The Frugal Restauranteur

One of the great benefits of the holiday season is that there is a mass movement between friends, families and co-workers to connect, spend time together and celebrate.

Do you find that your calendar is chock full of meals and gatherings that are taking place in restaurants and that your “entertainment” spending is far exceeding its allocation in your budget at a time of year when the budget is already pulled to its max?

You don’t necessarily have to bow out in favour of your budget. There are ways to tackle restaurant eating to mitigate the costs.

Take Charge

Be the planner. Offer to make reservations and to organize the guest list. This gives you a measure of control over what restaurant you are going to- and will have some weight in determining this. You can steer the crowd towards a lower or mid-priced restaurant.

Strength in Numbers

Are you celebrating in a large group? Approach the restaurant in question and see if they would be willing to arrange (if they don’t offer already) an all-inclusive menu, including two or three courses. This usually is cheaper than ordering a-la-carte, and can speed up waiting times too.

If not, ask management to throw in a few free appetizers for the group.

Meal Options

Who says you have to meet for supper? Hook up with friends for lunch- or even for breakfast on the weekends before delving into your weekend errand run.

Supper is by far the most expensive meal in restaurant. Cut your spending significantly by electing another time of day to meet.

You don’t even need to meet for a full meal. What about coffee and dessert with a friend? You still have the chance to reconnect-just with a much smaller bill.

Hold off on Booze

In addition to empty calories, alcohol just adds unnecessarily to your bill- and often by quite large amounts too.

All beverages add extra costs to your bill. Why not stick with water? It’s free and it does the job.

Read the Fine Print

If you are celebrating in a large group, restaurants frequently include their gratuity (usually 15 percent) on your bill automatically. However, few people actually confirm this, and can often end up tipping twice if the server doesn’t inform them.

Check your receipt. If it’s not totally clear, politely double check with your server. By all means, reward good service with a gratuity- but you don’t have to do it twice!

Skip the Entrée

Who says you have to order from the entrée section of the menu? Hit the appetizer side, and you can often get a satisfying meal for a smaller price.

Portion size of concern? Have a small snack before you go and a smaller appetizer portion will be perfect.


Grab your frugal BFF and your stack of buy-one-get-one -free coupons and make a date. Coupons for restaurants abound this time of year, simply because of the increase in traffic and because restaurants are more actively bidding for your business during this festive window.

Combine your bill with your friend and split the savings.