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How to Fine Dine While on a Budget

Oct 1, 2019

Going out to dinner at an upscale restaurant can be expensive but it’s possible to enjoy fancy meals without breaking the bank. All it takes is a little research and a few helpful tips. 

Budget for the meal

Plan ahead by familiarizing yourself with the menu and deciding which courses fit within your budget.External link Knowing how much the meal will cost will determine if there is a need for you to cut down on miscellaneous expenses throughout the day or week. Something as small as cutting down on the amount of coffeeExternal link or lunchesExternal link purchased (and preparing something from home insteadExternal link) will offset the final cost.

Dine at lunch

Many fancy restaurants serve lunch and may offer lighter options, a prix fixe menu or even a smaller tasting menu at a fraction of the dinnertime price. Be sure to scan both menus in advance to see if you can take advantage of the savings. 

Discount dining

Although many fine eateries don’t participate in discount coupon programs or promotions like restaurant week, there are plenty that do—especially during their slow season. From reduced rates, prix fixe menus to bonus courses or complimentary beverages, keep an eye out for announcements on the restaurant’s webpage, through social media channels, newsletters or in event round ups listed in local publications. 

Eat at the bar

Sitting at the bar has its rewards: You’ll find friendly solo diners and those seeking a slightly more relaxed eating experience. There will often be a bar menu offering smaller plates than the main dining room and at lower cost. You might even cash in on a happy hour that let patrons enjoy the atmosphere while avoiding a hefty bill. 

Order strategically

For those who can’t resist ordering one of everything, think about dining out with a group. This way, everyone can sample a variety of dishes, shared family-style, with the cost divided among the members of the party. Sometimes the most effective way to curb expenses is to be selective and order a few key plates from the menu. 

In addition to asking if the prix fixe menu is a better deal than ordering off the a la carte menu, take a look at the portions being served at neighbouring tables. Do they look substantial enough that you could find satisfaction in a couple of dishes instead of committing to a tasting menu or having an appetizer, main and dessert? Consider forgoing the appetizer for a dessert or vice versa. If there’s more than one person in your party, consider sharing an appetizer or dessert instead of ordering one each. 

For imbibers, try to order a drink that pairs with more than one course. It might even been more economical to split a bottle of wine with your companions (each 750ml bottle holds five five-ounce glasses of wine).   

Order the specialty

Although many kitchens change their menus seasonally, there are always signature dishes or well-known specialties. The only exception to this tip is if there is a course that you cannot go without, sounds interesting or is a personal favourite. In those cases, consider ordering that dish instead of the crowd-favourite because you might enjoy it more. 

Look for soft-openings

On rare occasions, new restaurants or those that have undergone major overhauls  extend a soft-opening or family and friends discount to diners. Try to be open-minded as this is also a time for restaurants to train staff and work out any kinks—that discount is for any inconveniences that might be suffered. 

Culinary school dining

Take advantage of culinary schools that offer affordable tastings prepared by students working under the guidance of chef instructors.

And remember, while budgeting to dine out is important, it’s even more important to include a proper tip in your calculations. It’s better to skimp out on a drink or dessert than on something that affects someone’s income.  

General information not about PC Financial products is provided for your reference and interest only. The above content is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and is not a substitute for, and should not be construed as the advice of an experienced professional. PC Financial does not guarantee the currency, accuracy, applicability or completeness of this content.