Lets face it, going out to dinner can bust the bank in this day and age. Trying the “newest,” “buzziest” restaurant in town is a luxury most families simply can’t afford, mine included… that is, if you’re paying full price! Restaurant Week is one of many budget-savvy secrets that allow you to literally have your cake, and eat it too! (In my case, it was amazing Panna Cotta at Serafina, Seattle!) You don’t have to go for broke when you go out to eat! So… In this post, I’ve rounded up as many tricks as I could for saving money while discovering new restaurants in your city! Here we go!
1. Restaurant Week: My biggest trepidation about trying new restaurants is not knowing whether I’ll get my money’s worth. “Do I really want to spend a half day’s pay on a… meh… meal at a… meh… place?” That’s the beauty of Restaurant Week!! Most big cities participate, including Seattle (sorry folks, it just wrapped up! I got on the bandwagon late, too!) If you’re not familiar, over 1 to 2 weeks restaurants of all kinds will typically offer 3 course lunches and dinners for about $15-$30 dollars. It’s a great way to test the water at a new-to-you restaurant. It’s also a win-win for the restaurant, they’re bringing in new customers who may love what they eat, and then become regular diners! At Serafina, a $15 dollar lunch during Restaurant Week bought me 1) A Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, 2) Trout with Parsnip Puree and carrots, 3) and straight-from-heaven Panna Cotta for dessert! Now, I’m totally a fan and can’t wait to try more! Here’s a list of Restaurant Weeks coast to coast,if you missed yours, be sure to mark the calendar for next year!
2. Social Sites: By now, we’ve all heard about Groupon and Living Social. They have all kinds of food, wine and beauty deals specifically for your city. Each deal seems too good to pass up, but BEWARE. I learned the hard way that, while it’s fun to try new restaurants, YOU SHOULD DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST! I’ve bought Groupons on a whim, only to learn the restaurant got terrible reviews on Yelp and other sites… for good reason! Now I’m stuck deciding if I should sell the deal off, or just eat the cost. Unless you like the restaurant, or you’ve been dying to try it, my advice is get some word of mouth first. Yelp is a great resource, you can also download an app that can help you find quality restaurants around you, even if you’re standing, confused and lost, on a street you’ve never heard of before… ahem, I may have done that. 🙂
Another, more exclusive, discount club you may not be aware of is Gilt City. You can sign up to get deals for your own city, but there’s often a waiting list, so you might not be approved right away!
3. Facebook and Twitter: Restaurants are getting more tech savvy every day! If you’ve been dying to eat at a gem restaurant, LIKE them on Facebook and FOLLOW them on Twitter. It’s becoming the best way to hear about specials or deals they’re offering only to their followers. If the bill is still too high, you might hear about events they’re throwing or food festivals they’re attending where you can get samples of their food for half the price. Another tip: network with the restaurants. If you visit and you really like their food, send them a tweet or post on their page. Almost every time I’ve done it, I’ve gotten a tweet or a post back. It’s a great way to develop a relationship with restaurants you fall in love with!
4. Apps. I must admit, Seattle might be a little more ahead of the curve on this one, but start-up companies are developing new apps similar to Groupon and Living Social… the difference is, you can use them instantly. Pirq is one example. It’s free, and you can use it on the go! Leloca is another one, however I haven’t used it. I did a Google search on “App, Instant, Deals” and a few came up. Gratafy even allows you to buy a drink for your friends or family if you can’t be with them in person. Share the love, and you might get some in return! My advice, do a quick iTunes App search for your city, read the reviews, and it just might save you some moolah!