The warm weather can be a boon to the restaurant business, or it can be a disadvantage depending on how restaurant owners approach the situation. Patrons dining out can make the most of summer dining by employing strategies to eat on the cheap every time. Although some restaurants have no problem keeping customers coming back for more, the sheer volume of restaurants in most cities and towns can make competition feisty throughout the year. However, during the summer, when many individuals spend their time at home, on vacation and on weekend getaways, restaurants may have to work even harder to attract business. As a result, diners can expect new specials and incentives to get them in the door.
When selecting a restaurant, there are certain things that can help you cut some of the fat off the final bill.
* Avoid the hot spots. Look for less trendy, though established, restaurants and neighborhoods to save money. At trendy establishments, you could find long wait times for tables and inflated prices to cover the cost of decor and specialty ingredients. With a long waiting list wrapping outside of the door, chances are this restaurant is not going to cater to customers looking for a bargain.
Cost-conscious diners should also avoid trendy neighborhoods. Many people find the lure is too powerful to ignore in warm weather. In turn, restaurants that overlook the water or are located along the beach may be more populated and pricey than others just a short distance away. There's a good chance that if you do a little exploring you can find a comparable restaurant nearby that may offer a better deal.
* Dine out during the week. Leave the end of the week and weekends for cooking meals at home. When you want to eat out, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday may be the best days for finding a coupon or special discount deal. That's because restaurants know patrons tend to dine out later in the week. To drum up business on slower days, restaurants may offer special menus or steep discounts. This is an advantage if the entire family is dining out. Turn to chain restaurants in a pinch. Although there's nothing quite like the unexpected flavors and variety that independent restaurants can offer, chain restaurants offer consistency, familiarity and often hard-to-beat deals. Many of the popular franchise restaurants offer kids' meals starting at $4 and prix fixe meals where two adults can enjoy dishes for a total of $20.
* Order appetizers only. The warmer weather tends to mute hunger pangs, and smaller portions can leave you feeling full. If you want to try a higher-priced restaurant, consider only ordering appetizers and salads, which will certainly cut down the cost of the bill.
* Clip coupons. At-home coupon mailers and special dining-around-town supplements are often included in the newspaper or mailed directly to your home. Browse through and take advantage of the coupons within. Discounts might be as high as 30 percent off your bill.
* Choose from BYOB restaurants. Many restaurants keep overhead costs down by choosing to make their establishments BYOB, or bring your own bottle. The meal may be slightly lower in price than other restaurants, and you will save money on the final tab by bringing your own wine or beverage. Dining out inexpensively is something anyone can do during the often competitive summer season.