We’re all working hard to make ends meet in the current economy by scrimping, saving, and sacrificing the finer things. Going to the movies, buying new treats for ourselves, and going out to eat frequently have been some of the first things to go.
But fine dining doesn’t have to be a no-go while you’re on a budget if you plan and research carefully! The internet is the best tool you have for research before you go out for a nice dinner in town.
There is no shortage of online resources that can help find discounted meals or other specials. Some websites offer subscriptions to coupon services on a regular basis. Other sites keep tabs on local happy hours, celebrations, or special tasting menu offers.
Most large cities have two to three Restaurant Week specials per year that offer 3-course meals for a huge discount. Knowing where to look for these offers is the best way to manage fine dining on a budget.
1. Search Groupon and Living Social for restaurant deals.
Some popular discount sites offer daily or weekly e-mails with coupons for local businesses. Websites like Groupon, Living Social (Fanny’s note: get 5 deal bucks through this affiliate link), and Urban Daddy feature coupons, discounts, and inside information about deals in your city. Generally, these coupon sites offer services at discounts of 40% or more. For example, a restaurant looking to attract a new customer base will offer a deal for customers to buy $80 worth of food and drinks for $40; you can purchase this deal through the coupon website and use it at your convenience (usually they expire in a few months’ time). Sign up for one of these services and start trying new places for less.
2. Read restaurant reviews.
Many online magazines and papers have local experts who keep tabs on area restaurants with dining specials or happy hour specials. Other sites like Urban Spoon and Yelp rely on their membership base to explore and review area businesses and restaurants. By tapping into local average joes and listening to their advice, experience, and inside tips, you too can find out surprising specials and deals at local restaurants that might normally seem unaffordable.
3. Look out for Restaurant Week with prix fix menus.
Most cities, large and small, offer Restaurant Week two or even three times a year. Other food festivals are common, as well. Try searching for [Your City] Restaurant Week or [Your City] Taste Food Festival. (Fanny’s note: In San Francisco, we have Dine About Town.)
Restaurant Week is fairly universal across the US, offering three courses prix fixe menus. Lunches are approximately $20 and dinners are $30-$35. Finding out the dates of the next Restaurant Week and making reservations early are key. Booking at an otherwise extremely expensive restaurant is the best deal but those same places fill up fast.
Don’t waste time on the phone. Try websites like OpenTable to book a table quickly and easily.
This guest article was contributed by Jennifer Bell from Health Training Guide. Check out her site to learn more about dental training and other exciting health careers.
Photo Credit: Arnold Inuyaki