough, though. Restaurant workers have a worse quality of life today than they used to. If they try to be manipulative to earn a bigger tip, then, it’s understandable. You should know, though, that if you ever ask waiters for menu suggestions, they will always suggest the most expensive dish possible. A bigger bill equals a bigger tip. +