Whats Happenening Locally

Tips to save when dining out

Nov 10, 2023

Inflation has affected consumer spending in myriad ways in recent years. Seemingly no industry has been untouched by inflation, and the restaurant business is no exception.

As the cost of living has increased and remained high over the last year-plus, consumers have been forced to tighten their purse strings, and that's led many to avoid dining out. But foodies need not leave their favorite restaurants behind for fear of breaking the bank.

The following are some ways diners can save money when visiting local restaurants:

* Pick the right day to go - Restaurant operators facing rising materials and food costs have had to get creative to keep cost-conscious customers coming through the doors. A March 2023 report in QSR magazine noted that some operators have been combatting rising costs by embracing the concept of dynamic pricing. That concept sees restaurants raise their prices during high-traffic times and lower them during less popular times to dine out. Foodies and others who simply want to experience the joy of dining out can visit their favorite haunts during off-peak days and hours. Prices might be lower and diners are likely to get the added benefit of shorter wait times to receive their food.

* Dine out at local establishments - Chain restaurant devotees may cite familiarity with the menu and lower costs among the reasons they choose national chains over local establishments. However, the same report in QSR magazine noted that even well-known chain restaurants experienced substantial price increases over the final two quarters of 2022. For example, chains like Applebee's (7 percent) and Chili's (9 percent) were forced to hike prices considerably during that period. Small, locally owned restaurants tend to have lower overhead than chains, which means their prices may now be more competitive if not less expensive than popular chains.

* Dine out for lunch rather than dinner - If it's a break from preparing and cooking meals that consumers want, then dining out for lunch presents a more affordable way to get a little relief from home cooking. Lunch menus tend to be less expensive than dinner menus even though diners receive a comparable amount of food.

* Investigate weekly specials - Weekend nights like Friday and Saturday are the busy days at most restaurants. That traffic slows considerably on other nights of the week, particularly Monday and Tuesday when diners are more likely to stay home. In an effort to entice more customers on slow nights, some restaurants offer weekly specials on certain nights each week. These specials run the gamut from discounted menu items to food and drink combination specials, and each offers a great chance to dine out and save a little money at the same time.

Even when the cost of living is high, diners can find ways to save without giving up dining out at their favorite restaurants.